The Present Tense in Spanish (“Presente Simple”) is the first tense everybody learns in a Spanish course. It is used to state facts, say what is happening now or what happens regularly. Additionally, sometimes we use it in a colloquial way to speak about what will happen in the near future.
In this post, we will first learn how to conjugate verbs in Present Tense, paying attention to both regular and irregular verbs. After that, we will explore more in detail the different uses of the Present tense, with example sentences.
Regular and Irregular Verbs in Present Tense
There are 3 types of Verbs in Spanish, depending on their ending in Infinitive:
- Verbs ending in “-ar”, such as «hablar«.
- Verbs ending in “-er”, such as «comer«.
- Verbs ending in “-ir”, such as «vivir«.
Unfortunately, knowing the ending of a Verb doesn’t automatically tell you if it’s Regular or Irregular. Indeed, there are both Regular and Irregular Verbs for all 3 categories. The student needs to learn for each specific verb whether it is Regular or Irregular. Sorry!
If a verb happens to be Regular, the process to conjugate it in Present is very simple:
First, we remove the «-ar», «-er,» «-ir» at the end of the infinitive.
Then, we add the endings highlighted in the following table. Notice that there are differences between the «-ar», «-er» and «-ir» verbs:
There are many Verbs which are Irregular in the Present tense. We will not see all of them here (you can find long lists on many websites). What we will do is explain the main types of Irregular Verbs, providing some examples.
The good news is, the endings we learned in the table above still apply for Irregular Verbs. However, the stem will present some small change for some of the persons.
There are 4 types of Irregular Verbs:
- Verbs for which the 1st Person is “Special”, but the other Persons are Regular
- Verbs for which there is a spelling change in the stem for most of the persons
- Verbs for which the first person is “special” AND there is also a spelling change for most of the other persons
- A few Very Irregular Verbs
Let’s study each type with examples:
1 -Verbs for which the 1st Person is “Special”, but the other Persons are Regular
In this verbs, the 1st Person form has something that makes it different, but the rest follow the the pattern of Regular Verbs. Here are some examples:
|Conducir||conduzco, conduces, conduce, conducimos, conducís, conducen|
|Conocer||conozco, conoces, conoce, conocemos, conocéis, conocen|
|Dar||doy, das, da, damos, dais, dan|
|Hacer||hago, haces, hace, hacemos, hacéis, hacen|
|Salir||salgo, sales, sale, salimos, salís, salen|
|Traer||traigo, traes, trae, traemos, traéis, traen|
|Ver||veo, ves, ve, vemos, veis, ven|
2 -Verbs for which there is a spelling change in the stem for most of the persons
The spelling change is a small vocalic change in the stem. For example, a letter «e» becomes «ie», a letter «o» becomes «ue», etc…
However, pay attention: That irregularity will not exist for the persons «nosotros» and «vosotros».
Let’s divide this group into 3 sub-groups, depending on their specific vocalic change:
“e” (or less frequently “i”) becomes “ie”
|Adquirir||adquiero, adquieres, adquiere, adquirimos, adquirís, adquieren|
|Cerrar||cierro, cierras, cierra, cerramos, cerráis, cierran|
|Pensar||pienso, piensas, piensa, pensamos, pensáis, piensan|
|Querer||quiero, quieres, quiere, queremos, queréis, quieren|
“o” (or less frequently “u”) becomes “ue”
|Contar||cuento, cuentas, cuenta, contamos, contáis, cuentan|
|Jugar||juego, juegas, juega, jugamos, jugáis, juegan|
|Poder||puedo, puedes, puede, podemos, podéis, pueden|
|Soñar||sueño, sueñas, sueña, soñamos, soñáis, sueñan|
“e» becomes “i”
|Pedir||pido, pides, pide, pedimos, pedís, piden|
|Repetir||repito, repites, repite, repetimos, repetís, repiten|
|Servir||sirvo, sirves, sirve, servimos, servís, sirven|
3 – Verbs for which the first person is “special” AND there is also a a spelling change for most of the other persons
This third category is like a mix of the previous two: The first person is special, and most of the other persons present a vocalic change of the kinds we just learned.
Once again, that irregularity will not exist for the persons «nosotros» and «vosotros».
|Decir||digo, dices, dice, decimos, decís, dicen|
|Tener||tengo, tienes, tiene, tenemos, tenéis, tienen|
|Venir||vengo, vienes, viene, venimos, venís, vienen|
4 – A few Very Irregular Verbs
Here we include the very important verbs “ser” and “ir”, which are very irregular and don’t fit in any of the previous categories.
Also, the verb “estar”, for which the first person is «special», and most of the other persons have accent marks.
Finally, we will include here the verb “oler” (to smell). It fits the “o → ue” pattern, but most of the persons also present a letter “h” at the beginning.
|Estar||estoy, estás, está, estamos, estáis, están|
|Ir||voy, vas, va, vamos, vais, van|
|Oler||huelo, hueles, huele, olemos, oléis, huelen|
|Ser||soy, eres, es, somos, sois, son|
**** Reminder about the persons “nosotros” and “vosotros”
Remember: except for very very irregular verbs (“ser”, “ir”), whatever irregularity the verb presents DOES NOT exist for the persons “nosotros” and “vosotros”, which remain regular.
Uses of The Present Tense – Example Sentences
La Tierra gira alrededor del Sol. = The Earth rotates around the Sun.
En Argentina se habla español. = They speak Spanish in Argentina.
Los pájaros vuelan. = Birds fly.
Habitual actions or events
Yo hago la compra dos veces por semana. = I do the shopping twice a week.
Mis padres trabajan en la misma oficina. = My parents work at the same office.
Todos los veranos viajamos a Latinoamérica. = We travel to Latin America every summer.
Things happening at the moment
Even though there is another tense called Present Progressive which is generally more fitting for this (click here to learn the Present Progressive), we can also use the Present Tense to talk about what is happening at the moment:
¿Qué haces?. = What are you doing?
Lavo los platos. = I’m washing the dishes.
¿Qué hace Ana? = What is Ana doing?
Baila con un chico. = She dances with a young guy.
Things that will happen in the near future
Again, there are other tenses more fitting for this, such as the Simple Future (click here to learn the Simple Future) or the future with “ir a + infinitive». However, sometimes we also use the Present, particularly if the action takes place in the near future:
Mañana voy a casa de mi abuela = I’ll go to my grandma’s tomorrow.
El mes que viene hacemos un curso de español = We’ll do a Spanish course next month.
Asking for / ordering
It is very common in restaurants to order in the form of a question using the Present tense.
For example, to express “I’d have a beer, please”, we tend to say “do you put me a beer, please”?, using the Present:
¿Me pone una cerveza, por favor? = I’d have a beer, please.
¿Nos trae la carta, por favor? = Could you bring us the menu, please?
¿Me enseña ese reloj, por favor? = Could you show me that watch, please?
Exercise: What do these people do on Fridays?
¿Qué hacen estas personas los viernes?
El niño estudia para los exámenes de la escuela.
El joven juega al tenis con un amigo suyo.
La mujer morena trabaja en la oficina.
La chica rubia va al gimnasio y hace ejercicio.
Los dos jóvenes bailan salsa.
If you have mastered the Present Tense and are looking for new challenges, we suggest you move on to a new tense, for example the Present Progressive.