Spanish Present Tense – Conjugation and Use

Spanish Present Tense

The Spanish Present Tense of the Indicative Mood (“El Presente del Indicativo”) is the first verb tense everyone learns on a Spanish course. The Present is mostly used to state facts or habitual actions and events.

The challenging part of the Spanish Present Tense for beginners is the amount of irregular verbs it presents. However, keep in mind that most verbs are regular, and in reality the irregulars can be grouped into different types that behave in the same way.

The use of the Present Tense in sentences is pretty straightforward: we use mainly it to state facts and talk about habitual actions.

In this post we will learn all about the Spanish Present Tense, both the conjugation of verbs and its use, providing example sentences. At the end of the lesson you can also find a quiz and exercises for practice.

1. Conjugation of Verbs in Spanish Present Tense

About Regular and Irregular Verbs

There are 3 types of verbs in Spanish, depending on their ending in Infinitive form:

  • 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 us if it’s Regular or Irregular in Present Tense. Indeed, there are both Regular and Irregular Verbs for all 3 types. That’s why we need to learn, for each specific verb, whether it is Regular or Irregular.

Regular Verbs – Forms and Endings

If a verb happens to be Regular, the steps to conjugate it in Present Tense are simple:

  1. Remove the “-ar”, “-er,” “-ir” at the end of the infinitive form, leaving only the stem.
  2. Attach the proper ending to the stem. The endings are presented in the following table. Notice that the endings are different for verbs ending in “-ar”, “-er” and “-ir”.
 HablarBeberPartir
yohablobeboparto
hablasbebespartes
élhablabebeparte
nosotroshablamosbebemospartimos
vosotroshabláisbebéispartís
elloshablanbebenparten

Irregular Verbs – 4 types

There are many verbs which are Irregular in Present Tense. We will subdivide them into 4 types, providing some example verbs of each type.

The good news is that the endings we learned in the table above still apply for almost all Irregular Verbs. However, the stem presents some small change for some of the persons. 

The four types of irregulars are:

Irregular Type 1 – Verbs for which the “yo” form is special, but the other persons are regular

For this type of irregular, the “yo” form has something that makes it different, but the rest are completely regular.

Examples:

Conducirconduzco, conduces, conduce, conducimos, conducís, conducen
Conocerconozco, conoces, conoce, conocemos, conocéis, conocen
Dardoy, das, da, damos, dais, dan
Hacerhago, haces, hace, hacemos, hacéis, hacen
Salirsalgo, sales, sale, salimos, salís, salen
Traertraigo, traes, trae, traemos, traéis, traen
Verveo, ves, ve, vemos, veis, ven

Irregular Type 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: The irregularity does not exist for the persons “nosotros” and “vosotros”.

We further divide this type into 3 sub-types, depending on their specific vocalic change:

“e” (or less frequently “i”) becomes ie”

Examples:

Adquiriradquiero, adquieres, adquiere, adquirimos, adquirís, adquieren
Cerrarcierro, cierras, cierra, cerramos, cerráis, cierran
Pensarpienso, piensas, piensa, pensamos, pensáis, piensan
Quererquiero, quieres, quiere, queremos, queréis, quieren
“o” (or less frequently “u”) becomes “ue”

Examples:

Contarcuento, cuentas, cuenta, contamos, contáis, cuentan
Jugarjuego, juegas, juega, jugamos, jugáis, juegan
Poderpuedo, puedes, puede, podemos, podéis, pueden
Soñarsueño, sueñas, sueña, soñamos, soñáis, sueñan
“e” becomes i”

Examples:

Pedirpido, pides, pide, pedimos, pedís, piden
Repetirrepito, repites, repite, repetimos, repetís, repiten
Servirsirvo, sirves, sirve, servimos, servís, sirven

Irregular Type 3 – Verbs for which the “yo” form is special AND there is also a spelling change in the stem for most of the other persons

This third type is like a mix of the previous two: The “yo” form is special, and most of the other persons present a vocalic change in the stem of the kinds we just learned.

Once again, the irregularity doesn’t exist for the persons “nosotros” and “vosotros”. 

Examples:

Decirdigo, dices, dice, decimos, decís, dicen
Tenertengo, tienes, tiene, tenemos, tenéis, tienen
Venirvengo, vienes, viene, venimos, venís, vienen

Irregular Type 4 – A few Very Irregular Verbs 

Here we must include the very important verbs “ser” and “ir”, which are very irregular and don’t fit into any of the previous categories. 

Also, the verb “estar”, which is peculiar because of the many accent marks it presents.

Finally, the verb “oler” (to smell). It follows the “o → ue” pattern, but for most of the persons, a letter “h” appears at the beginning.

Estarestoy, estás, está, estamos, estáis, están
Irvoy, vas, va, vamos, vais, van
Olerhuelo, hueles, huele, olemos, oléis, huelen
Sersoy, eres, es, somos, sois, son

2. Uses of the Spanish Present Tense

Let’s study the main uses of the Present Tense, providing example sentences:

Stating facts

Facts of life, nature, culture…

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

These are things that happen all the time or in a regular fashion:

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

There is another tense in Spanish called Present Progressive which is generally better for this, but we can also use the Present Tense to express what is happening right now:

¿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 Spanish tenses more fitting for this, such as the Future Tense or the future with “ir a” + infinitive. However, sometimes we can also use the Present Tense, particularly if the action takes place in the near future: 

Mañana como en casa de mi abuela.
I’ll eat at my grandmother’s tomorrow.

El mes que viene hacemos un curso de español.
Next month we’ll do a Spanish course.

Ordering / Asking for

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”?:

¿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?

Conditions

When expressing a hypothetical situation, the condition introduced by the conjunction “si…” can be expressed in Present Tense.

Si quieres, podemos jugar al tenis.
If you want, we can play tennis.

Iré al museo si tengo tiempo.
I’ll go to the museum if I have time.

3. Practice the Present Tense: Quiz and Exercises

Quiz

First, take this Quiz about the Spanish Present Tense. it will help you know if you understood the theory:

Exercise 1

We are going to practice the first two uses of the Present Tense we have seen in this lesson. In this first exercise, we state facts. Fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper using the Spanish Present Tense, then check the solutions right after the exercise:

El Cairo ______ 1.(estar) en Egipto.
Normalmente, los árboles ______ 2.(ser) más altos que los arbustos.
Las plantas ______ 3.(hacer) la fotosíntesis.
La velocidad de la luz ______ 4.(ser) de 300.000 kilómetros por segundo.
España ______ 5.(tener) más de 45 millones de habitantes.
La empresa Zara ______ 6.(vender) ropa de hombre y de mujer.

Solutions: 1 = está, 2 = son, 3 = hacen, 4 = es, 5 = tiene, 6 = vende

Exercise 2

Now we are going to practice the second use of the Present Tense we have leaned in this lesson: habitual actions and events.

What do these people do on Fridays? Fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper using the Spanish Present Tense, then check the solutions right after the exercise:

Example Sentences in Spanish Present Tense

¿Qué _____ 1.(hacer) estas personas los viernes?


El niño ______ 2.(estudiar) para los exámenes de la escuela.
El joven ______3.(jugar) al tenis con un amigo suyo.
La mujer morena ______ 4.(trabajar) en la oficina.
La chica rubia ______5.(ir) al gimnasio y _____ 6.(hacer) ejercicio.
Los dos jóvenes ______7.(bailar) salsa.

Solutions: 1 = hacen, 2 = estudia, 3 = juega, 4 = trabaja, 5 = va, 6 = hace, 7 = bailan