Spanish Present Tense – Conjugation and Use

Spanish Present Tense, Title of the Grammar Lesson

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

The thing about the Spanish Present Tense that is challenging for beginners is the amount of irregular verbs. However, keep in mind that most verbs are regular, and in reality the irregulars can be grouped into different types that behave the same way. With some effort and practice, very soon you will be able to use many, many verbs in Present Tense 🙂

In this post we will learn all about the Present Tense, both its conjugation and its use in sentences. We will go through the following points:

1. Conjugation of Verbs in Spanish Present Tense


About Regular and Irregular Verbs in Present Tense

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.
  2. Add the endings highlighted in the following table, for the proper person. Notice that the endings are different for “-ar”, “-er” and “-ir” verbs:
 HablarBeberPartir
yohablobeboparto
hablasbebespartes
élhablabebeparte
nosotroshablamosbebemospartimos
vosotroshabláisbebéispartís
elloshablanbebenparten


Irregular Verbs – 4 types

There are many verbs which are Irregular in Present Tense. We will not see all of them here (long lists can be found on many websites). What we will do is explain the main types of Irregular Verbs, providing some examples for 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. 

We are going to divide Irregular Verbs into 4 types:

  1. Verbs for which the “yo” form is special, but the other persons are Regular
  2. Verbs for which there is a spelling change in the stem for most of the persons
  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
  4. A few Very Irregular Verbs

Let’s study each type with examples:


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. Here are some 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


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: That irregularity doesn’t exist for the persons “nosotros” and “vosotros”.

Let’s 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


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 of irregular verb is 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, that 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


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 most of the persons also present a letter “h” 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


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

Even though there is another tense called Present Progressive which is generally better for this, we can also use the Present Tense to talk about 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 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?


The condition for a possible situation

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: A Quiz

Take this short Quiz and test your knowledge about the Spanish Present Tense!:


4. Practice the Present Tense: An Exercise

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 at the end of this post.

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

Example Sentences in Spanish Present Tense

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