Usually the first tense everyone learns when learning a new language, the present tense (el presente) opens up many doors to communication providing a manner to ask questions, describe someone, regular activities, abilities, and present actions.

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The present tense in Spanish is used to express several English equivalents which may seem unnatural at first, but with practice, using the present tense will seem like second nature.

1. Habitual Actions

Habitual actions are the activities that a person does every day (or very often) for a long period of time. Daily routines, responsibilities, and job-related activities can be expressed this way.

  • Me levanto a las seis y media cada mañana. (I get up at six thirty every morning.)
  • Doy de comer al perro tres veces cada día. (I feed the dog three times each day.)
  • Trabajo para el zoológico. (I work for the zoo.)
  • Estudio biología en la universidad. (I study Biology at the university.)

2. Single Present Tense Events

In English and Spanish, this is usually expressed using the present progressive, but it is possible to use the present tense in Spanish as well.

  • ¿Qué haces? (What are you doing?)
  • Limpio la cocina. (I´m cleaning the kitchen.)
  • ¿Cómo estás? (How are you doing?)
  • Estoy bien, gracias. (I´m doing well, thank you.)

3. Timeless Events/Universal Truths

These are phrases that are not connected to a specific time, but are generally known. These can be facts, or generally accepted opinions.

  • Uno más uno son dos. (One plus one is two.)
  • La verdad es el amor. (The truth is love.)
  • El hombre es mortal. (Man-kind is mortal.)

4. Hypothetical Situations

When introduced by si, the present tense expresses a hypothetical situation and reaction.

  • Si llega Marcos, salgo. (If Marcos arrives, I leave.)
  • Si llueve, la fiesta termina. (If it rains, the party ends.)

5. Past Tense Events that Continue to the Present

There are certain situations that may have begun in the past, but are still going on in the present. These are expressed using:

Time Affects Us Now

hace + time + que + present tense verb

  • Hace tres años que esperamos tu llamada. (We´ve been waiting three years for your call.)
  • Hace una semana que pinta este cuadro. (He´s been painting this painting for a week.)

Present Tense

To conjugate a verb in the present tense, you must first determine which type of verb is to be conjugated, be it an -ar, -er, or -ir verb, a spelling-changing, a stem-changing, or an irregular verb. The first three, which are regular, are described below. You can find spelling-changing verbs, stem-changing verbs, and irregular verbs below.

The second step in conjugating a verb is to determine its stem, or root. The stem of the verb holds the meaning of the verb. To find the stem, remove the infinitive ending (-ar, -er, -ir).

  • Hablar -> Habl-
  • Comer -> Com-
  • Escribir -> Escrib-

To the end of the stem, add the appropriate ending depending on who the subject of the verb is. The ending indicates who is doing the action at what point in time. The ending will also depend on which verb group the verb belongs to (-ar, -er, -ir). The endings to these categories are described below.

No Pronouns Allowed!

Because the endings of each verb indicate the subject of the verb, the personal pronoun is not necessary and should be avoided if possible. Native Spanish-speakers RARELY use personal pronouns, so it's best to practice NOT using them for fluency's sake.

  • Hablo español. (I speak Spanish.) is better than:
  • Yo hablo español. (I speak Spanish.)

1. AR Verbs

To conjugate an -ar verb, remove the infinitive ending (-ar) to leave the stem, and add the appropriate ending depending on the subject.

AR Verb Endings

singular plural
yo -o nosotros -amos
-as vosotros -áis
usted, él, ella -a ustedes, ellos, ellas -an

Hablar -> Habl-

singular plural
yo hablo I speak nosotros hablamos We speak
hablas You (familiar) speak vosotros habláis You (familiar) speak
usted, él, ella habla You (formal) speak, He/She speaks ustedes, ellos, ellas hablan You (formal) speak, They speak

AR Verbs Dominate

The majority of all Spanish verbs are -ar verbs.

2. ER Verbs

To conjugate an -er verb, remove the infinitive ending (-er) to leave the stem, and add the appropriate ending depending on the subject.

ER Verb Endings

singular plural
yo -o nosotros -emos
-es vosotros -éis
usted, él, ella -e ustedes, ellos, ellas -en

Comer -> Com-

singular plural
yo como I eat nosotros comemos We eat
comes You (familiar) eat vosotros coméis You (familiar) eat
usted, él, ella come You (formal) eat, He/She eats ustedes, ellos, ellas comen You (formal) eat, They eat

3. IR Verbs

To conjugate an -ir verb, remove the infinitive ending (-ir) to leave the stem, and add the appropriate ending depending on the subject.

IR Verb Endings

singular plural
yo -o nosotros -imos
-es vosotros -ís
usted, él, ella -e ustedes, ellos, ellas -en

Copy Cat Endings

Notice that -ir verbs have the same conjugations as -er verbs for all persons except nosotros and vosotros. You may hear this referred to as "the boot" since when you look at the conjugation chart, the persons that are the same as -er endings form the shape of a boot.

Escribir -> Escrib-

singular plural
yo escribo I write nosotros escribimos We write
escribes You (familiar) write vosotros escribís You (familiar) write
usted, él, ella escribe You (formal) write, He/She writes ustedes, ellos, ellas escriben You (formal) write, They write

Spelling-Changing Verbs

Spanish has several verbs whose spelling changes in order to preserve the pronunciation presented in the infinitive. Below you will find several rules for when the spelling changes in a verb conjugation. If memorizing the rules is too confusing or just too much information, remember that most spellings only change to preserve the original pronunciation of the infinitive. If you hear a G sound in the infinitive, make sure the spelling reflects that same sound in all the conjugations.

1. Verbs ending in -ger or -gir

In the first person singular, the g changes to a j to preserve the [h] (IPA /x/) sound.

Example Conjugations

proteger - to protect fingir - to pretend
protejo protegemos finjo fingimos
proteges protegéis finges fingís
protege protegen finge fingen

Some Common g -> j Verbs

acoger to greet escoger to choose resurgir to re-emerge
afligir to afflict exigir to demand rugir to roar
coger to catch, grab fingir to pretend sumergir to submerge
corregir to correct infringir to infringe surgir to emerge
dirigir to direct proteger to protect urgir to urge
emerger to emerge recoger to pick up
encoger to shrink restringir to restrain

2. Verbs that end in -guir

In the first person singular, the gu changes to g to preserve the /g/ sound (and prevent a /w/ sound by creating a [uo] combination).

Example Conjugations

distinguir - to distinguish
distingo distinguimos
distingues distinguís
distingue distinguen

Some Common -gu -> g Verbs

distinguir to distinguish perseguir to pursue/go after
conseguir to come by/get proseguir to proceed
erguir to build seguir to follow
extinguir to extinguish

Spelling Change + Stem Change

These verbs also have stem change.

3. Verbs that end in -uir (without a g)

Between vowels, an unstressed i always changes to a y.

Conjugation Example

concluir - to conclude
concluyo concluimos
concluyes concluís
concluye concluyen

Some Common i -> y Verbs

argüir to argue destruir to destroy influir to influence
atribuir to argue diluir to dilute intuir to intuit
constituir to constitute disminuir to diminish obstruir to obstruct
construir to construct distribuir to distribute recluir to confine
contribuir to contribute huir to run away reconstruir to reconstruct
destituir to dismiss incluir to include sustituir to substitute

4. Verbs that end in -cer or -cir

If the stem ends in a consonant, the c changes to a z in the first person singular to preserve the /s/ or [th]sound (IPA) and prevent the /k/ sound of the [co] combination.)

Conjugation Example

fruncir - to frown
frunzo fruncimos
frunces fruncís
frunce fruncen

Some Common c -> z Verbs

convencer to convince fruncir | to frown
ejercer to exert vencer | to vanquish
esparcir to disperse zurcir | to darn

If the stem ends in a vowel, a z is added before the c.

Conjugation Example

conocer - to know
conozco conocemos
conoces conocéis
conoce conocen

Some Common c -> zc Verbs

aborrecer to detest deducir to deduce producir to produce
agradecer to thank desaparecer to disappear nacer to be born
aparecer to appear desconocer to ignore reaparecer reappear
apetecer to feel an urge for establecer to establish reconocer to recognize
complacer to satisfy inducir to induce reducir to reduce
conducir to drive introducir to introduce restablecer to restore
conocer to know/meet merecer to deserve rejuvenecer to rejuvenate
crecer to grow obedecer to obey traducir to translate


Hacer, decir, and satisfacer do not follow the c->zc rule. Instead, the c changes to a g in the first person singular:>

Conjugation Examples

decir - to say hacer - to do | | | satisfacer - to satisfy | | digo | decimos | | hago | hacemos | | satisfago | satisfacemos
dices decís haces | hacéis | | satisfaces | satisfacéis
dice dicen hace | hacen | | satisface | satisfacen

Other Verbs that Add g in the 1st Person

asir -> asgo to seize salir -> salgo to leave
oír -> oigo to hear tener -> tengo to have
poner -> pongo to put valer -> valgo to cost

Stem-Changing Verbs

In all three conjugations of verbs (-ar, -er, and -ir) there are some verbs whose vowels change within the stem. These stem-changes occur in all persons except nosotros and vosotros. These two persons maintain the regular stem. There are six varieties of stem-changes: o->ue, e -> ie, e -> i, i -> ie, u -> ue, o -> hue. Each of these is described below with examples.

1. e to ie

This is the most common stem change for Spanish verbs.

Conjugation Example

**querer* - to want
quiero queremos
quieres queréis
quiere quieren

The Boot!

As you can see, the stem change is only applied in 1st, 2nd, 3rd person singular and 3rd person plural, forming the shape of a boot in the conjugation chart. The "boot" is a good way to remember which persons have the stem change.

Some Common e -> ie Verbs

acertar to guess divertirse to have fun pensar (en) to think (about)
atender to attend to empezar to begin perder to lose
atravesar to cross encender to light/ignite, to turn on preferir to prefer
calentar to warm encerrar to enclose querer to want
cerrar to close entender to understand recomendar to recommend
comenzar to begin fregar to scrub/wash remendar to mend/patch
confesar to confess gobernar to govern sentar (se) to sit down
helar to freeze sentir to feel
defender to defend mentir to lie sugerir to suggest
descender to descend negar to deny tropezar (con) to stumble (into, across)
despertar (se) to wake up nevar to snow

2. o to ue

This is the 2nd most common stem change after i->ie.

Conjugation Example

soñar - to dream
- -
sueño soñamos
sueñas soñáis
sueña sueñan

Some Common o -> ue Verbs

absolver to absolve doler to hurt recordar to remember
acordarse (de) to agree on dormir to sleep remover to remove
almorzar to have lunch encontrar to find resolver to resolve
aprobar to approve envolver to wrap retorcer to twist
cocer to boil/bake llover to rain revolver to mix/shake
colgar to hang (up) morder to bite rogar to beg
conmover to move (emotionally) moler to grind soler to be accustomed to
contar to count morir to die sonar to sound
costar to cost mostrar to show soñar to dream
demoler to demolish mover to move torcer to twist
demostrar to demonstrate/prove poder to be able to tronar to thunder
devolver to return (something) probar to taste, to prove volar to fly
disolver to dissolve promover to promote

3. e to i

Conjugation Example

repetir - to repeat
repito repetimos
repites repetís
repite repiten

Some Common e -> i Verbs

conseguir to get repetir to repeat
corregir to correct reírse (de) to laugh/to make fun of
despedir to fire/to say goodbye seguir to follow
elegir to elect servir to serve
impedir to impede sonreírse to smile
medir to measure vestirse to get dressed
perseguir to follow

4. i to ie

There are only only two commonly used verbs whose stem changes from i to ie:

Conjugation Examples

adquirir - to acquire inquirir - to inquire
adquiero adquirimos inquiero inquirimos
adquieres adquirís inquieres inquirís
adquiere adquieren inquiere inquieren

5. u to ue

There is only one commonly used verb whose stem changes from u to ue, and it is a very common verb.

Conjugation Example

jugar - to play
juego jugamos
juegas jugáis
juega juegan

6. o to hue

There is only one commonly used verb whose stem changes from o to hue.

Conjugation Example

oler - to smell
huelo olemos
hueles oléis
huele huelen

Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs can fall into two categories in the present indicative: irregular in the yo form, or irregular in all forms.

Irregular in the Yo Form

As in every language there will be verbs that do not seem to follow any of the rules. Irregular verbs are verbs that violate conjugation rules for one or more persons and do not fall into any of the stem-changing or spelling-changing categories. And unfortunately, these are usually the most useful and regularly used words in the language. The following words are irregular only in the yo form. They are regular in all other conjugations.

Irregular Yo Conjugations

infinititve yo form definition
caber quepo to fit
caer caigo to fall
dar doy to give
saber to know
traer traigo to bring
ver veo to see

The Compounds Count Too!

The compounds of these verbs are also irregular in the yo form:

  • componer, deshacer, disponer, distraer, proponer, rehacer, reponer, suponer

Irregular in All Forms

There are only four verbs irregular in all forms in the present tense, but they may be the four most useful and used verbs in Spanish.

Irregular Conjugations

ser (to be) estar (to be) ir (to go) haber (to have (done))
yo soy estoy voy he
eres estás vas has
usted, él, ella es está va ha
nosotros somos estamos vamos hemos
vosotros sois estáis vais habéis
ustedes, ellos, ellas son están van han

To Be or To Be?

To see the difference between ser and estar, see the Ser vs. Estar reference.

To Have, but Not Possess

To see how to use the verb haber, see the perfect tense reference.


Part 1) Regular Present Indicative - Write the form of the present tense for each verb in parenthesis to complete the sentences.

Example: Mi hermana ___|\___|\___|\___|_ (estudiar) en la universidad. -> estudia

  1. Mis vecinos ___|\___|\___|\___|__ (leer) los periódicos cada mañana.
  2. Y tú, ¿___|\___|\___|\___|__ (hablar) español?
  3. Mi madre y yo ___|\___|\___|\___|__ (cocinar) un pastel grande para el cumpleaños de mi padre.
  4. Elena siempre ___|\___|\___|\___|\___| (correr) por las mañanas.
  5. Yo ___|\___|\___|\___|_ (beber) café con leche.
  6. Ella ___|\___|\___|\___|\___| (comer) solamente vegetales.
  7. María y Juan ___|\___|\___|\___|__ (mirar) los programas de noticias a las seis.
  8. Hace 9 años que yo ___|\___|\___|\___|\___| (estudiar) español.

Part 2: Spelling Changes - Complete the following sentences in the present tense using the verb in parenthesis.

Example: Yo (aborrecer) los días fríos. -> aborrezco

  1. La lluvia (destruir) los castillos de arena.
  2. Yo (proteger) mis derechos.
  3. Yo nunca (conducir) los camiones.
  4. Yo siempre (convencer) mis amigos de mis ideas.
  5. Yo (tener) que lavar los platos.

Part 3: Stem Changes - Complete each sentence in the present tense with the following stem-changing verbs.

Example: Yo (almorzar) cada día en el café cerca de mi oficina. -> almuerzo

  1. Yo (pensar) que voy al cine esta noche.
  2. Mi profesor siempre (repetir) las respuestas tres veces.
  3. Si tú no (elegir) a alguien pronto, vas a quedarte soltero.
  4. ¿Cómo (sentir) tú?
  5. Su padre (inquirir) sobre lo ocurrido anoche.
  6. Los perros (oler) las ardillas en el parque.
  7. Él (jugar) al fútbol los martes y los jueves.
  8. Yo no (recordar) muy bien las letras de esa canción.

Part 4: Irregular - Conjugate each irregular verb in parenthesis in the present tense to complete each sentence.

Example: Siempre (decir) la verdad. -> digo

  1. Yo no (caber) en estos pantalones.
  2. Yo (ver) a mi hermana allí.
  3. Ella (estar) en su dormitorio.
  4. Nosotros (ir) a ir al parque esta tarde.
  5. Yo (saber) la respuesta.
  6. Tú (ser) inteligente, cómica y guapa.
  7. Siempre yo (traer) el postre a las fiestas.
  8. Yo (dar) los mejores regalos por la Navidad.
  9. Mi hermana (haber) viajado a Marruecos muchas veces.
  10. Yo no puedo bailar. Siempre (caer).


Part 1 - Regular present indicative

  1. leen
  2. hablas
  3. cocinamos
  4. corre
  5. bebo
  6. come
  7. miran
  8. estudio

Part 2 - Spelling Changes

  1. destruye
  2. protejo
  3. conduzco
  4. convenzo
  5. tengo

Part 3 - Stem Changes

  1. pienso
  2. repite
  3. eliges
  4. sientes
  5. inquiere
  6. huelen
  7. juega
  8. recuerdo

Part 4 - Irregular

  1. quepo
  2. veo
  3. está
  4. vamos
  5. eres
  6. traigo
  7. doy
  8. ha
  9. caigo