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What is a good way to remember Spanish Verb Conjugation?

I studied past tense today, and I found it's pretty difficult. Some words are so similar to the present tense, and sometimes, I am confused. I know in future will be more difficult, with more different tenses.

So, is there a good way to remember all the Verb Conjugation with different tenses??

  • Posted Jan 29, 2011
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11 Answers

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I'm afraid practice is probably the only method you can't avoid to succeed. However, I suggest that you read all these forms aloud, focusing on the correct placement of the stress. For us, "llego" and "llegó" sound radically different due to the stress. If you see them written, they look pretty much the same, though (except for that little accent on top of the letter), so make sure you read aloud and stress significantly the right syllable when you try to memorize these tenses, because it is that stress what allow us to differentiate them. Confusions among ourselves with these forms like "llego/llegó" are impossible when we speak.

Another advice: Once you have learnt a regular verb, like "hablar", try to conjugate other regular verbs using the same endings without looking in any table, and do it aloud ("llegar" has the same pattern): practicar, tocar, buscar, educar, quedar, olvidar, tardar, dudar, ayudar, crear, pagar, llegar, echar, marchar, escuchar, duchar, bajar, trabajar, viajar, dejar, empujar,....

  • Do you or anyone know where we can find mp3 files of native speakers going through the conjugations for common present tense verb, common irregular verb, common regular preterit verbs, common irregular preterit verbs and so on. Great for the car ! - artistnatura Feb 25, 2013
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Lazarus said:

....practice is probably the only method...read all these forms aloud....

Yes. This is it. Sadly, there are no shortcuts.

  • Jan 29, 2011
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There are shortcuts, and there is a better way to learn conjugations without making your brain bleed by trying to memorize boring conjugation charts.

Learn the sounds of the different tenses. When you are listening to a conversation in Spanish, or being a part of a conversation, if you have the sounds of the tenses ingrained in your mind, you will immediately discern that the speaker is talking about something that happened in the past (for example).

So, if you internalize the sound of the tenses you don't have to do the mental gymnastics trying to conjugate 'on the fly'. For example, if a person is telling a story about themselves in the past, you're going to hear endings "é, í, aba, ía". If they're telling a story about another person, and it happened in the past, you're going to hear "ó, ió, aba, ía". If you're talking to a friend, or the friend is talking to you, you're going to hear "iste, and aste".

Even for stem changing verbs, the sounds of the tenses are the same. For example, dormir. You're still going to hear "dormí, dormiste, durmió", etc when talking in the past.

I do realize that this might seem like an oversimplification, but it is the very thing that destroyed the idea of having to 'memorize' thousands of conjugations, and it opened the door for me to be conversational in Spanish. I also know this is a controversial topic amongst certain people, and it won't help you pass a test, but it will help you to become a fluent speaker and listener in a much shorter time.

  • Jan 29, 2011
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  • Thanks for sharing with me, but so far I still think Spanish is very difficult for me. - zhmelissa Jan 29, 2011
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Dear friend

I am thinking of 6 points:

1- we know that in al languages some verbs are the most used verbs, hence, have to be memorized first. A) In this stage and among this kinds of verbs, some are very very used like ser, estar, hacer, tener, dar,quere, desear, deber, ir, venir,... .B) some verbs are such that they in combination of other infinitives or participle form of the verbs, make a special meaning for special situations and tenses, like hacer, tener, (specially) haber, ... .

as for these kinds of verbs, they should be memorized first and completely.

2- other verbs. about these kinds of verbs, two points are important: A) some form of conjugations should be memorized first, because: 1- they are most used form of the verb, like infinitive form, imprative form ,(in some verbs like tener, dar, ...) subjuntivo form. and 2- they in combination with other forms, make new conjugation for the verbs like participle form.

3- some conjugation of verbs are the most used form of them, like infinitive form, present form, preterit (past) form and imprative form.

4- as you know, in spanish, verbs have just three form of infinitive ( -ar, -er, -ir). most of the verbs, in their conjugation follow a same procedure. so by learning the rule of the conjugation of one sample verb, you can conjugate other infinitives the same way.

5- there are two main rule of changes plus one exceptional change in spanish verbs. first of the main rule is that: for conjugation of any verbs, the sign of infinitive (-ar, -er, -ir) should be deleted and instead, other signs (like o, as, a, amos, ais, an=for -ar verbs, or o, es e, emos...= for -er verbs, or o , es, e, imos... for -ir verb (in present form)) should be added. by learning this rule for one time, you con conjugate other similar-in-infinitive verbs.second main change is changes in the stem of the verbs ( in first single, second single, third single and third plural person of the verb in the present and somwhat similar in the other) (you can learn one of it as a rule and follow it in other similars). in some verbs, in the stems, a vowel letter of it, chages to another single-vowel or combined vowel. for example, in "poder (=can)", -er is the sign of infinitive and "pod" is the stem. in its stem, "o" changes to "ue" in present form and to "u" in past form. In spanish, in this case, ther are five kinds of changes:

"e" to "ie" like in quere; "o" to "ue" like in poder; "e" to "i" in pedir; "u" to "ue" in jugar and "i" to "ie" like in adquirir.

the third change which I named it "one exceptional change", is that in some certain verbs, in adition to the two mantioned change, a change may occur just ,for example, in first person, like in "venir" which its first person of the present, changes (from vieno(acording to the two main abovementione rule) to "vengo". or in "conocer" > "conozco".

6- as some of the relible resource book mentioned, 70 per cent of the common verbs in spanish are of the kind of -ar infinitive verb. that means if you memorize this kind of verbs, you know 70 per cent of spanish verbs.

therefor in memorizing verbs and conjugations, I suggest:

1- first of all, generally, memorize the infinitives.

2- for the most used verbs, memorize the:infinitive, imperative and participle form.

3- for the most common verbs, memorize infinitive, imperative, participle and present subjunctive(subjuntive) form.

4- for the verbs with special functions, which, for example, in combination with other forms, make new form, memorize all forms of conjugation, like ser, estar, hacer, tener, deber, dar, haber.

5- for all verbs, memorize the rules of changes and follow the rules in all the related verbs.

6- for more easy memorizing of conjugations, memorize some sample verbs. for finding such verbs, I suggest the "Oxford minireference Spanish Verbs". it is a brief helpful index of verbs which outlinded 99 sample verb conjugations.

7- -ar infinitive verbs are most used verbs, so memorize them first.

  • Jan 29, 2011
  • | Edited by je2010 Jan 29, 2011
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in most cases the usted form and yo form are just switched

  • Jan 29, 2011
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  • ???????? - --Mariana-- Jan 29, 2011
  • Is it true?? Haven't noticed. - zhmelissa Jan 29, 2011
  • This appears true only for "ar"-ending verbs, and if you ignore the accent - in other words, this is unhelpful. Sorry. - pesta Jan 29, 2011
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Dear zhmelissa,

We usually refer to "past tense" as "preterite" in English. I do sympathize and believe you are referring to how preterite and the indicative words are so similar. Especially in the "we" form. Mainly what you are saying becomes apparent in the context of the sentence it is in. For instance:

We eat there often. Nosotros comemos ahí frecuentemente.

We ate there yesterday. Nosotros comimos ahí ayer.

When you get more practice (the others are correct about that!) your ear will begin to hear the difference -- Happy learning to you!

  • You should take out the "Nosotros" from those sentences. It just sounds redundant. - RommpinCrab Jan 29, 2011
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We work here everyday. Nosotros trabajamos aquí todos los días. present tense

We worked here yesterday. Ayer nosotros trabajamos aquí past tense.

1st person for trabajar. present tense and past tense all the same?

  • Jan 29, 2011
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1st person for trabajar. present tense and past tense all the same?

Yes, the plural forms in the first person are identical.

  • I would have said "for all regular verbs" ... is it true also for all irregular verbs? - Valerie Jan 29, 2011
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Yes, i mean , the first person plural. Present tense and past tense are the same.Right?

  • Jan 29, 2011
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But I got a question here, since

We work here everyday. Nosotros trabajamos aquí todos los días. present tense

We worked here yesterday. Ayer nosotros trabajamos aquí past tense.

The 1st person plural , present tense and past tense are the same, so , if whenever we talk about it and without todos los dias and ayer. Will people get confused? Whether it's present tense or past tense?

  • Jan 29, 2011
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  • Yes, context is key in your example. When I use 1st person plural I always give context, like 'ayer' or 'anoche', etc. - Jack-OBrien Jan 29, 2011
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The 1st person plural , present tense and past tense are the same, so , if whenever we talk about it and without todos los dias and ayer. Will people get confused? Whether it's present tense or past tense?

The context, obviously:

  • A: ¿Qué hacéis? [Spanish version; "hacen" everywhere else]
  • B: Trabajamos. [obviously, it means now]

  • A: ¿Qué hacisteis? [Spanish version; "hicieron" everywhere else]

  • B: Trabajamos. [obviously, it means in the past]
  • I got it,thanks Lazarus.:) - zhmelissa Jan 29, 2011