Spanish Present Tense Forms

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

Regular Present Indicative Forms

-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.

There are more -AR verbs than -ER or -IR verbs.

-AR Verb Endings

SubjectEndinghablar (habl-)English translation
I speak
You (familiar) speak
usted, él, ella-a
You (formal) speak, He/She speaks
We speak
You (familiar) speak
ustedes, ellos, ellas-an
You (formal) speak, They speak

-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

SubjectEndingcomer (com-)English translation
I eat
You (familiar) eat
usted, él, ella-e
You (formal) eat, He/She eats
We eat
You (familiar) eat
ustedes, ellos, ellas-en
You (formal) eat, They eat

-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

SubjectEndingescribir (escrib-)English translation
I write
You (familiar) write
usted, él, ella-e
You (formal) write, He/She writes
We write
You (familiar) write
ustedes, ellos, ellas-en
You (formal) write, They write

Copy Cat Endings

Notice that -ir verbs have the same conjugations as -er verbs for all subjects except nosotros and vosotros.

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 to use them for fluency's sake.

  • Hablo español. (I speak Spanish.)

is better than:

  • Yo hablo español. (I speak Spanish.)

Present Indicative Uses

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.
Mankind 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:

  • 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.

6. Ordering in restaurants and cafes

While the translation isn’t direct, it is quite common to use the present indicative instead of a more formal conditional or subjunctive when asking for something in a restaurant.

Me trae un café, por favor.
Would you bring me a coffee, please.
Quiero el arroz con pollo.
I would like the chicken and rice.

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