By far the most difficult aspect of the Spanish language is learning the verbs. As an English speaker, one is accustomed to a language which is very noun-specific; every object and concept has a name. Spanish on the other hand, is verb-specific, placing emphasis instead on this part of speech. In addition to the verbs in Spanish being so specific, and therefore, numerous, there is often a separate conjugation for each person, often resulting in six different forms for each verb and tense. For this reason, until one has learned quite a few verbs, even a basic, grammatically-correct conversation is off the table.
The Present Simple (Indicative)
Unfortunately, the present simple in Spanish is not terribly easy to conjugate. The most significant source of confusion regarding this tense are the stem changes that occur in most of the persons. Using these verbs properly takes time and a great deal of practice. The upside, however, is that the presente is used a great deal more in Spanish than its English equivalent, so learning it properly will pay off. Remember that due to the fact that there is almost always a separate form for each person, it is not always necessary to have a subject, be it a personal pronoun or what have you.
There are three types of endings of Spanish verbs in the infinitive: -ar, -er, -ir. Depending on the ending, the regular verb conjugation varies. Let’s have a look at some regular verbs without stem changes:
|yo amo||yo corro||yo vivo|
|tú amas||tú corres||tú vives|
|él/ella/usted ama||él/ella/usted corre||él/ella/usted vive|
|nosotros amamos||nosotros corremos||nosotros vivimos|
|vosotros amáis||vosotros corréis||vosotros vivís|
|ellos/ellas/ustedes aman||ellos/ellas/ustedes corren||ellos/ellas/ustedes viven|
When the verb has a stem change, all the forms excepting nosotros and vosotros are affected. Here are some examples:
|pensar(e>ie)||volver (o>ue)||pedir (e>i)|
|yo pienso||yo vuelvo||yo pido|
|tú piensas||tú vuelves||tú pides|
The Present Simple (Subjunctive)
In addition to the regular present simple, Spanish also has a present simple subjunctive, which although not actually necessary to convey meaning, must be used in order to speak the language correctly. Many English-speaking Spanish teachers, in an effort to explain when to use the subjunctive mood, begin by telling students that there is no English equivalent. However, this could not be further from the truth. Though not expressed through additional verb conjugations, the English language does have subjunctive sentences. Here are some examples:
I wish I were taller./If I were you, I wouldn’t do that.
I recommend that he go see the doctor immediately./I suggest he not say anything just yet.
As we’ve mentioned, in Spanish the verbs must be conjugated differently to express the subjunctive. The forms are not any more difficult than the indicative forms; the usage, however, is rather complicated. Here are some examples of regular present simple subjunctive verbs:
As one can imagine, the only thing to be done here is memorize the charts and practice speaking until the verbs flow naturally. Also, it is important to go bit by bit because otherwise one may confuse different tenses and conjugations due to similarities or to the sheer volume of information. Better get started!