We´ve got great news for you! Of all the tenses used in Castilian, the Spanish Present Tense is the easiest one to learn.
That said, it takes practice and perseverance. Let’s dive into Spanish Present Tense in its many forms.
The Spanish word for ‘present’ is ‘presente’. It comes from the Latin «praesens», which means to be in front or in the presence of someone.
In Grammar, it refers to the tense that places the action or the state expressed by the verb in a period of time that includes the moment of speech.
In present tense Spanish, the actions happen in what we commonly know as the “the here and now”. Therefore, it is always a simple conjugation, without the help of any auxiliary verbs.
The only exception to this rule is the Spanish Present Continuous Tense, which is formed with a verbal periphrasis using the verb ‘to be’ (estar).
Thus, note that it is not included as a part of the verbal conjugation model of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (Real Academia de la Lengua Española).
The moods serve as a platform to portray the point of view of the speaker. The present can be voiced in the three Spanish Verbal Moods:
In the following table, the verb ‘to sing’ (cantar) is conjugated in the present tense of the three Spanish Verbal Moods.
Apart from the Imperative Mood which is expressed using the singular second person, they are conjugated using the pronoun of the first person ‘yo’ (I).
|PRESENT FORM||TO SING (CANTAR)|
|Present Imperative||Canta (ella/él)|
|Present Continuos||Estoy cantando|
Now, let’s look at the big picture. In the chart below you will spot the present tenses highlighted in red.
The example shows the full conjugation model of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language for the verb ‘amar’ (to love) in first person.
|SIMPLE PRESENT||IMPERFECT PAST||SIMPLE PAST OR PRETERITE||SIMPLE FUTURE||SIMPLE CONDITIONAL|
|PAST PERFECT||PLUPERFECT||PAST ANTERIOR||FUTURE PERFECT||PERFECT CONDITIONAL|
|He amado||Había amado||Hube amado||Habré amado||Habría amado|
|SUBJUNCTIVE SIMPLE PRESENT||SUBJUNCTIVE IMPERFECT PAST||SUBJUNCTIVE SIMPLE FUTURE|
|Ame||Amara o amase||Amare|
|SUBJUNCTIVE PAST PERFECT||SUBJUNCTIVE PLUPERFECT||SUBJUNCTIVE FUTURE PERFECT|
|Haya amado||Hubiera amado o hubiese amado||Hubiere amado|
|Amar||Haber amado||Amando||Habiendo amando|
It is always a good idea to revise the personal pronouns needed to conjugate the verbs.
|I||First person singular||Yo||Yo|
|We||First person plural||Nosotros||Nosotros|
|You||Second person singular||Tú/Vos||Usted|
|He||Third person masculine singular||Él||Él|
|She||Third person femenine singular||Ella||Ella|
|They||Third person plural||Ustedes||Ustedes/Vosotros|
To conjugate the Simple Present Tense of the Indicative Mood you have to first identify the last few letters at the ending of each verb.
Remember that the infinitive forms of regular verbs in Castilian are grouped in three categories according to their endings: –ar, –er, and –ir.
In the present tense, these endings change in agreement to the pronoun. For instance, to form the first person of ‘hablar’ (to speak), which is ‘hablo’, you have to remove the –ar and add an –o to the stem verb ‘habl’.
Examine the table below and you will recognize the ending’s pattern for each person.
|PRONOUN||HABLAR (TO TALK)||APRENDER (TO LEARN)||VIVIR (TO LIVE)|
Irregular verbs tend to differ from the model above so it is better to memorize them.
Ser (to be), estar (to be), dirigir (to direct) hacer (to do), ir (to go), tener (to have), conocer (to know), traer (to bring) y dar (to give) are frequently used irregular verbs. You can look up their conjugation here.
In this section, we will look at the uses of the Spanish Simple Present Tense of the Indicative Mood (Presente del Modo Indicativo). It is very straightforward and includes a wide variety of situations.
Although the Subjunctive Mood is less heard in spoken Spanish than the Indicative Mood, it is faster to learn its conjugation!
There are only two sets of endings to form the Present Subjunctive, one for the regular verbs that finish with –ar and another one for regular verbs that finish with –er and –ir.
Look at the table below to identify the pattern:
|PRONOUN||HABLAR (TO TALK)||APRENDER (TO LEARN)||VIVIR (TO LIVE)|
Similar to the Present Indicative, the irregular verbs in the Present Subjunctive tense can be challenging so you may have to learn them by heart. You can revise Spanish irregular verbs here.
In some instances of irregular verbs, the Present Subjunctive may be shaped from the stem verb of the first person ‘yo’ in the Present Indicative form.
The following example with the verb ‘caber’ (to fit) illustrates the case.
|INFINITIVE VERB||1ST PERSON PRESENT INDICATIVE FORM||PRESENT SUBJUNCTIVE STEM VERB|
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the Subjunctive Mood is appropriate to expose one’s desires, emotions, needs, resolutions, suppositions, confidences, doubts or uncertainties.
Finally, some popular expressions as well as a bunch of proverbs are great examples of this tense:
Since the Present Imperative Mood is the vehicle for commands and public notices it can’t be formulated in first person, as the instruction is addressed for an individual or a group of people to be heard.
In addition, is quite common in spoken Spanish to drop the pronoun because the subject can be inferred by the verb.
This is the preferred mood for Spanish commands: instructions, orders, directives, tips, guidelines, and so on.
ORDERS AND COMMANDMENTS:
When transforming an imperative sentence into a negative command (ordering not to do something), the conjugation of the verb changes and should be formulated using the Subjunctive Present.
No seáis mentirosas. -> Don’t be liars.
Nonetheless, occasionally this can be confusing because some verbs may appear to be the same in both moods.
That is the case of the verb ‘tirar’ (to throw); where the conjugation for the formal second person (usted) is identical in the Subjunctive and the Imperative Mood.
Now, to form the Present Imperative in Spanish follow the pattern shown in the table below.
|Regular -ar verbs:|
|HABLAR (TO SPEAK)|
|Tú habla/no hables||Nosotros hablemos|
|Vos hablá/no hables||Utedes hablen|
|Usted hable||Vosotros hablad|
|Regular –er and –ir verbs:|
|APRENDER (TO LEARN)|
|Tú aprende/no aprendas||Nosotros aprendamos|
|Vos aprendé/no aprendas||Utedes aprendan|
|Usted aprenda||Vosotros aprended|
|VIVIR (TO LIVE)|
|Tú vive/no vivas||Nosotros vivamos|
|Vos viví/no vivas||Utedes vivan|
|Usted viva||Vosotros vivid|
As always, you better check for irregular verbs here.
Lastly, the Spanish Present Progressive or Present Continuous is used to express an action that is actually taking place in the now (as we speak) and that it is likely to continue for an indefinite time.
It is a type of verbal periphrasis, a compound expression that consists of one verb followed by another in its gerund form, which has a progressive aspect.
The Spanish Present Progressive is formed by the combination of the Simple Present Tense of the Indicative Mood of the auxiliary verb ‘estar’ (to be) followed by the gerund.
PRONOUN + SIMPLE PRESENT OF ‘ESTAR’ + GERUND
As you can see, the gerund remains unaltered throughout all the persons. It is only the verb ‘estar’ that is modified to match the subject.
Note how the verb conjugation of the auxiliary verb ‘estar’ describes the subject who is actually performing the verb; consequently, is quite common amongst native Spanish speakers to drop the pronoun.
Revise the conjugation for the irregular verb ‘estar’ with the table below:
|SIMPLE INDICATIVE ‘ESTAR’ (TO BE)|
To learn more about the differences between ‘estar’ and ‘ser’ see this article.
Are you still unsure about conjugating irregular Spanish verbs? Here is an example of the irregular verb ‘ser’ (to be) in the three moods.
You can practice irregular verbs here.
Keep in mind that in Spanish the verbs’ ending many times can give you hints about the moment the action takes place as well as to who is actually performing the action.
Therefore, in order to speak like a native and conjugate like a pro, you need to consider the mood, the tense, the gender, and the person. That is why it is always advantageous to learn from certified teachers who have Spanish as their mother tongue. You can benefit from their insights and their language mastery at LiveLingua.com.
A strong way to master present tense Spanish use and conjugation, and to practice present tense verbs in Spanish and present indicative Spanish is to sign up for our FREE Spanish Survival Crash Course. Every day for six days, we’ll send learning guides and audio courses to your inbox, totally FREE!
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