If you have chosen Spanish to be your second language, you probably wonder if there is any way to make the whole process faster and easier, especially when it comes to learning verbs.
Yes, these scary Spanish verbs.
If you are a native English speaker, one of the biggest challenges you will face when learning Spanish is that verbs change their form for every subject. This is called conjugation, something that in English is almost non-existing.
Are you getting frustrated trying to memorize all the possible verb forms in Spanish?
Trust me; I’ve been teaching Spanish long enough to see many students struggle with correct verb forms, even at more advanced levels.
Here’s what I always recommend them:
7 Tips to Learn Verbs in Spanish Quickly:
- learn conjugation patterns
- use online tools to practice
- read and listen a lot in Spanish
- learn whole phrases instead of single words
- exercise verb conjugation across different tenses
- focus on the verbs you confuse the most
- engage in real-life conversations
Let me now explain what some of these suggestions mean and why I recommend using them.
Learning conjugation patterns
Have you been memorizing the conjugation tables of every single verb?
This method is a recipe for failure. At one point, you’ll get confused and exhausted.
Perhaps you didn’t know, but Spanish regular verbs can be grouped into three categories, depending on their infinitive ending:
- The -AR verbs
- The -ER verbs
- The -IR verbs
It’s enough for you to learn the conjugation pattern for each category and easily apply it to all the regular verbs with the same ending. Check out what these endings look like in the Present Tense:
|The -AR verbs|
bailar – to dance
ayudar – to help
buscar – to look for
caminar – to walk
cantar – to sing
cocinar – to cook
comprar – to buy
|The -ER verbs|
comer– to eat
aprender – to learn
correr – to run
deber – must
leer – to read
vender – to sell
comprender – to understand
|The -IR verbs|
abrir – to open
compartir – to share
decidir – to decide
escribir – to write
vivir – to live
recibir – to receive
describir – to describe
|yo – o|
tú – as
él, ella – a
nosotros – amos
vosotros – áis
ellos, ellas, ustedes – an
|yo – o|
tú – es
él, ella – e
nosotros – emos
vosotros – éis
ellos, ellas, ustedes – en
|yo – o|
tú – es
él, ella – e
nosotros – imos
vosotros – ís
ellos, ellas, ustedes – en
Just by learning these endings, you will be able to conjugate hundreds of verbs in the present tense:
🇪🇸 No bailo tango. – first-person singular, an -AR verb
🇬🇧 I don’t dance the tango.
🇪🇸 Él no come carne. – third-person singular, an -ER verb
🇬🇧 He doesn’t eat meat.
🇪🇸 ¿Porqué compras tanta comida? – second person singular, an -AR verb
🇬🇧 Why do you buy so much food?
🇪🇸 Vivimos en Perú. – first person plural, an -IR verb
🇬🇧 We live in Peru.
🇪🇸 Mis vecinos venden su casa. – third person plural, an -ER verb
🇬🇧 My neighbors are selling their house.
🇪🇸 Debeís tener mucho cuidado. – second person plural, an -ER verb
🇬🇧 You must be very careful.
🇪🇸 Los niños aprenden muy rápido. – third person plural, an -ER verb
🇬🇧 Children learn very fast.
🇪🇸 Francisca escribe con su mano izquierda. – third person singular, an -IR verb
🇬🇧 Francisca writes with her left hand.
See? It is much faster and easier to study verbs this way!
Perhaps you’ve noticed that it is not necessary in Spanish to use personal pronouns when conjugating verbs. Since every person has a different verb ending, you can easily guess if the sentence is about ustedes, vosotros, él, tú, etc.
Speaking of vosotros, keep in mind that one of the differences between Latin Spanish and European Spanish is replacing vosotros with ustedes.
Practice Spanish verbs online
The Internet is packed with Spanish learning resources that allow you to practice verbs in a fun and convenient way.
For conjugation tables, I particularly recommend using SpanishDict. You will not only find complete conjugation of every verb in all grammar tenses and moods there, but you will also be able to see an example in Spanish and its translation to English just by placing the cursor on the chosen verb form.
What’s more, by clicking on the loudspeaker symbol, you can check the correct pronunciation.
For those of you who prefer to use their mobile phones, there are tons of apps that can help you with your Spanish whenever you find a spare moment. My absolute favorite for learning Spanish verbs is the ConjuGato app, available both for iOS and Android.
Pick the online tool of your preference and exercise Spanish verb conjugation across different tenses and grammar moods. With consistency and patience, you will gradually get more intuitive and fluent.
“Chunk” method for learning Spanish verbs
Some teaching experts believe that memorizing “chunks” of language is much more effective than memorizing conjugations.
What are “chunks”?
They are ready-to-use phrases that usually stick in your memory for much longer than loose words and improve your Spanish communication skills.
In my personal opinion, this method works particularly well with irregular verbs, which – as you may guess – can be quite tricky.
Here are a few “chunks” to help you remember certain forms of the verb “tener” – to have:
🇪🇸 Tengo 3 hermanos.
🇬🇧 I have 3 siblings.
🇪🇸 Tuve mucho trabajo la semana pasada.
🇬🇧 I had a lot of work last week.
🇪🇸 ¡Qué tengas un buen fin de semana!
🇬🇧 Have a good weekend!
🇪🇸 Tendré que cocinar hoy.
🇬🇧 I will have to cook today.
🇪🇸 No he tenido tiempo libre últimamente.
🇬🇧 I haven’t had any free time lately.
🇪🇸 Cuando era niño, tenía muchos amigos.
🇬🇧 When I was a child, I had many friends.
🇪🇸 Si tuviera dinero, viajaría por todo el mundo.
🇬🇧 If I had money, I’d travel around the world.
🇪🇸 ¿Tendrías tu propio auto si supieras manejar?
🇬🇧 Would you have your own car if you knew how to drive?
It is much smarter and more useful to try to remember this kind of real-life phrases than verb forms without any context, don’t you think?
Practise makes perfect
I am not trying to reinvent the wheel here, don’t worry.
You know all too well that any new skill you try to acquire needs a lot of practice.
Remember when you were learning how to write and read? Spanish verb conjugations are no different. The more you practice, the easier they get.
That is precisely why you should seek every possible opportunity to exercise your Spanish.
Listen to Latin music and pick up the lyrics.
Watch movies or series in Spanish and try to repeat the lines.
Read in Spanish.
Explore Reddit, Facebook, and other social networking platforms and look for someone you can speak Spanish with, even if it is just a few minutes a day.
Before you know it, those ghastly verb forms will start coming naturally, without you having to mentally conjugate every time you want to describe an action.