Present Tense

Before we begin...


  1. Most present tense verb forms have several equivalents in English. For example, the form hablo may be translated in numerous ways:
       I speak    (customary action)
    I am speaking (action in progress)
    hablo I do speak (emphatic form)
    I will speak (near future action)
    do I speak (interrogative form)
    I have been speaking (action started in the past but still in progrerss)

  2. The subject pronouns that accompany these verbs are:



    yo I nosotros, nosotras we
    you (familiar)      vosotrosvosotras   you   (familiar pl., Spain)
    usted   you   (formal) ustedes you (formal)
    él he ellos they (masculine or mixed)
    ella she ellas they (feminine)

  3. The formal second-person forms (usted and ustedes) take third-person forms of a verb:
    Ustedes hablan bien. You (plural) speak very well.
    Usted es norteamericana, no? You (sing.) are an American, right?

The formal study of the various moods and tenses of Spanish verbs will be be spread out over several weeks of the semester, and the individual exercises will normally concentrate on the tense/mood being studied. Nevertheless, it is assumed that you do already know all the tenses. Furthermore, you will be required to produce many of the forms before their introduction, including subjunctive forms.

Present Indicative of Verbs - Review of Forms

  1. Regular verbs. To form the present indicative of regular verbs, drop the infinitive ending (-ar, -er, or -ir) and add the endings given below:






    hablar (to speak)

    comer (to eat)

    vivir (to live)

    hablo hablamos como comemos vivo vivimos
    hablas habláis comes coméis vives vivís
    habla hablan come comen vive viven

    In the above examples, note that the endings for the -er and -ir verbs are identical except for the nosotros and vosotros forms.

  2. Stem changing verbs. These verbs are also referred to as “radical changing verbs”; the word radical in Spanish means “stem” or “root”. The stem vowel undergoes a change when it is stressed in the present tense. [These verbs do not so change in any other tense —except for -ir verbs, which experience a stem change in the -ndo form, in the present subjunctive and in the preterit.]

    1. o > ue (the stem vowel o changes to ue when stressed)
      acostar (put to bed) acuesto, acuestas, acuesta, acostamos, acostáis, acuestan
      volver (return, go back) vuelvo, vuelves, vuelve, volvemos, volvéis, vuelven
      dormir (sleep) duermo, duermes, duerme, dormimos, dormís, duermen

      Similar verbs: acordarse (remember), almorzar (eat lunch), apostar (bet), contar (count, relate), costar (cost), encontrar (find), llover (rain), morir (die), mover (move), oler (smell), poder (be able), probar (try, prove), recordar (remember), rogar (beg), sonar (sound), soñar (dream), volar (fly).

    2. e > ie (the stem vowel e changes to ie when stressed):

      empezar (begin) empiezo, empiezas, empieza, empezamos, empezáis, empiezan
      querer (want) quiero, quieres, quiere, queremos, queréis, quieren
      sentir (feel) siento, sientes, siente, sentimos, sentís, sienten

      Similar verbs: advertir (notice), atravesar (cross), calentar (heat), cerrar (close), comenzar (begin), convertir (convert), defender (defend), despertar (awaken), divertir (amuse), empezar (begin), gobernar (govern), herir (injure), pensar (think), perder (lose) querer (want), sentir (feel, regret), tropezar (stumble).

    3. e > i (the stem vowel e changes to i when stressed; -ir verbs only):

      pedir (request, ask for) pido, pides, pide, pedimos, pedís, piden

      Similar verbs: competir (compete), conseguir (get), corregir (correct), derretir (melt), despedir (fire, say goodbye), elegir (elect), medir (measure), reír (laugh), servir (serve), seguir (follow, continue), sonreír (smile), repetir (repeat), vestir (dress).

    4. u > ue (the stem vowel u changes to ue when stressed [in the verb jugar only]):

      jugar (play [a game or sport]) juego, juegas, juega, jugamos, jugáis, juegan

  3. Verbs with an irregular first person singular (yo) form. [Note that all of these verbs will also have special forms for the present subjunctive, since present subjunctive forms are based on the first person singular.]

    1. c > zc in the yo form:

      conocer (know, be aquainted with [people or places]) conozco, conoces, conoce, conocemos, conocéis, conocen

      This is the usual pattern for verbs whose infinitive ends in -cer or -cir: acontecer (happen), agradecer (thank), amanecer (dawn), aparecer (appear), conducir (drive, conduct), crecer (grow), enflaquecerse (get thin), enriquecerse (get rich), envejecerse (get older), establecer (establish), merecer(deserve), nacer (be born), obedecer (obey), ofrecer (offer), padecer (suffer), parecer (seem), permanecer (remain), producir (produce), reducir (reduce), and traducir (translate).

    2. appearance of g in the yo form:

      caer (fall)  caigo, caes, cae, caemos, caéis, caen
      traer (bring)  traigo, traes, trae, traemos, traéis, traen
      decir (say, tell) *digo, dices, dice, decimos, decís, dicen
      hacer (do, make)  hago, haces, hace, hacemos, hacéis, hacen
      poner (put, set)  pongo, pones, pone, ponemos, ponéis, ponen
      salir (leave, go out)  salgo, sales, sale, salimos, salís, salen
      tener (have) *tengo, tienes, tiene, tenemos, tenéis, tienen
      valer (be worth)  valgo, vales, vale, valemos, valéis, valen
      venir (come) *vengo, vienes, viene, venimos, venís, vienen

       *These are also stem changing verbs.

    3. other types of yo form changes:

      caber (fit [in something]) quepo, cabes, cabe, cabemos, cabéis, caben
      dar (give) doy, das, da, damos, dais, dan
      saber (know [facts]) sé, sabes, sabe, sabemos, sabéis, saben
      ver (see) veo, ves, ve, vemos, veis, ven

  4. Verbs which add an accent over a final weak vowel. The vowels i and u are “weak vowels” in contrast to the “strong vowels” a, e, and o. When they come in contact with any other vowel they normally form a diphthong; the addition of a written accent keeps this diphthonization from occurring. Such accents are necessary for some verbs because the i and u are the stem vowels:

    continuar continúo, continúas, continúa, continuamos, continuáis, continúan
    (“I continue, you continue”, etc. Note that the unaccented words continuo and continua, are adjectives meaning “continuous”.)
    enviar envío, envías, envía, enviamos, enviáis, envían
    (“I send, you send”, etc.)

    Similar verbs: actuar (act), efectuar (bring about), graduar (graduate), confiar (trust), criar (raise, bring up), esquiar (ski), vaciar (empty).

    With most other verbs the i and u are not stem vowels, and thus form diphthongs:

    copiar copio, copias, copia, copiamos, copiáis, copian
    (forms of the verb “to copy”; the i is not stressed)

    Similar verbs: anunciar (announce), apreciar (appreciate), asociar (associate), cambiar (change), divorciar (divorce), ensuciar (dirty), estudiar (study), iniciar (initiate), limpiar (clean), negociar (negociate), renunciar (renounce).

  5. Verbs like huir. Verbs whose infinitive ends in -uir (but not -guir) insert a y in present tense endings whenever the ending does not contain the sound “i”, that is, in all forms except for nosotros and vosotros.

    huir (flee) huyo, huyes, huye, huimos, huís, huyen

    Verbs conjugated like huir: construir (construct), contribuir, (contribute), disminuir, (diminish), incluir (include), influir (influence).

  6. Irregular verbs. The following verbs are completely irregular (usually because of the way they evolved from Latin) or display characteristics so rare as to be considered “irregular” for our purposes.

    estar (to be) estoy, estás, está, estamos, estáis, están
    ser (to be) soy, eres, es, somos, sois, son
    ir (go) voy, vas, va, vamos, vais, van
    oler (smell) huelo, hueles, huele, olemos, oléis, huelen
    [Oler is a stem changing verb; however, no word can begin with ue in Spanish, so an initial h is added.]

  7. Orthographic changes. Some verbs exhibit orthographic or spelling changes to maintain the same pronunciation of the final stem consonant:

    1. g > j: Verbs whose infinitive form ends in -gir change the g to j before an a or an o.

      dirigir (direct) dirijo, diriges, dirige, dirigimos, dirigís, dirigen
      elegir (elect) elijo, eliges, elige, elegimos, elegís, eligen
      [Elegir is also a stem changing verb, where the e changes to i.]

      More verbs in this category: corregir (correct), exigir (require), fingir (pretend), and surgir (arise).

    2. gu > g: Verbs whose infinitive form ends in -guir drop the u before an a or an o.

      distinguir (distinguish) distingo, distingues, distingue, distinguimos...

      Other verbs like this include seguir (follow, continue; e>i) and its compounds: conseguir (get, obtain) and perseguir (pursue).

  8. Invariable. There is one verb which never changes in the present tense. Hay (“there is”, “there are”, from the infinitive haber) has only one form in the present indicative. The same form is used for both singular and plural subjects (or complements):

    Hay muchos españoles en tu clase? Are there many Spaniards in your class?
    No, sólo hay uno. No, there is only one.

    Note: This carries over to the other tenses as well: it is only used in a singular form, even when used with plural subjects/complements:

    Había tres chicas en la esquina. There were three girls on the corner.
    Hubo dos accidentes aquí ayer. There were 2 accidents here yesterday.

Usage of the present tense

Special case: The present tense with hacer in expressions of time.  As indicated at the beginning, the present tense is used to indicate an action in progress, and this is true even if the action began in past time but the emphasis is on the present time. This is frequently seen with the hacer + expression of time construction:

Hace un mes que busco una casa nueva. I've been looking for a new house for a month.


Busco una casa nueva desde hace un mes.

Note that if the hace clause may be used either before or after the main verb; if used afterwards, desde is inserted before hace.


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Contact: Fred F. Jehle


Indiana University - Purdue University Ft. Wayne
Last updated: Aug. 8, 2012
Fort Wayne, IN 46805-1499 USA