How do I make sense of Spanish conjugations since they are not as complex in English? And what's the best way to learn them so I use them well?

        1. The best way to learn the Spanish conjugations is to first understand their equivalent in English. 

In English, the verb in a sentence takes a slightly different form for each tense (e.g.: verb 'to want': 'I wanted', 'we would want', 'they will want'... etc). In Spanish the form of the verb also changes for each different subject, yes, even within the same verbal tense. Compare the past tense of the verb 'to sleep' in both languages:

English: I slept / You slept / He slept / We slept / You slept / They slept

Spanish: Yo dormí / Tú dormiste / Él durmió / Nosotros dormimos / Vosotros dormisteis / Ellos durmieron

In English, 'slept' is used for every possible subject, while in Spanish there is a special form for each possible subject. 

        2. Now, once you've understood this is the only added complexity to the Spanish conjugation system, you just need to learn the three different patterns to conjugate Spanish verbs right for each possible subject. These patterns vary according to which group the verb belongs to: the 1st group (verbs in the infinitive form ending in -AR), the 2nd group (ending in -ER), or the 3rd group (ending in -IR). Look at the obvious patterns, for example in the present tense:

- 1st conjugation group (-AR): e.g.: amar (to love), saltar (to jump), pensar (to think)...

Yo (I) amo / salto / pienso

Tú (you) amas / saltas / piensas

Él (he) ama / salta / piensa

Nosotros (we) amamos / saltamos / pensamos

Vosotros (you) amáis / saltáis / pensáis

Ellos (they) aman / saltan / piensan

- 2nd conjugation group (-ER): e.g.: comer (to eat), querer (to want), ver (to see)...

Yo como / quiero / veo

Tú comes / quieres / ves

Él come / quiere / ve

Nosotros comemos / queremos / vemos

Vosotros coméis / queréis / véis

Ellos comen / quieren / ven

- 3rd conjugation group (-IR): e.g.: vivir (to live), sentir (to feel), compartir (to share)...

Yo vivo / siento / comparto

Tú vives / sientes / compartes

Él vive / siente / comparte

Nosotros vivimos / sentimos / compartimos

Vosotros vivís / sentís / compartís

Ellos viven / sienten / comparten

       3. Lastly, there are some irregular verbs in every group, just like in English (e.g. ‘to be’: I am, you are, he is). These are worth learning by heart, as well as practicing them in conversation and with written exercises - this is the only way to learn irregular verbs from Spanish to English as well!

That it all there is to Spanish conjugations: a) look at whether the verb ends in -ar, -er, or -ir, b) look at which subject the verb is referring to, and c) recall the pattern for the group the verb belongs to + the person it refers to. Not so daunting anymore, right? (...right?!)

Xita R. IB Spanish tutor, GCSE Spanish tutor, 13 plus  Spanish tutor,...

2 months ago

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