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What are the different tenses for?


Indicative Mood – The uses of the different tenses


Simple Tenses:  Just conjugate the verb correctly!


Present:  Tells what happens normally or is happening.  Yo estudio español.  I study (am studying) Spanish.


Preterite:  Tells what happened.  Over. Done. Boom!  Ayer yo comí biftec.  Yesterday I ate steak.


Imperfect:  Tells what used to happen… Cuando era niño yo montaba en bicicleta con mis amigos todos los días en el verano.  When I was a kid I used to ride my bike with my friends every day in the summer.  Or what was happening (when something else happened).  Un día mientras yo montaba mi bici, me choqué con un árbol y me rompí el brazo.  One day while I was riding my bike, I crashed into a tree and broke my arm.  Or it can be used to describe a setting.  Era un día perfecto.  Hacía calor y el sol brillaba.


Conditional:  Tells what would happen (given the opportunity).  Si yo pudiera, viajaría a España.  If I could,  I would travel to Spain.


Future:  Tells what will happen.  Después de graduarme, viajaré por Latinoamérica.  After graduating, I’ll travel around Latin America.


Compound Tenses


Perfect Tenses- formed with “haber” and the past participle* (ado/ido, plus several irregulars)

*See section on Los Participios

Present Perfect (present of haber) – Something that has happened prior to this present moment in time.  ¿Quieres tomar un bocado conmigo?  Lo siento.  Ya he comido  Do you want to go get a bite to eat?  No thanks.  I’ve already eaten.


Pluperfect (imperfect of “haber”) – Tells what had happened prior to a moment in the past.  Cuando llegué a casa anoche, mis hijos ya habían hecho toda su tarea.  When I arrived at home last night, my kids had already done all their homework.


Future Perfect  (future of haber) – Tells what will have happened before some time in the future.  Antes de empezar mi carrera, habré viajado por Europa.  Before I start my career I will have traveled through Europe.


Conditional Perfect (conditional of haber) – Tells what would have happened (given a certain situaton in the past).  Si yo hubiera viajado a México, habría visto las pirámides grandes.  If I had traveled to Mexico, I would have seen the big pyramids.


Progressive Tenses-  usually formed with the verb “estar”* followed by the present participle (gerundio)  (and/iendo)  (*also common after “seguir”, “continuar” and “ir”)


Progressive tenses tell what is happening, what was happening, what will be happening or what what would be happening depending on the tense of “estar” that you use.


Indicative Mood:  Formation



Regular Verbs:  Drop ending, add …


AR: o, as, a, amos, áis, an

ER: o, es, e, emos, éis, en

IR:  o, es, e, imos, ís, en

íR:  o, es, e, ímos, ís, en


Stem changing verbs:  Change in all forms except “nosotros” and “vosotros”.


Common changes:  oàue, eàie, eài


Mover: muevo, mueves, mueve, movemos, movéis, mueven

Cerrar: cierro, cierras, cierra, cerramos,cerráis, cierran

Pedir: pido, pides, pide, pedimos, pedís, piden


Similar pattern verbs: jugar (uàue) and oler (oàhue)


Several IAR verbs change iàí  enviar:  envío, envías, envía, enviamos, enviáis, envían


Also UAR verbs change uàú  graduar:  gradúo, gradúas, gradúa, graduamos, graduáis, gradúan


Verbs ending in UIR (except “guir” verbs) add a “y”.  Huir: huyo, huyes, huye, huimos, huís, huyen


Some verbs change eàí  reír:  río, ríes, ríe, reímos, reís, ríen


Spelling changes


Words in Spanish are spelled the way they sound and sound the way they are spelled.  Sometimes you have to change the spelling of a word to make it sound right.


Verbs ending in ger or gir change gàj only in yo.  Coger: cojo, coges, coge, cogemos, cogéis, cogen


Verbs ending in (consonant)cer or (consonant)cir change càz only in yo.  Vencer: venzo, vences, etc


Irregular Verbs:

Irregular in “yo”

“ZCO verbs”:  Most verbs ending in (vowel)cer or cir end with “zco” in “yo”  conducir: conduzco, conduces, conduce, conducimos, conducís, conducen


“GO verbs”:  Many verbs end with “go” in “yo”.  Who knows why?


Caer: caigo, caes, etc.

Decir: digo, dices, etc.

Hacer: hago, haces, hace, etc.

Oír: oigo, oyes, etc.

Poner: pongo, pones, etc.

Salir: salgo, sales, etc.

Tener: tengo, tienes, etc.

Venir: vego, vienes, etc.


Saber: sé, sabes, sabe, etc.           caber: quepo, cabes, cabe, etc.                 ver: veo, ves, ve, etc.


Verbs that are more completely irregular:


Dar: doy, das, da, damos, dais, dan

Estar: estoy, estás, está, estamos, estáis, están

Haber: he, has, ha, hemos, habéis, han

Ir: voy, vas, va, vamos, vais, van

Ser: soy, eres, es, somos, sois, son




Verbos Regulares:

AR: é, aste, ó, amos, asteis, aron

ER/IR: í, iste, ió, imos, isteis, ieron


Stem Changing Verbs:


  1. Only IR verbs have a stem-change in the preterite.
  2. They only change in the third person (él and ellos).
  3. They change eài or  oàu


Mentir: mentí, mentiste, mintió, mentimos, mentisteis, mintieron   

Pedir: pedí, pediste, pidió, pedimos, pedisteis, pidieron

Dormir: dormí, dormiste, durmió, dormimos, dormisteis, durmieron


But:  Contar:  conté, contaste, contó, contamos, contasteis, contaron


Spelling Changing Verbs


Verbs that end in…


CAR change càqu in yo:  tocar: toqué tocaste, tocó, etc.

GAR change gàgu in yo:  jugar: jugué, jugaste, jugó, etc.

ZAR change zàc  in yo:  comezar:  comencé, comenzaste, comenzó, etc.


Caer, leer and similar verbs:


í, íste, yó, ímos, ísteis, yeron  oír: oí, oíste, oyó, oímos, oísteis, oyeron


“uir” verbs (except guir)


í, iste, yó, imos, isteis, ieron  huir: huí, huiste, huyó, huimos, huisteis, huyeron


Verbos Irregulares


Endings for most irregular verbs are:  e, iste, o, imos, ieron*


*If the stem ends in “j”, the ellos ending is eron (conducir:  ellos condujeron.)



Irregular verbs and their stems:

andar (to walk): anduv-

caber (to fit): cup-

conducir* (to drive): conduj-

decir (to say, tell): dij-

estar (to be [state of being]): estuv-

hacer (to do, make): hic- (hizo)

poder (to be able): pud-

poner (to put, place): pus-

querer (to want): quis-

saber (to know): sup-

tener (to have): tuv-

traer (to bring): traj-

venir (to come): vin-


*All verbs ending in “ducir” are conjugated like “conducir”.

Tres verbos más


ir & ser:  fui, fuiste, fue, fuimos, fueron


dar:  di, diste, dio, dimos, dieron




AR verbs:  aba, abas, aba, ábamos, abais, aban

ER/IR verbs: ía, ías, ía, íamos, íais, ían


3 Irregular Verbs:


Ser: era, eras, era, éramos, erais, eran

Ir: iba, ibas, iba, íbamos, ibais, iban

Ver: veía, veías, veía, veíamos, veíais, veían





These tenses have the same roots, but different endings.


Future endings:  é, ás, á, emos, éis, án

Conditional endings:  ía, ías, ía, íamos, íais, ían


Regular verbs:  Put the ending on the infinitive.


Irregular verbs:  Put the ending on the shortened root.


Caber- cabr







Saber- sabr

Salir- saldr







Imperative Mood  (Mandatos, Commands)-Use and forms


Affirmative -Telling someone to do something.  (Object pronouns are usually attached to these, requiring a written accent mark to be added.)


Familiar (tú)- “él/ella” form of the verb  Habla, Juan.  Come, Paco.  Despiértate, María.




Decir- di


Ir- ve



Ser – sé


Valer - val



Familiar (vosotros)- Change the “r” to “d” in the infinitive.  Hablad.  Comed.  Dormid.  Depertados.


Formal (Ud. & Uds.)  - Take the “yo” form of the verb, drop the “o” and add the “opposite ending” (ARàe, en; ER,IRà a, an)  ¡Hable(n)!  ¡Coma(n)!  ¡Duerma(n)! ¡Despiérte(n)se!


Verbs that are irregular or have a spelling change in the “yo” form follow the same rules(as long as they end in “o” in “yo”) - ¡Tenga(n)!, ¡Conduzca(n)!, ¡Proteja(n)!,  ¡Convenza(n)!


Do you remember what happened to verbs that end in CAR, GAR and ZAR in the “yo” form of the preterit?  They changed CàQU, GàGU and ZàC before the “é”.  Since these verbs in formal commands will also end with “e” or “en”, we’ll make the same changes:  ¡Busque(n)!, ¡Juegue(n)!, ¡Comience(n)!


Unos irregulares  (What don’t these verbs end with in “yo”?):  Ir- ¡Vaya(n)! Ser- ¡Sea(n)!  Dar- ¡Dé!, ¡Den!, Estar- ¡Esté(n)!, Saber- ¡Sepa(n)!


Nosotros commands- Telling someone else or a group “Let’s...(do something)!”


For affirmative commands you have two options-


First and most common:  ¡Vamos a…(+ the infinitive)!  ¡Vamos a comer! Yes, it’s that simple!


Exceptions:  Never say “¡Vamos a ir!”, keep it to just “¡Vamos!”, and to say let’s see, just say “¡A ver!”


Or, like the formal commands, use the opposite ending after dropping the “o” from the “yo”.  ¡Hablemos!  ¡Comamos!  ¡Pensemos!*  ¡Movamos!*  ¡Durmamos!*  ¡Despertémonos!**


*Stem-changing verbs in nosotros:  Remember that they usually go back to the infinitive stem in the present tense?  AR and ER verbs do that in commands, too.  But, just to be difficult, IR verbs don’t!  They change to “U” or “I”, just like the 3rd person preterit and gerunds.


**In reflexive nosotros affirmative commands, drop the final “s” when adding “nos”.  This is how we end up with the common command everyone knows, “¡Vámonos!” (Let’s get outta here!)



Negative- Telling someone to not do something.  (With these commands you must always put the object pronoun before the verb.)


Regardless of the subject, familiar or formal, these commands always use the “yo” form + “opposite ending”.


No hables.  No hable Ud.  No hablemos.  No habléis.  No hablen Uds.


No comas.  No coma Ud.  No comamos.  No comáis.  No coman Uds.


No duermas.  No duerma Ud.  No durmamos.  No durmáis.  No duerman Uds.


No te despiertes.  No se despierte Ud. No nos despertemos.  No os despertéis. No se despierten Uds.


Those verbs that were irregular in Ud./Uds. commands are irregular in all forms:


No vayas.  No vaya Ud.  No vayamos.  No vayáis.  No vayan Uds.


No seas...  No sea Ud.... No seamos... No seáis...No sean Uds....




Subjunctive Mood

The subjunctive mood is huge in Spanish.  You can’t summarize it easily, so I won’t try.  We’ll eventually look at its many, many uses.  If you can master the verb forms, then learning how to use them will be much easier.  Some of these you’ve already used- knowingly or not.


Present Subjunctive


Formation of the present subjunctive is identical to the negative commands.  The “yo” form is the same as the “él/ella” form.


Es importante que…


…yo hable.  …hables.  ….él hable.  …hablemos.   ...habléis.  ...ellos hablen.


...yo juegue  ...juegues.  ...ella juegue.  ...juguemos.  ...juguéis.  ellos jueguen.


...yo duerma.  ...duermas.  ...Ud. duerma.  ...durmamos.  ...durmáis.   ...ellos duerman.


...yo me despierte.  ...te despiertes.  ...ella se despierte.  ...nos despertemos.   ...os despertéis.   ...ellas se despierten.


...yo sepa.  ...sepas. ...Juan sepa.  ...sepamos.  ...sepáis. ...los estudiantes sepan.



Past (Imperfect) Subjunctive


If you know the preterit tense, this will be easy.  There are two forms for this tense of the subjunctive, “RA” and “SE”.  They follow the same basic pattern, but just end differently.  You should recognize both, but I’ll want you to use the “RA” form when we start studying it.


-RA: Take the ellos form of the preterit, drop the “on” and add the following:  a,as,a, á/éramos, ais, an


Era importante que…


…yo comiera.  …comieras.  …ella comier.  ...comiéramos.  ...comierais.  ...ellos comieran.


...yo dijera.  ...dijeras.  ...ella dijera.  ...dijéramos.  ...dijerais.  ...ellos dijeran.



-SE: Drop the “ron” and add se, ses, se, é/ásemos, seis, sen


Era importante que…


…yo comiese.  …comieses.  …él comiese.  …comiésemos.  ...comieseis.  ...ellos comiesen.


...yo dijese.  ...dijeses.  ...Juan dijese.  ...dijésemos.  ...dijeseis.  ...ellas dijesen



Present Perfect Subjunctive


The present subjunctive of “haber” + the past participle


Ojalá que…


...haya, hayas, haya, hayamos, hayáis, hayan  (hablado, comido, dicho, etc.)



Pluperfect (Past Perfect) Subjunctive


The past subjuntive of “haber” + the past participle.


Era bueno que…


…hubiera, hubieras, hubiera, hubiéramos, hubierais, hubieran  (jugado, bebido, escrito)


...hubiese, hubieses, hubiese, hubiésemos, hubieseis, hubiesen  (mirado, subido, descubierto)



Los participios pasados


The past participle is used in the perfect tenses after the verb “haber”.  It is the equivalent to the English verb forms such as- spoken, eaten, lived, gone, been,  treated, etc.  In English these are sometimes the same as the simple past tense.  In Spanish they never are!  (FYI:  The past participle can also be used as an adjective.  It will be formed the same way, but then must agree.)



Regular Verbs

AR à ado*: hablado, trabajado, buscado, etc. 

ER/IR à ido*: comido, bebido, subido, vivido


The “d” is “officially” pronounced like “th” in “the”.  However, most native speakers don’t really pronounce it at all.


American:      He hablado.

Textbook:       He hablatho.

Native:            He habláo.


Verbs with Accents:  Verbs ending with the ER or IR following an “A”, “E” OR “O”  add and accent in the “I” (ído).*


Ejemplos:  leer- leído, oír-oído, caer-caído, etc.


*”i” is considered to be a weak vowel, along with “u”.  On the other hand, “a”, “e” and “o” are strong vowels.  Strong vowels eat weak vowels.  Therefore without accents these participles would sound like this:  lay-do, oy-do, ky-do.  The accent is like steroids- it makes the weak vowel strong so that it can not be defeated.


Irregular Past Participles  There are several irregular verbs that must simply be memorized.


























*As always, compound verbs will be done the same- descubrir- descubierto, describir- descrito, compopner-compuesto, etc.


Reflexive verbs:  Always put the reflexive pronoun before “haber”

Me he despertado.  ¿Te has despertado?  Ella ya se ha despertado.  Etc.

Also- if it’s negative, put the “no” before haber- have not=no have




Los Participios del Presente (gerundios)

(If you don’t get this, google “gerundio”, and you’ll see my website at or near the top.  It has a pretty good explanation.)


The gerundio in Spanish is the equivalent to the verb form ending in “ing”.  There is only one gerund for each verb- the gerund itself can never change!  It is used mostly in progressive tenses.  I am eating supper right now, can I call you back?  Estoy cenando ahora, ¿puedo llamarte más tarde?  However, unlike English, it can NEVER be used as a noun (dancing is fun, smoking is bad for you, etc.).


Formation of the gerundio:


Regular verbs:  Start with the infinitive, then drop AR, ER or IR.

ARà ando  hablando, jugando, mirando, etc.

ER/IRà iendo  comiendo, subiendo, bebiendo


Changing I to Y:  Verbs that end with a vowel before the iendo change the I to y.  (Except verbs ending in “guir”*)


leer à leyendo, oíràoyendo, caerà cayendo,  excluirà excluyendo,  huirà huyendo, etc.


*Verbs ending with “guir” have a u just to keep the “g” hard.  It is not pronounced.


distinguirà dsitinguiendo,  extinguiràextinguiendo


Stem-changing verbs

As with the preterite tense (él/ellos), present subjunctive and commands (nosotros & vosotros), only IR verbs will have any change.  And the change will be either eàI or oàu.


dormir- durmiendo, mentir – mintiendo,  pedir-pidiendo, morir-muriendo,servir-sirviendo, etc.


Pero:  mover-moviendo, contar- contando, entender-entendiendo, etc.


There are only two irregular gerundios:  irà yendo, poderà pudiendo.  That’s it!


Object pronouns (indirect, direct and reflexive)  are otten attached to the end of the gerund.  When you do this, add an accent to the strssed letter of the gerund (“a” or “e” before “ndo”)


Estoy divirtiéndome. - ¿Estás despertándote? - Ella está sentádose. - Estamos muriéndonos de hambre. - ¿Estáis llamándole a María? - ¿El reloj? ¿Están dándolo al profesor?


Reflexive Verbs in General

Reflexive verbs end in “se” in the infinitive form.  Some verbs are inherently reflexive, and many verbs that are not labeled as “reflexive” can be made reflexive.  For example, you can talk to yourself, right?  Regardless, reflexive verbs have pronouns- me, te, se, nos, os, se- and these must agree with the subject.  The placement of these pronouns can be confusing.  They can always go before the conjugated verb.  And they can be attached to the end of the infinitive, an affirmative command, or the gerund.