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Your Ultimate Guide to Spanish Conjugation

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Conjugation is a fundamental aspect of Spanish. Yes, we wish it was easier than it is, but it’s definitely one of the basic skills you need to gain when learning Spanish. Just so you know, you don’t need to learn all Spanish conjugations at once, so feel free to learn them at your own pace. We’re just going to guide you so that you have an easier time studying the Spanish conjugation basics.

When you start learning a new language, you’ll most likely start by studying the present tense first, right? The basics you need for introducing yourself. It’s all about going through them step-by-step instead of rushing it all at once and trying to memorize them all at the same time. 

To give you an example, we all know what happens when you memorize something only for an exam: you spit it all out in the exam and then forget about it. That’s the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve here! 

Even though we’re going to offer you some very useful tables that show absolutely all the conjugations of a verb, they’re not there for you to learn in one day, but rather to help you organize all of this information. Remember, this is not a competition!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Spanish Table of Contents
  1. What are Spanish Conjugations?
  2. Verb Groups
  3. Conjugation Examples
  4. Irregular Verbs and their Conjugations
  5. Spanish Conjugations Quiz
  6. How SpanishPod101.com Can Help You Learn Spanish

1. What are Spanish Conjugations?

Top Verbs

As we explained in our previous article about verbs, conjugation refers to all of the changes a verb goes through depending on a few factors. These factors include the person who does the action of that verb, or when the action happens, among others. One good thing about conjugation in Spanish is that it only affects verbs, so you don’t need to worry about other words changing to accommodate these factors.

In Spanish, conjugation affects mood, tense, the number of the subject, person, and sometimes the politeness level. We’ll look at all of these, one at a time.

1- Mood

If you look at a table with all the conjugations of any Spanish verb, such as the ones we’ve prepared for you below, you’ll find two main groups: indicativo (“indicative”) and subjuntivo (“subjunctive”). These two groups are two of the different moods in Spanish conjugation. The third mood is called imperativo (“imperative”) and it is, by far, not as broad as the other two. In fact, it only includes two different forms, which are singular and plural. 

In summary:

  • The indicative mood in Spanish refers to facts and beliefs. 
    Marta me ha contado un secreto. → “Marta has told me a secret.”
  • The subjunctive mood marks something that isn’t a fact, but something that’s hypothetical or something you wish had or hadn’t happened. 
    Ojalá Marta no me hubiera contado ese secreto. → “I wish Marta hadn’t told me that secret.”
  • The imperative mood indicates command. 
    ¡Cuéntame algo! → “Tell me something!”

When students in school are learning the Spanish subjunctive mood, it often helps them to put the word ojalá in front of the verb to tell if it’s subjunctive or indicative. This word doesn’t have an exact English translation, but we can translate it as “I wish” or “I hope.” 

If you can use it, it means the verb is in the subjunctive mood. To give you an example, the sentence Ojalá llueva means “I hope it rains,” so it’s in the subjunctive mood. But, if it was simply Llueve, which just means “It’s raining,” we know it’s in the indicative mood because it’s a fact.

Rain Falling on a puddle

2- Tense

Inside each of these moods, we’ll find several tenses. In both cases, the Spanish verb tenses are also divided into two more subgroups, but these are only here to help us divide conjugations in a simpler way and make things easier to understand. These are simple tenses and compound tenses. As you might have guessed, simple tenses are formed by a single word and compound tenses are formed by two words.

Tenses in Spanish conjugation might have some weird and long names that you absolutely do not need to remember. As long as you know which ones refer to the present, which ones refer to the past, and which ones refer to the future, you’ll be fine. Trust us.

A. Indicativo

Tiempos simples (“Simple tenses”)
  • Presente (“simple present”): canto → “I sing”
  • Pretérito imperfecto (“imperfect preterite”): cantaba →  “I sang”
  • Pretérito perfecto simple (“simple past”): canté →  “I sang”
  • Futuro simple (“simple future”): cantaré → “I will sing”
  • Condicional simple (“conditional”): cantaría → “I would sing”

As you can see, most of these tenses have a specific equivalent in English and do not need an explanation. However, you might have noticed that two of them translate to “I sang.” The pretérito imperfecto doesn’t exist in English, and instead it only uses the simple past tense. But in Spanish, this is quite important. 

Essentially, the pretérito imperfecto (cantaba) refers to a continuous action in the past, while the pretérito perfecto simple (canté) refers to a specific action in the past. This might sound a bit confusing, so we’re going to look at a couple of examples:

1.

Cuando era pequeño cantaba en un coro. (“When I was little, I sang in a choir.”)

In this example, both verbs are in the pretérito imperfecto and refer to continuous actions, or something that didn’t happen just once. Cuando era pequeño (“When I was little”) refers to a long period of time, because we were all little for years. Cantaba en un coro (“I sang in a choir”) means that I was in that choir for a while, even though I don’t specify for how long.

2.

Una vez, cuando era pequeño, canté una canción delante de mis amigos. (“Once, when I was little, I sang a song in front of my friends.”) 

In this case, the first verb is the same as in the previous example, but the second one, marked in bold, is in the pretérito perfecto simple, so it’s a specific action in the past. Una vez (…) canté una canción… (“Once (…) I sang a song…”) is talking about the one time this action happened. It doesn’t need to have happened only once: it could have happened more times. What’s important is that it wasn’t a continuous action.

Tiempos compuestos (“Compound tenses”)
  • Pretérito perfecto compuesto (“present perfect”): he cantado →  “I have sung”
  • Pretérito pluscuamperfecto (“past perfect”): había cantado → “I had sung”
  • Pretérito anterior (“past preterite”): hube cantado 
  • Futuro compuesto (“future perfect”): habré cantado → “I will have sung”
  • Condicional compuesto (“conditional”): hubiera or hubiese cantado → “I would have sung”

Once again, we find one tense that doesn’t have a direct translation in English: the pretérito anterior. This tense isn’t used very often in Spanish (only in literature), but we’re still going to explain it briefly. The pretérito anterior refers to an action that happens just before another one, which is also in a past tense. For example:

Tan pronto como hubo terminado el libro, lo devolvió a la biblioteca. (“As soon as he finished the book, he returned it to the library.” 

In this example, the man returned the book immediately after finishing it. However, as we explained, this tense isn’t used much anymore, so we would usually say Tan pronto como terminó el libro instead, in the simple past tense.

Returning Book to Library

B. Subjuntivo

Tiempos simples (“Simple tenses”)

The subjunctive tenses aren’t as easy to explain or translate as a single verb, so we’re going to give you examples of each tense.

  • Presente: cante Quiero que me cantes una canción. (“I want you to sing me a song.”)
  • Pretérito imperfecto: cantara or cantase → Ojalá cantase mejor. (“I wish I sang better.”)
  • Futuro simple: cantare
Tiempos compuestos (“Compound tenses”)
  • Pretérito perfecto compuesto: haya cantado → Espero que Carla haya cantado bien. (“I hope Carla has sung well.”)
  • Pretérito pluscuamperfecto: hubiera or hubiese cantado → Ojalá me hubiera cantado una canción. (“I wish she had sung me a song.”)
  • Futuro compuesto: hubiere cantado

Notice that all of these examples require an extra verb: “I want,” “I hope,” “I wish.” A verb in the subjunctive mood is never alone!

People Singing

Something you should also know is that, in the subjunctive mood, there are a couple of tenses that no one ever uses, which are the two future subjunctive tenses without examples in the previous list: futuro simple and futuro compuesto. We’ve included them on the tables anyway because they would have been incomplete if we hadn’t. But we promise that you don’t need to learn them!

C. Imperativo

As we explained before, the imperative mood refers exclusively to commands. There’s only one kind of imperative, but it can be in singular or plural, and it can be formal or informal. Here, the formal conjugation is different from the informal one.

  • Singular, informal: canta
  • Plural, informal: cantad
  • Singular, formal: cante
  • Plural, formal: canten 

D. Non-personal forms

And last but not least, there are a few non-personal forms that don’t belong in any of those moods. They also exist in English, as follows:

  • Infinitivo (“infinitive”): cantar → “to sing” 
  • Participio (“participle”): cantado → “sung”
  • Gerundio (“gerund”): cantando → “singing”

The participle is used exactly the same way in Spanish and English, as you might have noticed when we explained the different Spanish tenses.

We haven’t seen the gerund before, but it’s also used similarly to how it is in English. In Spanish, for some reason, this isn’t considered a tense and it’s not usually included in the conjugation tables. However, it’s very commonly used. In English, you have the present continuous and past continuous tenses, and they’re both used in Spanish: 

  • Estoy cantando. (“I am singing.”)
  • Estaba cantando. (“I was singing.”)

While you might sometimes have doubts about the verbs estar and ser, in this case, we always use the verb estar.

3- Number

Spanish verbs, just like Spanish nouns or adjectives, change depending on how many people are performing the action of that verb. While some languages distinguish actions as being done by two people or a larger number of people, Spanish only makes two distinctions: singular and plural. It’s either one person, or it’s more. For example: 

  • Yo como. (“I eat.”)
  • Nosotros comemos. (“We eat.”)

4- Person

Just like verbs change depending on the number of the subject, verbs also conjugate depending on the person who performs the verb. In English, for example, the simple present tense shows that the first and second persons are different than the third person: “I eat,” “you eat,” “he/she eats.”

In Spanish conjugations, endings are different in every single person. To give you an example, we’ll use the same verb we used in English: yo como, tú comes, él/ella come. If you’re not familiar with Spanish subject pronouns, you might find our article about pronouns quite useful!

You might have noticed that the first three letters of the word don’t change, but the ending does. These first letters are called the stem of the verb and they stay the same in every single conjugation of this verb. 

Even though endings in all tenses are different, they follow a pattern.

  • Yo (“I”): –
  • (“you”): –s
  • Él/Ella (“he/she”): –
  • Nosotros (“we”): -mos
  • Vosotros (plural “you”): -is
  • Ellos (“they”): –n

In case you’re wondering, we didn’t leave those two empty for no reason. We consider them not to have a specific ending, because they only use the ending of the tense in particular.

5- Politeness

You might already know that Spanish, unlike English, has a formal “you” pronoun that’s used when talking to someone who is important or above us, and sometimes even to older people. The truth is that it’s not used nowadays as often as it was in the past, but it’s still very important to know. You never know when you might need it. 

There are actually two pronouns, one for the singular (usted) and one for the plural (ustedes), with no distinction for gender. This formal pronoun doesn’t use the normal conjugation for (“you”), but actually uses the one for él or ella (“him” or “her”). For example, if you wanted to say “You’re very kind,” to a friend, you would say: Eres muy amable. But to speak more formally, you would say: Es muy amable.

Waiter Showing Customers a Table

2. Verb Groups

Once again, as you already saw in the article about verbs, Spanish conjugations are divided into three groups (or four, if we think of irregular verbs as another group). These groups are based on the ending of the verbs in their infinitive form. Verbs that end in –ar, such as saltar (“to jump”), form the first conjugation; verbs that end in –er, such as correr (“to run”), form the second conjugation; the third conjugation is formed by verbs that end in –ir, such as mentir (“to lie”).

Now, why is it important to know that there are different groups of verbs? Well, it’s quite useful when learning conjugations because Spanish conjugation rules are specific to a given group. In most cases, conjugations will be the same or similar, but you need to be careful sometimes. 

Spanish conjugations for present tense, for example, are easy to remember. If the verb is from the first conjugation (-ar), all forms will use the vowel a (except for the first person in the singular, but it’s an exception in all three conjugations!). If it’s from the second conjugation (-er), it will use the vowel e. However, the third conjugation (-ir) isn’t as regular as the others, since some forms use the vowel e and some use the vowel i. Let’s look at some examples:

  • Saltar (“To jump”) → yo salto, tú saltas, él salta, nosotros saltamos, vosotros saltáis, ellos saltan
  • Correr (“To run”) → yo corro, tú corres, él corre, nosotros corremos, vosotros corréis, ellos corren
  • Mentir (“To lie”) → yo miento, tú mientes, él miente, nosotros mentimos, vosotros mentís, ellos mienten

Note that the verb of the third conjugation that we’ve chosen is also slightly irregular, since the stem—which would always be ment- if it was a regular verb—changes to mient- in a few of the forms.

Other tenses show most important changes, such as pretérito imperfecto, one of the simple past tenses. In the first conjugation, the endings are –aba, -abas, aba, ábamos… But in the second and third conjugations, the endings are -ía, -ías, -ía, -íamos. They’re completely different.

In the following sections, we’ll take a closer look at each of the Spanish verb conjugation types. Let’s go! 

3. Conjugation Examples

More Essential Verbs

1- First conjugation: cantar (“to sing”)

Indicativo

Simple tenses

SubjectPresentePretérito imperfectoPretérito perfecto simpleFuturo simpleCondicional simple
Yo (“I”)cantocantabacantécantécantaría
(“you”)cantascantabascantastecantaráscantarías
Él/ella (“he”/
she”)
cantacantabacantócantarácantaría
Nosotros/as (“we”)cantamoscantábamoscantamoscantaremoscantaríamos
Vosotros/as (plural “you”)cantáiscantabaiscantasteiscantaréiscantaríais
Ellos/as (“they”)cantancantabancantaroncantaráncantarían

Compound tenses

SubjectPretérito perfecto compuestoPretérito pluscuamperfectoPretérito anteriorFuturo compuestoCondicional compuesto
Yohe cantadohabía cantadohube cantadohabré cantadohabría cantado
has cantadohabías cantadohubiste cantadohabrás cantadohabrías cantado
Él/ellaha cantadohabía cantadohubo cantadohabrá cantadohabría cantado
Nosotros/ashemos cantadohabíamos cantadohubimos cantadohabremos cantadohabríamos cantado
Vosotros/ashabéis cantadohabíais cantadohubisteis cantadohabréis cantadohabríais cantado
Ellos/ashan cantadohabían cantadohubieron cantadohabrán cantadohabrían cantado

Subjuntivo

Simple tenses

SubjectPresentePretérito imperfectoFuturo simple
Yocantecantara or cantasecantare
cantescantaras or cantasescantares
Él/ellacantecantara or cantasecantare
Nosotros/ascantemoscantáramos or cantásemoscantáremos
Vosotros/ascantéiscantarais or cantaseiscantareis
Ellos/ascantencantaran or cantasencantaren

Compound tenses

SubjectPretérito perfecto compuestoPretérito pluscuamperfectoFuturo compuesto
Yohaya cantadohubiera or hubiese cantadohubiere cantado
haya cantadohubieras or hubieses cantadohubieres cantado
Él/ellahaya cantadohubiera or hubiese cantadohubiere cantado
Nosotros/ashayamos cantadohubiéramos or hubiésemos cantadohubiéremos cantado
Vosotros/ashayáis cantadohubierais or hubieseis  cantadohubiereis cantado
Ellos/ashayan cantadohubieran or hubiesen cantadohubieren cantado

Imperative

cantacantad

Non-personal forms

InfinitiveParticipleGerund
cantarcantadocantando

2- Second conjugation: comer (“to eat”)

Indicativo

Simple tenses

SubjectPresentePretérito imperfectoPretérito perfecto simpleFuturo simpleCondicional simple
Yocomocomíacomícomerécomería
comescomíascomistecomeráscomerías
Él/ellacomecomíacomcomerácomería
Nosotros/ascomemoscomíamoscomimoscomeremoscomeríamos
Vosotros/ascoméiscomíaiscomisteiscomeréiscomeríais
Ellos/ascomencomíancomieroncomeráncomerían

Compound tenses

SubjectPretérito perfecto compuestoPretérito pluscuamperfectoPretérito anteriorFuturo compuestoCondicional compuesto
Yohe comidohabía comidohube comidohabré comidohabría comido
has comidohabías comidohubiste comidohabrás comidohabrías comido
Él/ellaha comidohabía comidohubo comidohabrá comidohabría comido
Nosotros/ashemos comidohabíamos comidohubimos comidohabremos comidohabríamos comido
Vosotros/ashabéis comidohabíais comidohubisteis comidohabréis comidohabríais comido
Ellos/ashan comidohabían comidohubieron comidohabrán comidohabrían comido

Subjuntivo

Simple tenses

SubjectPresentePretérito imperfectoFuturo simple
Yocomacomiera or comiesecomiere
comascantaras or cantasescomieres
Él/ellacomacomiera or comiesecomiere
Nosotros/ascomamoscomiéramos or comiésemoscomiéremos
Vosotros/ascomáiscomierais or comieseiscomiereis
Ellos/ascomancomieran or comiesencomieren

Compound tenses

SubjectPretérito perfecto compuestoPretérito pluscuamperfectoFuturo compuesto
Yohaya comidohubiera or hubiese comidohubiere comido
hayas comidohubieras or hubieses comidohubieres comido
Él/ellahaya comidohubiera or hubiese comidohubiere comido
Nosotros/ashayamos comidohubiéramos or hubiésemos comidohubiéremos comido
Vosotros/ashayáis comidohubierais or hubieseis  comidohubiereis comido
Ellos/ashayan comidohubieran or hubiesen comidohubieren comido

Imperative

comecomed

Non-personal forms

InfinitiveParticipleGerund
comercomidocomiendo

3- Third conjugation: vivir (“to live”)

Indicativo

Simple tenses

SubjectPresentePretérito imperfectoPretérito perfecto simpleFuturo simpleCondicional simple
Yovivovivíavivíviviréviviría
vivesvivíasvivistevivirásvivirías
Él/ellavivevivíavivióviviráviviría
Nosotros/asvivimosvivíamosvivimosviviremosviviríamos
Vosotros/asvivísvivíaisvivisteisviviréisviviríais
Ellos/asvivenvivíanvivieronviviránvivirían

Compound tenses

SubjectPretérito perfecto compuestoPretérito pluscuamperfectoPretérito anteriorFuturo compuestoCondicional compuesto
Yohe vividohabía vividohube vividohabré vividohabría vivido
has vividohabías vividohubiste vividohabrás vividohabrías vivido
Él/ellaha vividohabía vividohubo vividohabrá vividohabría vivido
Nosotros/ashemos vividohabíamos vividohubimos vividohabremos vividohabríamos vivido
habríamos vividohabéis vividohabíais vividohubisteis vividohabréis vividohabríais vivido
Ellos/ashan vividohabían vividohubieron vividohabrán vividohabrían vivido

Subjuntivo

Simple tenses

SubjectPresentePretérito imperfectoFuturo simple
Yovivavivieraviviere
vivasvivierasvivieres
Él/ellavivavivieraviviere
Nosotros/asvivamosvivieramosvivieremos
Vosotros/asvivaisvivieraisviviereis
Ellos/asvivanvivieranvivieren

Compound tenses

SubjectPretérito perfecto compuestoPretérito pluscuamperfectoFuturo compuesto
Yohaya vividohubiera or hubiese vividohubiere vivido
hayas vividohubieras or hubieses vividohubieres vivido
Él/ellahaya vividohubiera or hubiese vividohubiere vivido
Nosotros/ashayamos vividohubiéramos or hubiésemos vividohubieremos vivido
Vosotros/ashayais vividohubierais or hubieseis  vividohubiereis vivido
Ellos/ashayan vividohubieran or hubiesen vividohubieren vivido

Imperative

vivevivid

Non-personal forms

InfinitiveParticipleGerund
vivirvividoviviendo

For more examples, you can take a look at the many tables on the Real Academia Española website.

4. Irregular Verbs and their Conjugations

Negative Verbs

When doing Spanish conjugations, irregular verbs can be frustrating. In this section, we’ll show you how to conjugate one of the most common irregular verbs.

Irregular verb: ser (“to be”)

Indicativo

Simple tenses

SubjectPresentePretérito imperfectoPretérito perfecto simpleFuturo simpleCondicional simple
Yosoyerafuiserésería
ereserasfuiesteserásserías
Él/ellaeserafueserásería
Nosotros/assomoseramosfuimosseremosseríamos
Vosotros/assoiseraisfuisteissereisseríais
Ellos/assoneranfueronseranserían

Compound tenses

SubjectPretérito perfecto compuestoPretérito pluscuamperfectoPretérito anteriorFuturo compuestoCondicional compuesto
Yohe sidohabía sidohube sidohabré sidohabría sido
has sidohabías sidohubiste sidohabrás sidohabrías sido
Él/ellaha sidohabía sidohubo sidohabrá sidohabría sido
Nosotros/ashemos sidohabíamos sidohubimos sidohabremos sidohabríamos sido
Vosotros/ashabéis sidohabíais sidohubisteis sidohabréis sidohabríais sido
Ellos/ashan sidohabían sidohubieron sidohabrén sidohabrían sido

Subjuntivo

Simple tenses

SubjectPresentePretérito imperfectoFuturo simple
Yoseafuera or fuesefuere
seasfueras or fuesesfueres
Él/ellaseafuera or fuesefuere
Nosotros/asseamosfuéramos or fuésemosfueremos
Vosotros/asseaisfuérais or fuéseisfuereis
Ellos/asseanfueran or fuesenfueren

Compound tenses

SubjectPretérito perfecto compuestoPretérito pluscuamperfectoFuturo compuesto
Yohaya sidohubiera or hubiese sidohubiere sido
hayas sidohubieras or hubieses sidohubieres sido
Él/ellahaya sidohubiera or hubiese sidohubiere sido
Nosotros/ashayamos sidohubiéramos or hubiésemos sidohubieremos sido
Vosotros/ashayais sidohubierais or hubieseis  sidohubiereis sido
Ellos/ashayan sidohubieran or hubiesen sidohubieren sido

Imperative

sed

Non-personal forms

InfinitiveParticipleParticiple
sersidosiendo

5. Spanish Conjugations Quiz

1- Mañana ________ (nosotros – ir) a la piscina. → “Tomorrow, we ____ ________ to the swimming pool.”

Options: hemos ido, iremos, habremos ido

2- Ya ____ ________ (yo – terminar) los deberes. → “I ____ already ________ my homework.”

Options: terminaré, has terminado, he terminado

3- Mi vecina ________ (ella – ser) muy alta. → “My neighbor ________ very tall.”

Options: soy, es, son

4- Ayer Carlos ________ (él – cantar) una canción en el karaoke. → “Yesterday, Carlos ________ a song at the karaoke.”

Options: cantó, cantaré, cantaría

6. How SpanishPod101.com Can Help You Learn Spanish

We hope you found this Spanish conjugation lesson useful and practical. We’ve said this before, but we want to emphasize again that you really don’t need to learn what all these tenses are called, and you don’t need to learn all of them at once. If you think learning them step-by-step is a good idea, how do you feel about receiving one new word every day? Subscribe to our Free Word of the Day!
Before you started learning Spanish, did you know that verbs had conjugations? In case you didn’t know, would you have changed your mind about starting to learn this language? Or would you have given some excuses to put off starting? We hope that’s not the case, but let us know in the comments!

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