Spanish verbs are a cornerstone of Spanish communication because they allow us to express our past, present and future actions.
Verbs are used to denote an action or a state of being. Without verbs we wouldn’t be able to tell people what we have done, what we are doing now, or what we plan to do in the future.
Characteristics of Spanish Verbs
Verbs in their most basic form are known as “infinitives”. The infinitive simply describes the action without any indication of who is doing it or when. In English, the infinitive of a verb includes the word “to”.
Some examples of common verbs in their infinitive form are:
Correr – to run
Estudiar – to study
Venir – to come
Spanish verbsare categorised according to the last two letters of the verb in its infinitive form. All verb infinitives (except for reflexive verbs) end in either “AR”, “ER” or “IR”. These endings are very important when it comes to understanding the rules for conjugating the verbs. For more information about this, see Spanish conjugation.
Examples of these three different categories of verbs are:
AR verbs – HABLAR (to speak), TRABAJAR (to work), BAILAR (to dance)
ER verbs – COMER (to eat), BEBER (to drink), LEER (to read)
IR verbs – VIVIR (to live), DORMIR (to sleep), ESCRIBIR (to write)
Spanish verbs are often referred to as being either “regular” or “irregular”. These terms refer to the way that they are conjugated.
Reflexive verbs are used to express an action that you are doing to yourself. For example, the verb “lavar” means “to wash” and the reflexive verb “lavarse” means “to wash oneself”. The infinitive form of a reflexive verb always ends with the letters “SE”.
Using Spanish Verbs
The way that you use these verbs will depend on several factors. These include:
- The person performing the action
- The tense (whether it occurs in the past, present or future)
- The position of the verb in the sentence
- The “mood” of the verb (whether or not the action actually happened)
You will learn more about these factors as you progress with your Spanish learning.
Changing a Spanish verb into a negative is simple. All that you need to do is add the word “No” before the verb. For example:
Yo trabajo – I work
Yo no trabajo – I don’t work
In this example the word “Yo” means “I”, and the word “trabajo” is the conjugated form of the verb “trabajar” (to work).
As you will discover, “haber” is a very hard-working Spanish verb. The most common conjugation of “haber” is the word “hay” which can mean both “there is” and “there are”. For example:
Hay un perro – There is one dog
Hay dos perros – There are two dogs
Differences between European Spanish and Latin American verbs
As with all parts of the Spanish language, some verbs have different meanings in different countries. Fortunately, this is quite rare. One amusing example of this is the verb “coger” which means “to take” in Spain, and “to sleep with” in some Latin American countries.
There are also slight variations in the ways that Spanish verbs are conjugated in different countries. This is dealt with in the Spanish conjugation lesson.