Cynthia is a writer, artist, and teacher. She loves studying language, arts, and culture, and sharing that knowledge.
Studying Spanish Verbs
When you're learning a language, especially as an adult, it pays to know the most common verbs you'll encounter. This can help with travel and basic communication.
Of course, the list I've compiled below are verbs that I feel, from years of teaching Spanish, are the most beneficial to know.
This is not an alphabetical list.
- Simple, regular -AR verbs are first.
- Other verbs are grouped as opposites.
- Still, others are grouped according to whether they stem-change or have interesting forms.
This is all an effort to help you memorize and assimilate these verbs into your vocabulary.
Included with many verb are common expressions and meanings that you might hear people say in Spanish.
Of course, these words and phrases can vary from country to country.
Furthermore, this is just a small sampling of an entire language - it's impossible to capture everything.
Learning More Verbs
As you learn more verbs and vocabulary, you can help yourself to learn and memorize them in several ways:
- reading them out loud and repeating to yourself several times
- writing down the verbs
- acting them out
- learning them in "clusters" - such as the way a particular group of verbs follow a pattern, or if they're opposites, etc.
- watching television in Spanish and listening for some of these verbs so you can hear them in context
- putting the verb into a sentence in the target (Spanish) language
Regular Verbs vs. Irregular Verbs
Before diving right into the verbs, it's helpful to know if they're regular or not.
If you know a verb follows a regular pattern, that's part of the battle.
If it doesn't, then you can memorize those verbs separately.
Breaking down all the verbs into their specific parts is beyond the scope of this article, but you'll have a good feel for lots of common verbs after reading and studying them.
Regular Verbs All Follow a Pattern
For -AR, -ER, and -IR verbs, when you break a verb down (conjugate) it, the endings of those verbs follow a predictable pattern:
Irregular Verbs Do Not Follow Typical Patterns
They are separated into different groups in this article.
Regular Verb Ending Patterns
Common Spanish Verbs Ending in -AR
Most textbooks you'll see start with the regular verbs in Spanish, and for good reason: they follow a pattern.
Here is a group of regular verbs that end in -AR, plus some common expressions that go with them:
- Bailar - to dance
-un baile - a dance
-un bailador, una bailadora - a dancer
- Mirar - to look
-¡Mira! - Look! (informal)
-miremos - let's look
- Necesitar - to need
-es necesario - it's necessary
-la necesidad - necessity
- Escuchar - to listen to
-escucho la radio - I listen to the radio
-escúchame - listen to me (informal)
- Tomar - to take (something to eat/drink)
-¿Algo de tomar? - Something to drink? (Waiters will often ask this in restaurants.)
-tomar en cuenta - to consider
- Desear - to want, desire
-deseable - desirable
-es poco deseable - it's not desirable
- Estudiar - to study
-el estudiante, la estudiante - student
-estudioso, estudiosa - studious
- Aceptar - to accept, to agree to
-¿Acepta el trato? - Do you agree to the deal?
- Cantar - to sing
-la canción - the song
-el cantador, la cantadora - singer
- Limpiar - to clean
-estoy limpio - I'm broke (Used in Latin America; literally: I'm clean)
-la limpieza - the cleaning or cleanliness
- Enseñar - to teach
-la enseñanza - teaching
-enseñaba - I used to teach; he (or she) used to teach
More Common Verbs Ending in -AR
Here are a few more of regular -AR verbs that people frequently use in Spanish.
- Buscar - to look for (this verb really does include the "for" part: "busco un papel" means I'm looking for a paper)
- Ayudar - to help; ayúdeme means "help me"
- Cambiar - to change; "en cambio" means "on the other hand"
- Llegar - to arrive; "la llegada" means "arrival" and its opposite, "la salida" is "departure."
- Llorar - to cry; "no llores" means "don't cry"
- Pasar - to pass, happen; "¿Qué pasa?" means "What's up?" or "What's happening?"
- Lavar - to wash; "lávese las manos" means "wash your hands"
- Amar - to love; "te amo" means "I love you"
- Gritar - to scream; "el grito" is "a scream"
- Entrar - to enter
- Cortar - to cut; "corto" is something that is "short" as in "pelo corto" or "short hair"
Verbs that Reflect Physical Movement or Tasks
These verbs should be easier to memorize together because they all involve some sort of "action:" The only one of these that is irregular is "andar," in the past tense.
Caminar - to walk
Andar - to walk, stroll, hike
Correr - to run
Nadar - to swim
Marchar - to march, to leave
Hablar - to speak, talk
Escribir - to write
Cocinar - to cook
Comer - to eat
Beber - to drink
Preparar - to prepare
Other Regular -ER and -IR Verbs
These are regular verbs for the most part. "Recoger" is a little irregular. If you're looking for more regular -ER and -IR verbs, check the section on opposites. You can also look in the section of stem-changing verbs for more -ER and -IR verbs that are irregular.
Comprender - to understand, comprehend
Aprender - to learn
Sacudir - to shake
Recoger - to gather, to collect, to get
The Verbs "To Like" and "To Be Important To" in Spanish
These two verbs are a little different than most verbs.
When you express that you like something, you use the verb "gustar" - but it's not formulated in the same way as the typical verb.
Me gusta - I like; Te gusta - you like; Le gusta - he/she/it likes
It literally means "to be pleasing to" - thus "me gusta" literally means "it is pleasing to me."
Quite a few verbs take on this format in Spanish, but to keep things simple, here's one more:
Importar - to be important to, to matter to
Me importa - it's important to me; Te importa - it matters to you; Le importa - it's important to her (him, it).
Sometimes it's helpful to learn and understand verbs if you can pair them with the opposite meaning. The verbs with an asterisk (*) next to them are irregular verbs.
Sentarse* / levantarse* - to sit / to stand up, lift up; "levántese" - stand up; "siéntese" - sit down
Perder* / encontrar* - to lose / to find; "no pierda mi tiempo" - don't waste my time
Olvidar / recordar* - to forget / to remember; "olvídelo" - forget it
Gastar / ahorrar - to spend / to save
Cerrar* / abrir - to close / to open; "cerrado" - closed; "abierto" - open
Vivir / morir* - to live / to die; "murió" - he, she or it died
Vender / comprar - to sell / to buy; "ir de compras" - to go shopping
Apagar / encender* - to turn off, extinguish / to turn on; "el apagafuegos" means "fire extinguisher"
Empezar* / terminar - to begin / to finish, terminate; "el término" is "term" (when talking about vocabulary words)
Dormirse* / despertarse* - to fall asleep / to wake up; "Me dormí en el sofá" - I fell asleep on the couch.
The next group of verbs have "go" in their first person, present tense form to help make them easier to remember.
Most of these are irregular verbs, meaning they have different forms, especially in different tenses, with different subjects (I, you, Tom, Dick, Jane, we, etc.). Some of them are a little more regular.
Tener - to have / tengo - I have
Hacer - to do, to make / hago - I do, I make
Decir - to say / digo - I say
Oír - to hear / oigo - I hear
Venir - to come / vengo - I come
Poner - to put / pongo - I put
Caer - to fall / caigo - I fall
Jugar - to play / juego - I play
Pagar - to pay / pago - I pay
Salir - to leave, to go out / salgo - I leave, I go out
Traer - to bring / traigo - I carry
The following group of verbs have "oy" in the first person present tense. These are all irregular verbs.
Estar - to be (not permanent) / estoy - I am
Ser - to be (permanent) / soy - I am
Ir - to go / voy - I go
Dar - to give / doy - I give
"O" to "UE" Verbs
These particular verbs are grouped together because the middle part changes from the letter O to UE when the verb is conjugated, or broken down by subject. They are all at least somewhat irregular, too.
Poder - to be able / puedo - I am able, I can
Volar - to fly / vuelo - I fly
Volver - to return / vuelvo - I return
Contar - to tell, to count / cuento - I tell, I count
Dormir - to sleep / duermo - I sleep
Stem-Changing Verbs Types
|Stem Letter:||Changes To:||Example|
"E" to "IE" Verbs
Some verbs in Spanish have a change from the letter E in the center of the verb (or in its "root") to include the letters IE. For this reason, all of these are irregular.
Pensar - to think / pienso - I think
Entender - to understand / entiendo - I understand
Querer - to want / quiero - I want
Sentir - to feel / siento - I feel
Preferir - to prefer / prefiero - I prefer
"E" to "I" Verbs
A few verbs change from the letter "E" in the center to the letter "I":
Pedir - to ask for / pido - I ask for
Seguir - to follow, to continue / sigo - I follow, I continue
Verbs With Lots of Vowels
In Spanish, some words seem to have a lot of vowels. They really aren't that different from most other verbs when you break them down.
Leer - to read / leo - I read; tú lees - you read
Creer - to believe / creo - I believe; tú crees - you believe
Ver - to see / veo - I see; tú ves - you see
"C" to "Z" Verbs
Some verbs in Spanish end with -cer. In that case, when you break it down in the first person form, that "C" has a "Z" that gets added to it:
Parecer - to seem / parezco - I seem
Conocer - to know (a person), to be familiar with / conozco - I know
Merecer - to deserve / merezco - I deserve
These verbs have a "J" in their formulations.
Dibujar - to draw / dibujo - I draw
Trabajar - to work / trabajo - I work
Festejar - to party / festejo - I party
Viajar - to travel / viajo - I travel
Manejar - to drive, to manage / manejo - I drive, I manage
Exigir - to demand / exijo - I demand
© 2014 Cynthia Calhoun
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on May 16, 2015:
poetryman- thank you so much! I hope you have a muy buen día. :)
poetryman6969 on May 12, 2015:
I have spoken in Spanish in a long time so it's nice to see a refresher.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on May 08, 2015:
Cynthia, you're very welcome. No worries. Whenever you're free, I appreciate it. Good luck with everything!
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on May 07, 2015:
Kristen - I so appreciate your comments! I am sorry I have been busy with a new job and moving, and thus haven't been able to return the favor of your wonderful visits, but I appreciate you! Thank you for your kind words. Have a wonderful day! Will try to check out your hubs as soon as I get a chance! xo
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on May 07, 2015:
Hola Cindy. This was a great hub on learning Spanish verbs that are most common in usage. Very useful for those who want to learn a new language. Voted up!
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on March 11, 2015:
JaneA - awesome! Barcelona is definitely more difficult: more people there also speak Catalán. But have fun in Spain! :)
JaneA from California on March 05, 2015:
This is a great start for my next trip to Spain! (I must admit that language in Barcelona confused me last time - it was hard to know when words were Spanish or French inflected - Madrid was much more straight forward.) Thanks!
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on November 19, 2014:
Torrilynn - haha, tienes razón! :)
also, sorry for the delay in responding: it's my last semester of grad school and working full time. Whewee! Can't wait to get back to writing more!! :D
torrilynn on November 12, 2014:
These are some really common Spanish words. Hopefully, I learn Spanish completely, one day.
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on October 31, 2014:
Ha, tillsontitan, grrrreat to see you! My apologies for my delay in responding: I'm finishing my last semester of grad school...in Spanish!
Thank you so much for your comments and for stopping by! HUGS
Mary Craig from New York on October 28, 2014:
Hmmm, looks like I need Estudiar! I took French in high school and that was a long, long time ago. My children took Spanish and my youngest, from spending a lot of time in NYC following 9-11, has learned the language very well.
Great hub to be read over and over!
Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on August 03, 2014:
Imtii- that's great! Glad I could help. :)
Languages are such fun. I definitely hope to write more hubs like these. Have a great day!
Imtiaz Ahmed from Dhaka, Bangladesh on August 03, 2014:
cclitgirl a very nice hub. I know about english and my own local language. I was totally unaware of Spanish from your hub I learned a much. Hope to find more quality hubs from you. Thank you :)
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 13, 2014:
Aviannovice - hehe, there are always exceptions, no matter what you do. :)
Thank you so much for stopping by! Always good to see you.
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on July 10, 2014:
You make the regular verbs sound so simple. Like French and English, there are always exceptions, but that's where memory comes in. Thanks, Cindy!
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 05, 2014:
Faith - aw, thank you so much! Thank you for your feedback and kind words! Yes, I'm definitely passionate about helping others to learn. :) Happy Fourth to you!
Faith Reaper from southern USA on July 04, 2014:
Another excellent article. So true, learning verbs in a language is most beneficial in advancing in speaking the language.
As I have stated before, you are a great teacher!
Voted up and more and away
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 01, 2014:
Larry - thanks for your feedback. :) I completely agree: Spanish television is incredibly beneficial. I appreciate your words and thanks for liking my language hubs! Have a great day.
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on July 01, 2014:
I know a bit of Spanish, but I wish I knew more. I think that after getting a little bit of a background in a language through book study, the best next step is submersion in the language. For a lot of us, Spanish television is one of the best ways to do this.
Thank you for your articles on language. I really enjoy them.
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 30, 2014:
Sí, cierto, amigo. Espero que todo esté bien con usted. :) Que se vaya bien. :)
Joseph De Cross from New York on June 30, 2014:
Muy bien dicho cclitgirl! Es cuestion de practica.
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 30, 2014:
Dianna - muchas gracias a tí, amiga! Te mando un abracito! Yes, the verbs are one of the most complicated parts of speech in Spanish (unlike in English) - if you can get a handle on those, you're well on your way to being able to communicate. :)
Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 30, 2014:
BB - life is good here, too! Thank you for the support. :) I love summer because I have a *little* more time to fuel my writing and creative addictions. :D
Glad you're having warmer weather - my summer is *wonderful* - have a wonderful day!
Dianna Mendez on June 30, 2014:
This is excellent teaching! If one knows these basic verbs they can communicate well in spanish. Hasta Luego, Amiga!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 30, 2014:
Obviously there is nothing intelligent that I can say about this topic. I just stopped by to wish you a great week of creativity. I hope you are enjoyed your summer so far. The weather is warming up here and life is good lil Sis!