Spanish: A Simple Guide to Key Codes and Verb Conjugation

Updated on April 5, 2018
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Angela loves researching new facts, especially those pertaining to science and history. She feels that knowledge is essential in growth.

Countries Where Spanish Is the Official Language

Spanish is the primary language for many countries in Central and South America, as well as Spain. Dialects do vary dependent on the area.
Spanish is the primary language for many countries in Central and South America, as well as Spain. Dialects do vary dependent on the area. | Source

Countries Where More than 10 Percent Speak Spanish

Although Spanish is the primary language in only a few countries, more and more countries have larger populations where there citizens speak Spanish, including the United States of America, as well as parts of Europe and Northern Africa.
Although Spanish is the primary language in only a few countries, more and more countries have larger populations where there citizens speak Spanish, including the United States of America, as well as parts of Europe and Northern Africa. | Source

Basic Spanish Verb Facts

Verbs in Spanish are conjugated differently dependent on their use. Looking at how we use the verb phrase "to be" in English will provide understanding as to why the different conjugations are necessary. For instance, each pronoun uses a different form of the verb, like as follows:

  • I am
  • you are
  • he is
  • we are
  • they are

In English we have three ways to say "to be" in the present form: am, are, and is. In Spanish there are six different ways:

  • (I am) soy
  • (you are - singular) eres
  • (he/she is and you are - formal) es
  • (we are) somos
  • (you are - plural) sois
  • (they are or you are - plural and formal) son

Notice that there are four different ways to say you are, depending on who the 'you' is and how many people are being spoken to. 'You' can be singular informal, singular formal, plural informal, or plural formal. Informal would be when speaking to your close friends, whereas formal would be talking to your boss, a sales clerk, a teacher, or anyone else you want to show respect.

The "to be" verb phrase is not the only verb to be conjugated. All verbs in the Spanish language need to be conjugated based on who they are being spoken about and whether they are past, present, future, etc. In most cases, the formula for conjugation is to drop the suffix (-ar, -er, or -ir) and replace it with the new suffix. Below are charts for the most common conjugations.

Alt Codes for Spanish Letters/Symbols

á
alt 0225
é
alt 0233
í
alt 0237
ó
alt 0243
ú
alt 0250
Á
alt 0193
É
alt 0210
Í
alt 0205
Ó
alt 0211
Ú
alt 0218
ñ
alt 164
Ñ
alt 165
¡
alt 173 (inverted exclamation)
¿
alt 168

When to Use the Present Tense

Present tense is the tense that expresses what is happening right now. For instance, in English, the present tense for I speak would be "I read," "I am reading," and "I do read." Using the infinitive root, plus the endings listed above, you are changing the infinitive to the present tense. For instance, 'leer' becomes 'leo' when changing from to read to I read, by dropping the -er ending and adding the yo/-er ending -o. (leer (-) -er(+) -o = leo).

Present Conjugation

 
-ar
-er
-ir
yo
-o
-o
-o
-as
-es
-es
el/ella
-a
-e
-e
nosotros
-amos
-emos
-imos
vosotros
-áis
-éis
-ís
ellos/ellas
-an
-en
-en

When To Use the Preterite

In Spanish, the preterite form is used when discussing something that occurred in the past and it is known precisely when it happened or how often it occurred.

Example:

  • At one o'clock, I ate lunch. (A la una, comí el almuerzo.) (conjugated - comer (-) -er (+) -í)
  • The cat lived for five years. (El gato vivió durante cinco años.) (conjugated - vivir (-) -ir (+) -ió)
  • I read that book twice. (Leí el libro dos veces.) (conjugated - leer (-) -er (+) -í)

The preterite form is also used when expressing sudden changes in mood (ex: I was afraid to go on stage.) or when giving a chain of events (ex: I started the car, looked in the rearview mirror, and backed out of the driveway.)

Preterite Conjugation

 
-ar
-er/-ir
yo
-aste
-iste
el/ell
-ió
nosotros
-amos
-imos
vosotros
-asteis
-isteis
ellos/ellas
-aron
-ieron

When to Use the Imperfect Tense

The imperfect tense is used when speaking in the past about a habitual action or something someone used to do.

Example:

  • The little boy was three years old. (El niño tenía tres años.) (conjugated - tener (-) -er (+) -ía).

The imperfect form may also be used when telling time and dates or describing emotional or mental states in the past.

Example:

  • I was happy to help you. (Yo estaba feliz de ayudarle.) (conjugate - estar (-) -ar (+) -aba)

Imperfect Conjugation

 
-ar
-er/-ir
yo
-aba
-ía
-abas
-ías
el/ella
-aba
-ía
nosotros
-ábamos
-íamos
vosotros
-abais
-íais
ellos/ellas
-aban
-ían

When to Use the Subjunctive Present

The subjunctive tense shows mood, not tense. Tense is when an action takes place in the past, present, or future, whereas the subjunctive tense shows how a person feels. In English it is not used very often, but a very common way to speak in Spanish; which makes it difficult for native English speakers to know when to use this form. An example of when we might use it in English is if we were to say, "The teacher recommends that he study for the test." "He study" is the subjunctive tense. Note that normally we would say, "he studies." The reason you use that tense is because the term in not certain or factual. Although the teacher does recommend that he does this, it is not certain that he will.

Example:

  • It is possible that the doctor will arrive on time today. (Es posible que el médico llege a tiempo hoy) (conjugated - llegar (-) -ar (+) -e)

A good indication that you will need to use the subjunctive form is if you see such indicators as:

  • In order that... - Para que...
  • It is possible that... - Es posible que...
  • It's important that... - Es importante que...
  • It's necessary that... - Es preciso que...
  • To believe that... - Creer que...
  • Until... - Hasta que...

This is far from a complete list, but gives an idea of what to look for.

Subjunctive Present

 
-ar
-er/-ir
yo
-e
-a
-es
-as
el/ella
-e
-a
nosotros
-emos
-amos
vosotros
-éis
-áis
ellos/ellas
-en
-an

When to Use Commands

The command form is very familiar to English speakers. It is when telling someone to do something, such as, "sit down," "don't speak," "watch this!" etc. All forms are in the " you" form, although since there are different forms of "you," then one must change the form based on whether it is singular or plural, and whether the singular form is formal or informal.

Example:

  • (To a single person you respect - formal singular) Eat your food. (Come tu comida.) (conjugate - comer (-) -er (+) -e)
  • (To many people - formal plural) Eat your food. (Comen tu comida.) (conjugate - comer (-) -er (+) -en)
  • (To a peer - informal singular) Eat your food. (Coma tu comida.) (conjugate - comer (-) -er (+) -a)

Commands

 
-ar
-er/-ir
formal singular
-e
-a
formal plural
-en
-an
informal singular
-a
-e

When to Use Future Tense

There are two forms of the future tense, the informal form and the simple form. The informal form uses the verb go (ir) + (the preposition a) + infinitive. In the chart below, the last column shows what form of the verb ir should be used in which tense. This would be equivalent to saying, "I am going to...." in Spanish.

Example:

  • I am going to eat steak for supper (Voy a comer bistek para la cena.) (Conjugate - yo form of ir + a + infinitive of comer.)

The simple form is like saying, "I will..." or "I may..." Unlike the informal form in Spanish, only one word is used to express the future tense.

Example:

  • I will eat steak for dinner. (Comeré carne para la cena.) (conjugate - comer (-) -er (+) -eré)

Future Tense

 
-ar
-er
-ir
informal form
yo
-aré
-eré
-iré
va + infinitive
-arás
-erás
-irás
vas + infinitive
el/ella
-ará
-erá
-irá
va + infinitive
nosotros
-aremos
-eremos
-iremos
vamos + infinitive
vosotros
-aréis
-eréis
-iréis
vais + infinitive
ellos/ellas
-arán
-erán
-irán
van + infinitive

When to Use the Conditional Tense

The conditional tense is used when referring to the future in the hypothetical. In English, we would use the words would, could, probably and must have. In spanish only one word is used and is changed to the form based on its ending and form.

Example:

  • I would eat ten hamburgers! (Comería diez hamburguesas!) (conjugated - comer (-) -er (+) ería)

Conditional

 
-ar
-er
-ir
yo
-aría
-ería
-iría
-arías
-erías
-irías
el/ella
-aría
-ería
-iría
nosotros
-aríamos
-eríamos
-iríamos
vosotros
-aríais
-eríais
-iríais
ellos/ellas
-arían
-erían
-irían

When to Use the Perfect Tense

There are three forms of the perfect tense: present perfect, past perfect, and future perfect. In Spanish, two words are used to form the proper tense; an appropriate form of the word have (haber in Spanish) and an auxiliary word. An auxiliary word is not the same as infinitive, but actually uses the same form as the past participle.

Example:

  • I have run a marathon. (He corrido una maratón.) (conjugated - present yo form of haber (+) correr (-) -er (+) ido)
  • I had run a marathon. (He corrido una maratón.) (conjugated - past yo form of haber (+) correr (-) -er (+) ido)
  • I will have run a marathon. (He corrido una maratón.) (conjugated - future yo form of haber (+) correr (-) -er (+) ido)

Perfect Tense

 
present perfect
past perfect
future perfect
yo
he (infinitive)+ado/ido
había (infinitive)+ado/ido
habré (infinitive)+ado/ido
has (infinitive)+ado/ido
habías (infinitive)+ado/ido
habrás (infinitive)+ado/ido
el/ella
ha (infinitive)+ado/ido
había (infinitive)+ado/ido
habrá (infinitive)+ado/ido
nosotros
hemos (infinitive)+ado/ido
habíamos (infinitive)+ado/ido
habremos (infinitive)+ado/ido
vosotros
habéis (infinitive)+ado/ido
habíais (infinitive)+ado/ido
habréis (infinitive)+ado/ido
ellos/ellas
han (infinitive)+ado/ido
habían (infinitive)+ado/ido
habrán (infinitive)+ado/ido
-ar verbs end in -ado, whereas -er/-ir verbs end in -ido

These conjugations are all for regular verbs. There are many irregular verbs that do not follow these commands. The best way to learn them is by using a Spanish/English verb dictionary. They will have a nearly complete list of irregular verb conjugations.

Spanish Speakers in the US

Spanish is spoken throughout the United States with varying degrees of popularity. The map above indicates where Spanish is spoken most frequently.
Spanish is spoken throughout the United States with varying degrees of popularity. The map above indicates where Spanish is spoken most frequently. | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Angela Michelle Schultz

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      • Coffeequeeen profile image

        Louise Powles 

        17 months ago from Norfolk, England

        That's really interesting. I'm trying to learn some basic Spanish as I plan a holiday there soon, and this has been most helpful. Thank you.

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