Factors That Affect Verb Conjugation
Spanish verbs have to be “conjugated” or “inflected”; that is, changed according to how they are used. Each Spanish verb has at least five — but usually six — different conjugations in each tense and mood.
The infinitive is the most basic form of a verb. In English, it is expressed as “to + verb.” Spanish infinitives are single words with one of three infinitive endings: — AR, — ER, or — IR. For example,
In most conjugations, you will need to drop the infinitive ending (leaving the radical or root) and add the appropriate ending. There are a total of five elements in conjugation: number, person, voice, mood, and tense.
Number and Person
Number and person go hand in hand; together, they indicate the grammatical person: who or what is performing the action of the verb. Number may be singular (one) or plural (more than one). Person may be first person (the speaker), second person (the listener), and third person (third party). This means there's a total of six grammatical persons, and each has at least one subject pronoun:
In looking at the chart, you might notice what appears to be an excess of “you”s. In Spanish, two important distinctions are made when talking to “you”: Is there one person or more than one? Is it someone to whom you want to indicate closeness (a friend, parent, pet) or someone to whom you wish to show respect (a doctor, teacher, lawyer)? Once you've answered these questions, you'll know which “you” to use: In Spain,
Making Sense of Tense
Tense refers to the time a verb's action takes place: present, past, or future. There are two kinds of tenses. A simple tense is a verb form that consists of a single word like
Get in the Mood
Mood refers to the attitude of the speaker toward the action/state of the verb — how likely or factual the statement is. Spanish has three moods: indicative, subjunctive, and imperative. The indicative is what you might call the “normal” mood — it indicates a fact:
The subjunctive expresses subjectivity, such as doubt and unlikelihood:
Once you know the tense and mood that you would like to use, you have a verb form and you can start figuring out its conjugations. There are more than two dozen Spanish verb forms, the most important of which will be explained in this chapter.