Working with Verbs

El verbo (the verb) is one of the most fundamental building blocks for Spanish expression. With it, you can often describe an action and who is performing that action. The simplest sentence en inglés (in English) requires a separate subject and predicate: “I am.” En español (in Spanish), that sentence becomes simpler still, Soy. Because each verb is conjugated according to its subject, its ending will indicate who is doing the action—in this case, the pronoun yo (I) is optional, and may be dropped.

What does “conjugating” mean?

“Conjugating” refers to modifying a verb based on such factors as number (singular or plural), person (first, second, or third), tense (past, present, future, etc.), or mood (indicative, command, or subjunctive). In Spanish, all verbs must be conjugated according to their subjects for number and person, and also according to the tense and mood that they convey. (To find out what is meant by “mood,” refer to the next section.)

A Spanish verb is made up of two parts: the base and the ending. Think of the base as the repository that holds the essence and definition of the verb, and the ending as the personal label indicating who owns the action and when it is occurring. For example: Camino (I walk) may be divided into camin- (base) and –o (the ending that indicates a first-person singular subject “I” and that the verb is in the present tense of the indicative mood). Furthermore, verbs are subdivided into regular and irregular. To say a verb is regular is to say that its base is unchanged regardless of the ending employed and that its endings will follow regular patterns. An irregular verb's base might vary according to a specific conjugation and some of its endings might be irregular as well.

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