Here is a summary of 25 important verbs all Spanish speakers should learn as early as possible. If you are equipped with a small number of important Spanish verbs, you'll be surprised how much you can actually say. Learning these is a much more effective approach than simply memorizing a few phrases to get around town.
Remember that you'll receive the eSpanishTeacher 101 Spanish Verbs course when you purchase our Beginner Spanish course. This course will teach you to use the 101 most common verbs in the entire Spanish language and you'll get plenty of practice speaking out loud.
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"Poder" is one of the most common verbs in the Spanish language. It's perhaps the most important verb for you to know. It means "to be able to" or "to can" (I can..., she can..., they can...). If you turn on a Spanish TV channel like Telemundo or Univision, you'll hear various usages of "Poder" in nearly every sentence. A few examples:
Si se puede = yes you can
Se puede [insert verb here] = You can ...
Tú lo puedes hacer = You can do it
There's a common usage of "Poder" that will help you be a more refined Spanish speaker that I want to cover today. Lots of people will say things like:
Podemos trabar para tí = We can work for you
¿Puedes darme el libro? = Can you give me the book?
Usted puede venir conmigo = You can come along with me
These statements are a result of the speaker attempting to translate directly from English to Spanish. It can be tempting to do this and in many cases it's fine. And I want to be clear that the examples above are not incorrect, rather there are better ways to communicate the three statements above without using "Poder". Try this instead:
Trabajamos para tí = We'll work for you
¿Me das el libro? = Will you give the book to me?
Tu vienes conmigo = You come along with me (this is good because it's not quite a strong as the command, "Ven conmigo")
The point of this post is that while "Poder" is one of the most fequently used verbs in Spanish, sometimes English speakers have a tendency to overuse it. So if you ever find that you're saying things like
¿Puedes ayudarme? = Can you help me?
Puede ella tocar el piano? = Can she play the piano
Stop and think for a minute how you might say it without using "Poder"
¿Me ayudas? = Can you help me?
¿Toca ella el piano" = Does/can she play the piano?
Supplemental to the above, here is the spanish conjugation for Poder:
Poder = To be able to / To can
Yo puedo = I can
Tú puedes = you can
Él puede = he can
Ella puede = she can
Usted puede = you can (formal)
Nosotros podemos = we can
Vosotros podéis = you guys can
Ellos pueden = they can (group of males or mixed gender)
Ellas pueden = they can (group of females)
Ustedes pueden = you all can
Perhaps one of the most common questions for Spanish teachers from their students is how to determine when to use Ser and when to use Estar. Because both verbs mean "to be", it can be a very difficult concept to fully understand. I've created the graphic below to help you understand the difference between ser and estar and when to use each verb. I dive into this topic in more detail in my Beginner Spanish course.
Let me know what you think of this graphic. I've started using more visuals like this to teach Spanish and have been getting very good feedback.
Hablar is a common Spanish verb that means "to speak" or "to talk". It's a very simple -AR verb and likely one of the very first verbs you would learn in any beginner level Spanish class. Here is how to conjugate the verb hablar:
Yo hablo - I speak
Tú hablas - You speak (informal)
Él habla - He speaks
Ella habla - She speaks
Usted habla - You speak (formal)
Nosotros hablamos - We speak
Vosotros habláis - You guys speak/ You all speak (informal)
Ellos hablan - They speak (group of males or group of mixed gender)
Ellas hablan - They speak (group of females)
Ustedes hablan - You all speak / You speak (formal)
A few examples using hablar, translated from Spanish into English:
Ellas hablan con los chicos. - They speak with the boys.
Yo hablo por teléfono con mi madre. - I talk on the telephone with my mother.
Ustedes hablan todos los días. - You talk every day.
Another common Spanish verb is "Abrir", which means "to open". Pretty basic as a verb, but very common. Here's how it works.
Yo abro = I open
Tú abres = You open
Ella abre = She opens
Él abre = He opens
Usted abre = You open (formal)
Nosotros abrimos = We open
Vosotros abrís = You guys open
Ellas abren = They open (group of females)
Ellos abren = They open (group of males or mixed)
Ustedes abren = You all open (formal)
Here is how it works in real life:
Nosotros abrimos la puerta. = We open the door.
Él abre el libro. = He opens the book.
Yo abro mi corazón. = I open my heart.
Ellas abren sus bolsas. = They open their bags.
One verb that should become part of your vocabulary very quickly is poder. Poder is the Spanish verb that means to be able to. This might not sound like the typical Spanish verb to you and you'd be right. It's not easy to image poder like is to run, to eat, to write. Some verbs are very visual and can be imagined easily. Poder is not one of these. It actually falls into the category with other vague verbs such as to have, to be, to know, etc. Another way to look at is is that poder is the verb that means to can, such as I can, she can, you can.
You may have heard the phrase Si, se puede, which comes from the verb poder. Essentially this phrase means Yes, you can or You can do it! It's common in Spanish to have someone say this as a form of encouragement. Here is a breakdown of how the verb is conjugated and it's translations into English:
Yo puedo - I can
Tú puedes - You can (informal)
Él puede - He can
Ella puede - She can
Usted puede - You can (formal)
Nosotros podemos - We can
Vosotros podéis - You guys can (informal)
Ellos pueden - They can (group of men or mixed)
Ellas pueden - They can (group of women)
Ustedes pueden - You all can (formal)
When the verb poder is used, it is typically followed by another verb. This is because we normally say You can [verb], like in You can run, You can eat, You can write. So in Spanish, you'll want to follow the conjugated form of poder with an unconjugated verb. To see what I'm saying, here are some examples of sentences using the verb poder:
Usted puede hablar. = You can speak.
Nosotros podemos tocar la música. = We can play music.
Yo puedo cantar. = I can sing.
Vosotros podeís estudiar. = You guys can study.
Spanish verb conjugation is perhaps the most crucial concept for beginner students. So much of what new students learn centers on understanding how to conjugate Spanish verbs. This is because verbs and subjects are the foundational elements of sentence structure and therefore are the foundation of virtually everything you say in Spanish. It’s no different for English—by the way—we just don’t often realize it.
Subject Pronouns or Subjects
In Spanish, conjugating verbs is simple, but it does require some explanation as well as a good deal of verbal practice before you’ll understand it completely. Conjugating verbs always begins with the subject of the sentence because we need to know who is acting out the verb. You may hear your Spanish professor refer to subjects as 'subject pronouns', but I think that term confuses people. In my simple mind, they are subjects and it doesn't need to be any more complicated than that. So the subject is the noun (person, place, or thing) that is doing the verb (action word). Common subject are I, you, he, she, it, we, they, etc.
Verbs are the action word of a sentence, such as run, eat, play, speak, etc. Usually verbs are simple to imagine in your mind. For example, it’s easy to imagine someone running, eating, playing, and speaking. These would all be examples of verbs in their infinitive (pure) form: to run, to eat, to play, to speak.
Spanish Verb Conjugation
Conjugating verbs requires that you match a subject with a verb. And the most important thing to remember is that the subject determines how the verb is conjugated.
When you conjugate a verb, you remove the to and replace it with a subject. In other words, you actually change the verb from its infinitive form (to eat) to a conjugated form when matching it up with a subject. You also sometime change the ending of the verb slightly, such that He + to eat becomes He eats. Or She + to run becomes She runs.
This is the essence of verb conjugation, which is the foundation of the Spanish language. It may seem simple in English, but conjugating in Spanish actually presents a couple more challenges because 1) it’s not your native language and 2) the conjugations are much more complex than simply adding an “s” to the end of each verb. This is a quick blog post meant to help you understand the basics of conjugating verbs in Spanish. For a more in-depth look at this topic, as well as a more personalized explaination, verbal exercises, and instant feedback, check out my Beginner Spanish course.In Spanish, a simple example would look like this:
Subject: Ella = she
Verb: Comer = to eat
Ella + Comer = Ella come = She eats
To accomplish the example conjugation above, these are the steps we take:
1) Identify the subject
2) Drop the “-er” ending from the verb Comer.
3) While adding the subject, conjugate the verb Comer according to the subject.
You can use this subject chart to identify which ending corresponds to which subject. Also, I've included a chart on conjugating verbs in the present tense for reference.
"Ser" is perhaps THE most common verb in the Spanish language. In my Beginner Spanish course I explain that there are two types of verbs: simple and vague. The simple verbs are simple to understand because you can visualize them easily. These are verbs like "to run", "to play", "to eat". You can easily visualize someone running, playing, or eating. But the other type of verb, the vague verbs, are not as easy to understand because they don't have such a visual meaning. "Tener" as is "Ser". It just so happens that some of the most common Spanish verbs--to have, to be, to do, to know--are vague verbs. This is important to know as you learn all about Spanish verbs, but don't worry as it will come easily as you study the language and practice speaking Spanish.
The true meaning of "Ser" is "To be", however, the easier way to remember it is to think of it as the I am, you are, she is verb. It literally is the verb used to communicate is, are, and am. This is how the verbs is conjugated:
Yo soy - I am
Tú eres - You are (informal)
Él es - He is
Ella es - She is
Usted es - You are (formal)
Nosotros somos - We are
Vosotros sóis - You all are (informal)
Ellos son - They are
Ellas son - They are (group of females)
Ustedes son - You all are (formal)
Here are some examples of phrases using the verb "Ser":
Yo soy maestra. - I am a teacher.
Tú eres bondadoso. - You are kind.
Nosotros somos estudiantes. - We are students.
Es la una. - It's one o'clock.
This blog post is kicking off my new series on the most common Spanish verbs. These posts will contain useful and relevant help to all of you out there who are beginning to speak Spanish. Please let me know if there are verbs you'd like me to review.
In Spanish verbs end in -AR, -ER, or -IR. Remember that verbs are action words. I have a unique perspective on Spanish verbs that I explain in depth in my Spanish course. I believe there are two types of verbs, simple and vague. First, the simple verbs are easy to imagine or visualize in your mind. It's easy to picture someone running, eating, or talking. And sure enough, to run, to eat, and to talk are all verbs. These are examples of the simple verbs and include nearly all verbs. The second group is what I refer to as vague Spanish verbs, or the verbs that are more difficult to imagine. Unfortunately, these are the most common verbs that are used multiple times in nearly every string of communication, such as to be, to have, to exist, and to be able to. The mastery of verbs--both simple and vague--comes with listening, practice, and confidence.
For this post, I thought I'd address one of my favorite verbs, tener. Tener means 'to have' in Spanish, and you can use it to say things like "I have a meeting", or "You have to go", or "She has a pet cat". Here is a breakdown of the verb tener in the present tense:
Yo tengo - I have
Tú tienes - you have (informal)
Ella tiene - she has
Él tiene - he has
Usted tiene - you have (formal)
Nosotros tenemos - we have
Vosotros tenéis - you guys have (informal)
Ellos tienen - they have
Ellas tienen - they have (group of females)
Ustedes tienen - you all have (formal)
Some examples of phrases using tener:
Yo tengo un amigo - I have a friend
Nosotros tenemos que ir - We have to go
Ella tiene una cita - She has an appointment
Tener is perhaps one of the top 3 verbs used in the Spanish language, so get used to it, memorize it, and start loving it!
I speak with a lot of people who want to speak Spanish, most of whom ask questions about the language and wanting my recommendations for an effective Spanish course. It’s common for these people to be curious about how difficult it is to learn Spanish. They aren’t asking how difficult it is to learn the language in full. What they really want to know is ‘how long will it take me to learn enough Spanish to feel comfortable getting around in a foreign country or in a light conversation with a native Spanish speaker?’
How long it takes you to learn conversational Spanish depends on you. Are you someone who can recognize patterns, enjoys music, and understands basic math? If you said yes, then your chances of learning Spanish quickly are very good.
Having an appreciation for patterns, music, and math are important because they help you understand the building blocks of the Spanish language—Verbs. Spanish Verbs, along with subjects, are some of the most basic elements of the Spanish language and having a clear understanding of them will help you speak Spanish more than any other concept. And once you understand the relationship between subjects and verbs, you ability to speak and grasp the more advanced concepts greatly improves.
When setting out on their journey to learn Spanish, many students ask ‘where do I begin?’ Formal Spanish language courses taught by your community college or in a textbook will start by teaching you how to say things like ‘the’, ‘a’, and ‘and’. Then you’ll advance to—dare I say—nouns! By the end of week one you’ll be saying things like, ‘the dog’, ‘the food’, and ‘the house’. My Beginner Spanish course takes a different approach, however. The first four lessons of Beginner Spanish aim to solidify the student’s ability to match a subject with a verb and then create a basic sentence. After just an hour you’ll be saying things like ‘I eat the cookie’ and ‘we watch the movie.’ Shortly thereafter you’ll be able to ask and answer questions in complete sentences.
This type of verb-based learning has two benefits. First, it puts a lot of Spanish words into your vocabulary very quickly so as to prepare you for actual conversations you might have. Second, it establishes a foundation in your brain that helps you understand all the subsequent Spanish language concepts that you will learn.
This is where we chat about all things Spanish. Feel free to ask a question, challenge me, passionately disagree, or rant about whatever. Just make it interesting.