Just when you thought you'd memorized the meanings of a bunch of infinitive verbs (their "to" forms, like saber (to know), poder (to be able), etc.), you find out that there are some verbs that actually change meanings from one tense to another! Verbs that mean one thing in tenses like the Spanish present indicative tense and the imperfect tense in Spanish but change meaning in the Spanish preterite tense will be the focus of today's lesson.
In a nutshell, there are two "main" past tenses in Spanish: the imperfect tense in Spanish, which is used to describe past actions that were ongoing, in progress, or interrupted, and the Spanish preterite tense, which describes completed past actions. As we mentioned, as the meaning of some Spanish verbs actually changes in the preterite tense in Spanish, let's take a look at some examples of several of these verbs and their translations in the present, the imperfect, and, finally, the preterite, via examples from Yabla Spanish's video library.
Let's take a look at some examples of the Spanish verb conocer in the present and imperfect tenses:
porque conozco un sitio muy bueno y podemos ir.
because I know a very good place and we can go.
Caption 67, Cleer Entrevista a GiluancarPlay Caption
Pablo Escobar conocía La Catedral como la palma de la mano,
Pablo Escobar knew La Cathedral like the back of his hand
Caption 42, Los Tiempos de Pablo Escobar Capítulo 2 - Part 6Play Caption
In both the Spanish present indicative and the imperfect tense, the Spanish verb conocer means "to know" in the sense of "being familiar with." However, in the preterite tense, the Spanish verb conocer has a different meaning. Let's take a look:
Cuando yo conocí a mi esposa, hace nueve años, la primera cosa yo le dije a ella, te... tú vas a ser la mamá de mis hijas.
When I met my wife, nine years ago, the first thing I said to her, you... you are going to be the mom of my daughters.
Captions 52-54, La Sub30 Familias - Part 4Play Caption
As you can see in this example, as the preterite tense in Spanish limits an action to a specific moment in time, the meaning of the Spanish verb conocer changes to "to meet" in the Spanish preterite tense.
Detrás de mí podemos observar la ciudad antigua
Behind me, we can observe the old city
Caption 11, Ciudad de Panamá Denisse introduce la ciudadPlay Caption
Yo pensé que podía saltar muy alto.
I thought I could jump really high.Play Caption
So, how does the meaning of the Spanish verb poder transform in the preterite?
Es que no entiendo cómo pudo entrar aquí.
It's just that I don't understand how he managed to get in here.Play Caption
Although "It's just that I don't understand how he was able to get in here" could also be a viable translation, in some contexts, this English rendition would not make it clear whether someone actually did something or merely had the ability to do so. Hence, the important thing to remember when the Spanish verb poder is conjugated in the Spanish preterite tense is that it ceases to describe merely the potential for something to happen and states that it actually did. "To manage" (to do something) is thus a common translation for the Spanish verb poder in the preterite tense that makes this distinction clear.
The meaning of no poder in both the present and imperfect tenses in Spanish is pretty straightforward: "to not be able to," in other words, "can't" in the present and "couldn't" in the (imperfect) past:
¿Cómo que no pueden hacer nada? ¿Cómo que no pueden hacer nada más?
What do you mean you can't do anything? What do you mean you can't do anything else?
Caption 17, Yago 3 La foto - Part 2Play Caption
Y no podía estudiar.
And I couldn't study.
Caption 1, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 5 - Part 3Play Caption
So, what about the preterite? If we know that the preterite form of the Spanish verb poder means "to manage to" do something, it follows that the preterite form of no poder can mean "to not manage to," or, better yet, "to fail to" to do something.
Si usted no pudo controlar su matrimonio ¿cómo va a controlar y dirigir y manejar el interés público?
If you failed to control your marriage, how are you going to control and direct and manage public interest?
Captions 58-59, Muñeca Brava 43 La reunión - Part 3Play Caption
While we might alternatively translate "si usted no pudo controlar su matrimonio" as "you couldn't control your marriage" or "you weren't able to control your marriage," the important thing to remember is that the verb poder in the preterite means that something in the past was attempted but did not come to fruition.
The Spanish verb saber typically means "to know" (in the sense of facts or information) in the present, imperfect, etc.:
No es información nueva, y ellas lo saben.
It's not new information, and they know it.Play Caption
Sí. Si algo sabíamos era que la plata no crece en los árboles.
Yes. If we knew anything, it was that money didn't grow on trees.
Caption 28, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 10 - Part 2Play Caption
However, because the preterite tense in Spanish narrows the timeline of such "knowing" down to a specific moment, the meaning of the Spanish verb saber transforms, in the preterite tense, from "to know" to "to find out":
A tal punto que yo me alegré mucho, mucho, cuando supe que ibas a pasar veinticinco años en la cárcel.
To the point that I was very happy, very, when I found out you were going to spend twenty-five years in prison.
Captions 56-57, Yago 14 La peruana - Part 1Play Caption
The verb tener in Spanish means "to have" in most tenses, as in the following excerpts:
Todas las estaciones tienen sus ventajas.
All of the seasons have their advantages.
Caption 42, Clara explica El tiempo - Part 2Play Caption
Tenía una casa pues, amueblada de cuatrocientos metros
I had a, well, furnished, four-hundred meter house,
Caption 79, 75 minutos Gangas para ricos - Part 8Play Caption
And, although the meaning of the Spanish verb tener doesn't always change in the preterite, it sometimes takes on the meaning of "to receive" or "to get," as in the case of: Tuve una carta (I got a letter). Let's look at an additional example:
Y bueno, ahí tuve otras proposiciones, que no eran tampoco un sueño, pero eran mucho más interesantes que lo que tenía en Cuba,
And well, there, I got other proposals, which weren't a dream either, but they were much more interesting than what I had in Cuba,
Captions 49-51, Orishas Entrevista Canal PlusPlay Caption
6. Querer (to want)
The verb querer in Spanish most often means "to want." Let's see it in action:
Amigos de Yabla, hoy los queremos invitar a aprender español
Friends of Yabla, today we want to invite you to learn Spanish
Captions 1-2, El Hatillo, Caracas, Venezuela El cuatroPlay Caption
Yo de niña pensaba que quería ser bailarina. ¿Qué pensabas tú?
As a little girl I thought that I wanted to be a dancer. What did you think?
Caption 20, Conjugación El verbo 'pensar'Play Caption
In the preterite tense, however, the Spanish verb querer "puts a limit" on this past "wanting" and becomes a manner of saying that someone "tried" to do something:
Yo quise ser su amiga, pero no me dejó.
I tried to be his friend, but he didn't let me.Play Caption
In our first two tenses, the Spanish verb phrase no querer means exactly what it sounds like: "to not want." Let's examine some clips that demonstrate this construction in the present and imperfect:
Es que yo no quiero vivir en el centro.
The thing is, I don't want to live in the downtown area.Play Caption
y en un principio le dije que no quería tener un gato en casa.
and at first, I told her I didn't want to have a cat in my home.
Caption 32, Fermín y los gatos Mi gata PoeskaPlay Caption
The preterite form of the Spanish verb querer, on the other hand, means that someone not only "didn't want" to do something at a specific point in the past, they actually didn't (or "wouldn't"):
mi otra hermana, Zoraida Zárraga, mi sobrino, Harold Blanco, que no quisieron presentarse por temor a cámara.
my other sister, Zoraida Zarraga, my nephew, Harold Blanco, who refused to appear due to camera shyness.
Captions 11-13, Coro, Venezuela Relaciones familiaresPlay Caption
So, we see that the meaning of the verb no querer in Spanish can sometimes become to "to refuse" in the preterite tense.
We hope that this lesson has edified you regarding the alternative meanings of some Spanish verbs when they are conjugated in the preterite tense. Can you think of any we missed? Don't forget to tell us with your suggestions and comments.
Welcome to the second part of this lesson where we touch on all the different Spanish verb tenses! So... how many tenses in Spanish did we say there were? Sixteen! In the first part, we covered the ten "official" tenses of the indicative mood, which deals more with concrete facts, in addition to some "bonus" (non-official) tenses. Now, we'll move on to the other two Spanish moods: the subjunctive, where we will cover tenses eleven through sixteen of the Spanish verb paradigm, and the imperative. If you didn't already, we definitely recommend checking out Part 1 of this lesson.
While the indicative mood deals with facts, the subjunctive mood in Spanish, in a nutshell, deals with more abstract notions like wishes, desires, emotions, opinions, and more, which require a whole different set of tenses in Spanish. Although it would be impossible to delve too deeply into the multipronged usage of the subjunctive Spanish mood, we will try to illustrate several cases in which you might come across it. Let's get started!
The present subjunctive is the subjunctive equivalent of the simple present tense. Let's take a look at an example from the Yabla Spanish library:
Si queremos que una persona no nos hable de usted, tenemos que pedir a la persona que nos tutee.
If we want a person to not talk to us in an formal way, we have to ask the person to use "tú" with us.
Captions 24-25, Karla e Isabel Tú y UstedPlay Caption
Note that the reason the subjunctive form is employed here (we can tell it is subjunctive due to its conjugation, hable, which differs from its indicative form, habla) is because the sentence conveys that we want (queremos) for someone not to talk to us in a particular way, which doesn't mean that that person will actually respect our desire. Let's take a look at one more example:
Mejor hablemos de ella.
It's better we talk about her.
Caption 17, NPS No puede ser 1 - El concurso - Part 1Play Caption
Here, the word mejor (better) tips us off that the subjunctive form (hablemos instead of hablamos) is in order due to the expression of someone's opinion about what should happen, which doesn't necessarily mean that it will.
The imperfect subjunctive is the past equivalent of the present subjunctive. We see in the following example that the verb hablar has been conjugated in the imperfect subjunctive (habláramos) instead of in the indicative (hablábamos) due to the expression of desire, once again with the verb querer:
No, no te dije que quería hablar con vos, quería que habláramos los dos.
No, I didn't tell you that I wanted to talk to you; I wanted for us to talk, the two [of us].
Caption 46, Muñeca Brava 43 La reunión - Part 6Play Caption
Another very common use of the imperfect subjunctive is to talk about hypothetical situations. In this case, the imperfect subjunctive is often incorporated into a "si (if) clause" in conjunction with the conditional tense to communicate that "if" something were the case, then something else "would" happen, as in the following clip:
Eh... Si... ¿hablaríamos?... -Hablara. Hablara ruso, me... vi'... ¿vivía?... Viviría. -Viviría en Rusia.
Um... "Si... ¿hablaríamos" [If... we would speak]? -"Hablara" [I spoke]. "Hablara ruso [I spoke Russian], me... vi'... ¿vivía" [I... I'd li'... I used to live]? "Viviría" [I'd live]. -"Viviría en Rusia" [I'd live in Russia].
Captions 22-25, Clase Aula Azul La segunda condicional - Part 7Play Caption
The hypothetical situation the teacher is going for here is: Si hablara ruso, viviría en Rusia (If I spoke Russian, I'd live in Russia). To learn more about this type of construction, we highly recommend the entire series of which this video is a part.
We definitely couldn't come up with any examples of the future subjunctive tense in our Yabla Spanish library because this tense is all but obsolete and is almost never even taught in modern Spanish. For that reason, you may not recognize it due to its different and little-seen conjugations, although you may occasionally come across it in legal documents or literature. We came up with this example:
El que hablare fuerte se echará de lo biblioteca.
Whoever talks loudly will be thrown out of the library.
The future subjunctive could conceivably be used here because the sentence refers to "whoever," rather than known individuals, as well as alluding to a possible future event. However, in modern Spanish, this very same idea would be conveyed with the present subjunctive:
El que hable fuerte se echará de lo biblioteca.
Whoever talks loudly will be thrown out of the library.
The present perfect subjunctive is the equivalent of the present perfect indicative in situations that require the subjunctive, and the verb haber is thus conjugated in its subjunctive form. That said, we'll take this opportunity to mention another case that requires subjunctive: when expressing that something will happen "when" something else happens that hasn't yet, as in the following example:
Cuando se hayan hablado, se van a entender mejor.
When they've talked to each other, they are going to understand each other better.
And, here's an additional example of the present perfect subjunctive from our Spanish video library with different verbs:
Espero que os haya gustado este vídeo sobre esta maravillosa planta y hayáis aprendido algo nuevo.
I hope you've liked this video about this wonderful plant and have learned something new.
Captions 80-81, Fermín La plumeria - Part 1Play Caption
The pluperfect subjunctive is the subjunctive equivalent of the pluperfect tense and is also used to talk about hypothetical situations. It is formed with the pluperfect form of haber plus the participle, and, like the imperfect subjunctive, it is often used in conjunction with the conditional or conditional perfect to describe what "would have" happened if something else "had been" done. Let's see an example:
Si yo hubiera hablado con mi jefe antes, habría evitado cualquier malentendido.
If I had spoken with my boss previously, I would have avoided any misunderstanding.
Let's look an additional example of the pluperfect subjunctive tense, which does not include the conditional:
Es como si nunca hubiéramos hablado.
It's as if we had never talked.
Caption 28, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 8 - Part 6Play Caption
The Spanish phrase como si (as if) quite often precedes verbs in the pluperfect subjunctive tense.
Like the future subjunctive, the future perfect subjunctive is rarely encountered and might only be employed in literary or legal contexts to talk about what will happen in the future if a hypothetical situation "has not" yet occurred. It involves the future subjunctive form of the verb haber plus the participle, as follows:
Si el demandante todavía no hubiere hablado ante el tribunal para la fecha especificada, se desestimará su caso.
If the plaintiff still hasn't spoken before the court by the specified date, his case will be dismissed.
However, the present perfect subjunctive would take the place of the future perfect subjunctive in order to say this today:
Si el demandante todavía no haya hablado ante el tribunal para la fecha especificada, se desestimará su caso.
If the plaintiff still hasn't spoken before the court by the specified date, his case will be dismissed.
Since different verb conjugations are rarely required in English to talk about emotions, desires, or hypotheticals, the subjunctive mood can initially feel quite confusing for English speakers, and we hope that this lesson has this shed some light on some of the possible subjunctive scenarios in Spanish. For more information about the subjunctive in Spanish, the following link with take you to several additional lessons on different aspects of this topic.
Let's conclude our rundown of all Spanish tenses by talking about the "bonus" tenses in the imperative mood (modo imperativo), which are not included in the official classification of the different tenses in Spanish. Also called commands, these Spanish verb tenses are those that tell someone to do something, and they fall into several categories:
Habla con la gente de laboratorio.
Talk to the people from the lab.Play Caption
A ver. Sebas, mi amor, no le hables así a tu papá.
Let's see. Sebas, my love, don't talk to your dad like that.
Caption 30, La Familia Cheveroni Capítulo 1 - Part 2Play Caption
por favor hablá con Andrea; necesito encontrar a mi nieto.
please talk to Andrea; I need to find my grandson.
Caption 59, Muñeca Brava 48 - Soluciones - Part 9Play Caption
Hable más despacio.
"Hable más despacio" [Speak more slowly].Play Caption
Pues no me hablen de costumbre porque luego en vez de ganar, pierdo.
Well don't talk to me about habits because then instead of earning, I lose.Play Caption
Con vosotros o vosotras: Hablad más despacio.
With "vosotros" or "vosotras" ["you" plural informal masculine/feminine]: "Hablad más despacio" [Talk more slowly].
Caption 25, Carlos explica El modo imperativo 1: Tú + vosPlay Caption
No nos habléis de esa forma.
Don't speak to us in that way.
Hablemos de otra palabra.
Let's talk about another word.Play Caption
While we won't get into the norms for conjugating all of these types of commands with -ar, -er, and -ir verbs, we recommend Yabla's four-part video series entitled El modo imperativo (The Imperative Mode), beginning here, which explores this topic.
And that wraps up our lesson on all of the verb tenses in Spanish. We hope you've enjoyed it (and learned a lot)! And don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.
Today, we will embark on a brief journey that encompasses all the Spanish verb tenses. However, rather than focusing on how to conjugate the verb tenses in Spanish, which you may or may not have already learned, we'll take a closer look at when to use each one, using the extremely common verb hablar ("to talk" or "to speak") to illustrate them whenever possible, as well as plenty of examples from the Yabla Spanish video library.
How many different tenses in Spanish are there in total? According to the Real Academia Española, there are sixteen Spanish verb tenses. There are also some "bonus tenses," which aren't officially included in their classification, which we will also cover in this lesson. Let's get started.
To make matters just a bit more complicated, Spanish verb tenses fall into three categories called "moods," which are the indicative, the subjunctive, and the imperative. Generally speaking, the indicative verb tenses in Spanish are the first Spanish verb tenses learned, and, in contrast to the Spanish verb tenses in the other moods (subjunctive and imperative), they tend to deal with facts and objective reality. Let's take a look:
Let's start with the present tense in Spanish, also known as the "simple present." This tense is primarily used in two ways, the first being to talk about a present action that is habitual, repeated, or ongoing. Let's take a look:
Aunque soy extranjero, yo hablo español muy bien.
Although I'm a foreigner, I speak Spanish very well.Play Caption
Since it is an ongoing fact that the speaker speaks Spanish very well, it is appropriate to use the present tense. We can also use this tense to talk about an action that is actually in progress at the moment:
¿Hablo con la Señora Pepa Flores, la manager de Amalia Durango?
Am I speaking with Mrs. Pepa Flores, Amalia Durango's manager?
Captions 37-38, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 1 - Part 5Play Caption
Notice that the second example of the present tense was translated to the English present progressive tense. This is the tense with a form of the word "to be" and the gerund, or -ing form of a verb ("I'm eating," "He's swimming," etc.). The present progressive tense in Spanish, which is similarly formed with a present conjugation of the verb estar (to be) and a verb's gerundio (gerund, which usually ends in -ando or -iendo in Spanish), is always translated in this fashion and really emphasizes that an action is in progress at this very moment. Let's take a look:
OK. Xavi, ahora que estamos hablando de... de comida, de alimentos, quisiera hacerte una pregunta.
OK. Xavi, now that we're talking about... about food, about foods, I'd like to ask you a question.Play Caption
For more information about and examples of the present progressive tense in Spanish, check out this lesson as well as this video that contrasts the use of the simple present with the present progressive. Now that we've seen a couple of the present verb tenses in Spanish, let's check out some of the Spanish past tenses.
The imperfect is one of the Spanish past tenses and talks about an action that was ongoing or habitual in the past or that was in progress and/or interrupted in the moment described. Translations for the imperfect in Spanish for the verb hablar could thus include "used to talk," "would talk," or "was talking." Let's take a look at couple of examples:
Bueno, cuando yo era pequeña hablaba con la ficha de Einstein.
Well, when I was little, I used to talk to the Einstein card.
Caption 36, La Familia Cheveroni Capítulo 1 - Part 3Play Caption
Ya que estás, contanos a los dos... ¿De qué hablaban?
Now that you're here, tell us both... What were you talking about?
Caption 2, Muñeca Brava 45 El secreto - Part 6Play Caption
To learn more about the imperfect tense in Spanish, check out this lesson entitled: The Imperfect Tense in Spanish: The Past That Just Won't Quit.
The past equivalent of the present progressive tense is the past progressive tense, which emphasizes that an action in the past was in progress. As with the present and present progressive tenses, while the imperfect tense in Spanish can sometimes be translated with the past progressive in English ("I was eating," "You were running," etc.), the past progressive tense in Spanish is always translated in this fashion, with "was" or "were" plus a verb's gerund. It is formed in the same way as the present progressive except that the verb estar is conjugated in the imperfect tense:
Le hemos despistado. -Porque estaba hablando.
We've confused her. -Because she was talking.
Caption 59, Jugando a la Brisca En la callePlay Caption
The preterite is another one of the Spanish past tenses. In contrast to the imperfect tense, the preterite tense in Spanish describes past actions that have been completed. It could be compared with verbs ending in -ed in English (e.g. "He fished," "We traveled," etc.). Let's see an example:
Pero claro, en Televisión Española me hablaron de Gastón Almanza
But of course, at Spanish Television they talked to me about Gaston AlmanzaPlay Caption
The preterite is also used for past actions that interrupted other actions in progress, which would often be conjugated in the imperfect, as in the following example:
Yo hablaba por teléfono cuando mi novio me habló con una voz muy alta.
I was talking on the phone when my boyfriend talked to me in a very loud voice.
To find out more about the preterite tense, we recommend this lesson from our Yabla lesson archives.
The future tense in Spanish is pretty straightforward; it talks about something we "will" do in the future. Let's take a look:
Hoy hablaremos de las preposiciones de lugar.
Today, we will talk about prepositions of place.
Caption 9, Ana Carolina Preposiciones de lugarPlay Caption
Interestingly, sometimes the Spanish future tense is used in situations where English speakers would employ "would" to imply disbelief:
¿Y tú me hablarás de esta manera?
And you'd talk to me like that?
So, what about the Spanish conditional tenses? The simple conditional tense is the typical Spanish equivalent of saying one "would" do something in English, often in a hypothetical situation:
Bueno, si yo fuera tú, hablaría con él.
Well, if I were you, I would speak with him.Play Caption
This tense is often, but not always, seen in conjunction with the imperfect subjunctive tense (fuera, or "I were" in the example above), which we will cover in part two of this lesson, to specify that if some hypothetical situation "were" in place, something else "would" happen.
Although this tense is called the present perfect in English, its Spanish name is préterito perfecto ("preterite perfect" or "past perfect"), and it is the Spanish past tense used to say that one "has done" something within a specific time period, which could be anything from that day to one's life. It is formed with the verb haber, which is translated as "has" or "have" in English, along with the participle form of the verb (which will typically have the suffix -ado or -ido in Spanish and -ed or -en in English). Let's take a look:
El día de hoy, hemos hablado de artículos que utilizamos al día a día
Today, we've talked about items we use every day
Caption 41, Ana Carolina Artículos de aseo personalPlay Caption
Interestingly, in Spain, the present perfect is often used to describe things that happened in the recent past in situations in which English speakers would use the simple past and Latin Americans would more likely use the preterite. This usage can be seen quite clearly throughout this video from El Aula Azul. Let's take a look at an excerpt:
Pero cuando ha salido de clase, cuando hemos terminado la clase, ha ido a coger el coche, y resulta que la ventanilla estaba rota.
But when she's left class, when we've finished the class, she's gone to get her car, and it turns out that the window was broken.
Captions 12-14, El Aula Azul Conversación: Un día de mala suertePlay Caption
Although the translators at Yabla chose to translate this tense literally in this video to facilitate the learning of the present perfect tense, this sounds quite awkward in English, where a native speaker would probably say: "But when she left class, when we finished the class, she went to get her car, and it turns out that the window was broken."
In this video, Carlos provides an even more thorough explanation about when to use this tense as part of a useful four-part series on the different past tenses in Spanish.
The pluperfect is the past equivalent of the present perfect tense. It is formed with the imperfect conjugation of the verb haber and the participle form of the infinitive. It is often used to describe things we "had" already done when something else occurred.
que no era tan escandalosa como... como la gente había hab'... había hablado al principio.
That it wasn't as scandalous as... as the people had sa'... had said in the beginning.
Captions 41-42, Los Juegos Olímpicos Pablo HerreraPlay Caption
Also known as the preterite perfect, the past anterior tense is extremely similar to the pluperfect tense but employs the preterite conjugation of the verb haber plus the participle. It is used more commonly in literature and less in everyday speech. While we couldn't find an example of this tense with the verb hablar, we did find one with the verb coger (to grab):
Apenas lo hubo cogido, el niño se despertó.
He'd barely grabbed it, the little boy woke up.
Captions 46-47, Chus recita poemas Antonio MachadoPlay Caption
Just in case you were wondering, an example sentence with the verb hablar might be: Yo ya hube hablado con mi maestra antes del examen (I had already spoken to my teacher before the test), and there would be no difference in translation between this sentence and the same sentence with the verb conjugated in its pluperfect form (Yo ya había hablado con mi maestra antes del examen).
If one said, Yo ya habré hablado con el chico por teléfono antes de conocerlo cara a cara (I will have already spoken to the guy on the phone before meeting him face to face), he or she would be employing the future perfect tense, which includes the future tense conjugation of the verb haber plus the participle. This conveys the English construction "will have." Let's take a look at an example of this tense from the Yabla Spanish library:
Ay, ¿por qué se me habrá ocurrido comer bandeja paisa antes de que me encerraran, ah?
Oh, why would it have occurred to me to eat "bandeja paisa" [a Colombian dish] before they locked me up, huh?
Captions 27-28, La Familia Cheveroni Capítulo 1 - Part 3Play Caption
In this example, we see that, similarly to the future tense, the future perfect tense can also be used to express disbelief, and it is translated with the English word "would" (rather than "will") in such cases.
The conditional perfect tense in Spanish is the equivalent of saying "would have" in English. It utilizes the conditional form of the verb haber plus the participle to talk about what one "would have" done or what "would have" happened in a hypothetical situation:
Seguro que a él sí le habrían aceptado las invitaciones.
Surely they would have accepted his invitations.
Caption 24, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 6 - Part 5Play Caption
An example with the verb hablar would be: Si lo pudiera hacer otra vez, habría hablado con el chico que me gustaba (If I could do it again, I'd have spoken to the guy I liked). Yabla's lesson, "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda," expands upon the conditional perfect tense and more.
Once you know all Spanish tenses in the indicative mood, you could also conjugate the verb estar in its many tenses to come up with additional progressive tenses, as follows:
Preterite Progressive (Pretérito continuo): Yo estuve hablando (I was talking)
Conditional Progressive (Condicional continuo): Yo estaría hablando (I would be talking)
Future Progressive (Futuro continuo): Yo estaré hablando (I will be talking)
We could even apply this to the compound tenses we learned:
Present Perfect Progressive (Pretérito perfecto continuo): Yo he estado hablando (I have been talking)
Pluperfect Progressive (Pretérito pluscuamperfecto continuo): Yo había estado hablando (I had been talking)
Conditional Perfect Progressive (Condicional compuesto continuo): Yo habría estado hablando (I would have been talking)
Future Perfect Progressive (Futuro compuesto continuo): Yo habré estado hablando (I will have been talking)
That was a lot of Spanish verb tenses!!! And that was just the first ten verb tenses in Spanish! Part two of this lesson will deal with the verb tenses in Spanish in the other two "moods," subjunctive and imperative. In the meantime, we hope you enjoyed part one of this lesson on Spanish verb tenses... and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.
How do we talk about an action in progress in Spanish? We use the Spanish present progressive tense, which we'll explore in this lesson.
What is present progressive in Spanish? Simply put, the present progressive tense in Spanish describes actions that are unfolding as we speak, at this moment. Also called the present progressive, its English equivalent includes some form of the verb "to be" in present tense along with the gerund, or -ing form, of a verb. Some examples include: "I'm reading," "You are watching TV," or "We are eating dinner." The Spanish present progressive, which we'll learn to conjugate, takes a very similar form.
So, when exactly do we use the present progressive tense in Spanish? And, what's the difference between the simple present and the Spanish present progressive? This can be a bit confusing since there is some overlap in terms of their English translations at times. Let's take a look:
¿Qué hacés vos acá? -¿Cómo qué hago? Corro.
What are you doing here? -What do you mean, what am I doing? I'm running.
Captions 65-66, Cuatro Amigas Piloto - Part 1Play Caption
Although, much like the present progressive, the simple present tense in Spanish can sometimes be translated into English using the -ing form to say that one "is doing" something in the present, the Spanish simple present tense is also used to describe actions one does on a habitual basis:
¿Y los sábados y domingos, qué haces?
And on Saturdays and Sundays, what do you do?
Caption 19, Español para principiantes Los días de la semanaPlay Caption
That said, if you really want to emphasize and/or remove any doubt that an action is in progress or happening at this moment, it's necessary to use the Spanish present progressive:
Silvia, ¿qué estás haciendo? -Estoy cocinando.
Silvia, what are you doing? -I'm cooking.
Captions 31-32, El Aula Azul Actividades diarias: En casa con SilviaPlay Caption
In fact, this last caption is from a video by El Aula Azul that simply and clearly demonstrates the difference between the simple present tense and the present progressive tense in Spanish.
Now that you know when to use the present progressive in Spanish, let's learn how to conjugate present progressive verbs in Spanish. To start, let's review (or learn!) the simple present conjugation of the verb estar (to be), which will convey the idea of "am" or "are":
Yo estoy (I am)
Tú estás (You are)
Él/ella/usted está (He, she is/you are)
Nosotros/nosotras estamos (We are)
Vosotros/vosotras estáis (You are [plural])
Ellos/ellas/ustedes están (They/you [plural] are)
Next, we'll need to break up infinitive Spanish verbs into two categories, verbs that end in -ar and verbs that end in either -er or -ir, in order to form their gerunds (gerundios).
To form the gerund for regular -ar verbs, we'll take the verb's stem (the part before the -ar) and add the suffix -ando. For example, for hablar (to talk), we take the stem habl- and add -ando to get hablando. Let's take a look at a few examples of regular -ar verbs in the present progressive tense in Spanish:
Entonces, en este momento, ¿veis?, está hablando con su madre por teléfono.
So, right now, you see? He's talking to his mom on the phone.
Captions 60-61, Clase Aula Azul Información con subjuntivo e indicativo - Part 1Play Caption
Eh... estoy buscando a Milagros.
Um... I am looking for Milagros.
Caption 6, Muñeca Brava 39 Verdades - Part 1Play Caption
Estamos caminando aquí en Bleeker Street
We are walking here on Bleeker Street
Caption 72, Eljuri "Fuerte" EPKPlay Caption
Conjugating regular -er and -ir verbs in the present progressive Spanish tense is just as easy! Simply take the stem (remove the -er or -ir) and add the suffix -iendo. Thus, for correr (to run), we have corr- plus -iendo to get corriendo, and for vivir (to live), we take viv- plus -iendo for viviendo. Let's look at a few more examples:
¿Por qué estás comiendo basura?
Why are you eating garbage?
Caption 9, Kikirikí Agua - Part 4Play Caption
Está subiendo, está subiendo la rama.
He's climbing, he's climbing the branch.
Caption 98, Animales en familia Un día en Bioparc: CoatísPlay Caption
¿Dónde estáis vendiendo aceite?
Where are you selling oil?
Caption 1, 75 minutos Del campo a la mesa - Part 14Play Caption
Although the Spanish present progressive tense is arguably one of the easier verbs to learn to conjugate in Spanish, there are some irregular verbs, of course, which fall into a few categories. Let's examine those categories of verbs with irregular conjugations in the Spanish present progressive.
Verbs with the endings -aer, -eer, -oir, and -uir change from -iendo to -yendo in the Spanish present progressive. Here are some examples:
traer: trayendo (to bring/bringing)
caer: cayendo (to fall/falling)
leer: leyendo (to read/reading)
creer: creyendo (to believe/believing)
construir: construyendo (to build/building)
huir: huyendo (to escape/escaping)
oír: oyendo (to hear/hearing)
Interestingly, the present progressive form of the verb ir (to go) is also yendo:
Sí, me venía a despedir porque ya me estoy yendo.
Yes, I came to say goodbye because I'm leaving now.
Caption 90, Muñeca Brava 39 Verdades - Part 5Play Caption
Some verbs that change stems in the Spanish simple present tense also have an irregular form in the Spanish present progressive. Verbs whose stems change from -e to -ie (e.g. sentir becomes yo siento, tú sientes, etc.) or -e to -i (vestir changes to yo visto, tú vistes, etc.) tend to change stems from an -e to an -i in the Spanish present progressive as well, while maintaining the suffix -iendo. Let's take a look at some common examples:
sentir: sintiendo (to feel/feeling)
preferir: prefiriendo (to prefer/preferring)
mentir: mintiendo (to lie/lying)
vestir: vistiendo (to dress/dressing)
seguir: siguiendo (to follow/following)
conseguir: consiguiendo (to get/getting)
On the other hand, verbs that change from an -o to a -ue in the simple present often change from an -o to a -u in the Spanish present progressive while maintaining their regular ending (-iendo). Examples include poder ("to be able," which morphs into yo puedo, tú puedes, etc.), dormir (to sleep," which becomes yo duermo, tú duermes, etc.), and morir ("to die," which transforms to yo muero, tú mueres, etc.). Let's look:
poder: pudiendo (to be able/being able)
dormir: durmiendo (to sleep/sleeping)
morir: muriendo (to die/dying)
Verbs in this fourth category also change from -e to -i in the simple present (e.g. reír, or "to laugh," becomes yo río, tú ríes, etc.) but also have an -e before the -ir ending. In this case, the -e is dropped, while the ending -iendo is maintained, as follows:
reír: riendo (to laugh/laughing)
sonreír: sonriendo (to smile/smiling)
freír: friendo (to fry/frying)
The aforementioned irregular verbs in the present progressive in Spanish by no means constitute an exhaustive list, and although the rules that dictate which verbs are irregular might seem daunting, with increased exposure to Spanish, conjugating such irregular verbs in the present progressive in Spanish should become intuitive in no time!
Let's conclude today's lesson by looking at an example from each of the aforementioned categories of irregular present progressive verbs in Spanish:
Ellos están construyendo la puerta de entrada al santuario de burros.
They're building the entry gate to the donkey sanctuary.
Caption 25, Amaya VoluntariosPlay Caption
Esa mujer nos está mintiendo y quiero saber por qué.
That woman is lying to us and I want to know why.Play Caption
¡Aldo, tu hermano se está muriendo y a vos lo único que te interesa es la herencia!
Aldo, your brother is dying, and the only thing that interests you is the inheritance!
Caption 63, Yago 3 La foto - Part 5Play Caption
Se está riendo de todos nosotros.
He's laughing at all of us.Play Caption
That's all for today. For more information on the present progressive Spanish tense, check out our latest video from El Aula Azul on that very topic! And don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.
What is the imperfect tense in Spanish? In contrast to the Spanish preterite, or simple past tense, which typically describes completed actions in the past, the imperfect tense in Spanish depicts past actions that were carried out regularly, over a longer period of time, or were in progress at a specified point. In addition to these uses of the imperfect tense in Spanish, there are other specific contexts in which it is necessary to use this tense, many of which we hope to illuminate for you today.
Let's take a look at some situations in which it is necessary to use the Spanish imperfect tense.
The imperfect tense in Spanish distinguishes actions that occurred on a habitual basis in the past from isolated incidents. Let's begin to understand this by examining how this idea might be expressed in English:
When I was young, I used to visit my grandparents every summer.
When I was young, I would visit my grandparents every summer.
When I was young, I visited my grandparents every summer.
Interestingly, all of these English sentences could be translated to Spanish using the same sentence in the imperfect tense: "Cuando yo era joven, visitaba a mis abuelos todos los veranos." This is because, despite their structural differences, they all mean the same thing: that the speaker would regularly visit his or her grandparents in the past.
Armed with this idea that the imperfect tense in Spanish can encompass various English constructions, let's take a look at some additional examples of sentences with verbs in the imperfect tense:
Cuentan los cronistas que veían desfilar a las tropas bajando desde lo que era el Cuartel de San Telmo hasta lo que hoy es conocido como el Bulevar donostiarra,
The chroniclers tell that they would see the troops parading, coming down from what used to be the San Telmo Barracks to what is known today as the "Bulevar donostiarra" [Donostiarra Boulevard]
Captions 26-28, Días festivos La Tamborrada de San SebastiánPlay Caption
eh... -Sí. -... practicaba fútbol.
um... -Yes. -...I used to play soccer.
Caption 27, Club 10 Capítulo 2 - Part 2Play Caption
In this second example, although an English speaker might say either, "Oh! I used to play soccer too!" or "Oh! I played soccer too!" to talk about something he or she did regularly at a previous juncture, the Spanish language would always employ the imperfect tense to distinguish this as a habitual action in the past. In contrast, if the speaker had just completed a game of soccer yesterday, he would instead use the preterite tense:
Ayer practiqué fútbol.
I played soccer yesterday.
All that said, at the moment of constructing a sentence, in order to decide when to use the imperfect tense in Spanish, an English speaker must consider whether a past action took place just once or over an extended period, in which case it will be necessary to choose the imperfect tense.
The imperfect tense in Spanish is also used to describe past actions that were incomplete or interrupted at the depicted moment. Let's take a look:
Vi que me acompañaba, mientras yo cantaba. -Sí.
I saw that you were accompanying me while I was singing. -Yes.
Caption 28, Yago 1 La llegada - Part 7Play Caption
Notice that imperfect verbs that describe past actions in progress are most commonly (but again, not always) expressed in English in the past progressive tense, e.g., "You were accompanying," "I was singing," etc. The same can be said of interrupted past actions, where the action in progress is conjugated in the imperfect tense in Spanish, while the interrupting action is in the preterite tense:
OK, o sea que vos pensás que yo iba por la calle y de repente conocí a una chica y la llevé a una obra en construcción para seducirla.
OK, in other words, you think that I was going down the street and suddenly, I met a girl and took her to a construction site to seduce her.
Captions 22-23, Muñeca Brava 45 El secreto - Part 2Play Caption
Me sentía perdido hasta que un día me llegó un email.
I was feeling lost until, one day, I got an email.
Caption 24, Con ánimo de lucro Cortometraje - Part 10Play Caption
Notably, although the Spanish past progressive tense can also be used to describe incomplete or interrupted actions in some cases (e.g. Yo cocinaba cuando mi marido llegó a casa and Yo estaba cocinando cuando mi marido llegó a casa both mean "I was cooking when my husband got home"), in our examples above, the imperfect tense in Spanish would be the more likely choice.
Since they tend to be ongoing, rather than having a definite beginning or end, the imperfect tense in Spanish is additionally used to describe physical and other characteristics of people or things in the past.
Tenía una barba blanca que le llegaba hasta la cintura y una larga cabellera. Tenía además una corona dorada y vestía un manto blanco.
He had a white beard that went down to his waist and long hair. He also had a golden crown and wore a white robe.
Captions 12-14, Aprendiendo con Carlos América precolombina - El mito de BochicaPlay Caption
Pero no era la... mi... la Connie, mi esposa, sino era la otra, la rubia, que era muy bonita de ojos azules.
But it wasn't the... my... Connie, my wife, but rather it was the other one, the blonde, who was very pretty with blue eyes.
Captions 29-30, Gonzalo el Pintor Vida - Part 1Play Caption
Tenía su pata rota. Esta pata de aquí, la tenía rota.
His leg was broken. This leg here, it was broken.
Captions 17-18, Amaya La historia de LukasPlay Caption
Desde cuando tenía doce años, más o menos.
Since I was twelve years old, more or less.Play Caption
Additionally, since "setting the scene" might entail recounting what day or time it "was," dates and times must be described in the Spanish imperfect tense:
Eran las cinco de la tarde.
It was five o'clock in the evening.
ya que recuerdo que hacía un calor terrible, aunque todavía era el mes de junio,
as I remember that it was terribly hot, despite the fact that it was still the month of June,
Captions 38-39, Fermín y los gatos Mi gata PoeskaPlay Caption
The imperfect tense in Spanish is also utilized to speak about emotions in the past:
Un poquito y ajá, y estaba triste porque dejaba mi familia y eso y ya.
A little bit, and uh-huh, and I was sad because I was leaving my family and all that and that's it.
Caption 70, Cleer Entrevista a LilaPlay Caption
Todos en la casa estaban muy emocionados
Everyone in the house was very excited,
Caption 17, Cuentos de hadas Cenicienta - Part 1Play Caption
So... when do you use the imperfect tense in Spanish? We hope that this lesson has made it more clear that, in contrast to the Spanish preterite tense, the Spanish imperfect is reserved for past events that "kept on going" for an extended period. For more examples of imperfect tense in Spanish, we recommend Carlos' video on this topic, where he explores not only when to use imperfect tense in Spanish, but also how to conjugate its regular and some of its most common irregular forms.
That's all for today, and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.
What are reflexive verbs in Spanish? A reflexive verb is a verb in which the subject (person or thing that completes the action) and object (person or thing that receives the action) are one in the same. In other words, the action "reflects back" onto the subject, or entails something one does to or for him or herself. It is no wonder then, that many of the things we "do to ourselves" in our daily routines (e.g. shaving ourselves, washing ourselves, etc.) fall into the category of reflexive Spanish verbs.
How can we recognize Spanish reflexive verbs? The main way to distinguish reflexive verbs in Spanish is by the fact that they all end in the pronoun se in their infinitive form. To take a very simple example, while the verb hablar means "to talk," hablarse is a reflexive verb meaning "to talk to oneself." However, the translations for reflexive verbs in Spanish aren't always so straight-forward.
As we often say just "I shave" or "I wash" in lieu of "I shave/wash myself," the English translations of Spanish reflexive verbs won't always include pronouns like "myself," "yourself," etc. In other cases, the meanings of verbs like parecer (to seem) completely change in their reflexive forms (parecerse means "to look like"). And so, as there are a lot more reflexive verbs in Spanish than in English, many of which may not "seem" reflexive, with increased exposure to Spanish, we will learn which English concepts are expressed with Spanish reflexive verbs.
To conjugate reflexive verbs in Spanish, we must memorize the reflexive pronouns that correspond to each personal pronoun: yo (I), tú (you), etc.). Reflexive pronouns are most often placed before the verb, which is conjugated "as usual" (in the same way as its non-reflexive form). To demonstrate this, let's take a look at the reflexive pronouns and the simple present conjugation of the regular verb hablar. We will then show you the conjugation of its reflexive form (hablarse).
|Personal Pronoun||Reflexive Pronoun||Hablar||Hablarse|
|él, ella, usted||se||habla||se habla|
|ellos/as, ustedes||se||hablar||se hablan|
Now that you know the Spanish reflexive pronouns and how to conjugate reflexive Spanish verbs, let's take a look at some examples of reflexive verbs in Spanish for describing things that many of us do on a daily basis, with lots of instances from our Yabla video library as always! Here is our list of Spanish reflexive verbs for your daily routine:
The Spanish reflexive verb despertarse means "to wake up":
y por la mañana me despierto entre seis y cuarenta y cinco a siete y cuarto.
and in the morning I wake up between six forty-five and seven fifteen.Play Caption
After waking up, the next step might be levantarse ("to get up" or "get out of bed"):
Se levanta muy temprano.
She gets up very early.
Caption 51, El Aula Azul Las Profesiones - Part 1Play Caption
In other contexts, the reflexive Spanish verb levantarse could also mean, among other things, "to stand up" or "get up," as from a seat, or even "to rise up against," as in a rebellion.
The Spanish noun baño means "bath," and the verb bañarse can mean "to take a bath" as well. However, as bañarse can also be the more general "to bathe," a person might even use this verb to express the fact that they are taking a shower! Let's look at an example of this reflexive Spanish verb:
Uno se baña todos los días, mijita.
One bathes every day, my girl.
Caption 41, Muñeca Brava 33 El partido - Part 2Play Caption
On the other hand, if a person at the beach expresses their desire to bañarse, rather than wanting to wash the sand off of themselves, they are letting you know they would like to take a dip! The Spanish reflexive verb bañarse can also mean "to go swimming," a translation that often comes as a surprise to English speakers:
No hay muchas olas grandes como en Atacames. Es más tranquilo para bañarse.
There aren't many big waves like in Atacames. It's more peaceful to go swimming.
Captions 62-63, Pipo Un paseo por la playa de AtacamesPlay Caption
In the morning, at night, or after the beach, indeed, one might need to ducharse (to take a shower):
¿Qué está haciendo Silvia? Silvia se está duchando.
What is Silvia doing? Silvia is taking a shower.
Captions 11-12, El Aula Azul Actividades diarias: En casa con SilviaPlay Caption
Note that, in this example, the verb ducharse is conjugated in the present progressive tense. As with the present indicative and all other tenses, verbs are conjugated in the exact same way as they would be were they non-reflexive, with the addition of the appropriate reflexive pronoun.
The reflexive verb in Spanish lavarse generally means "to wash (oneself)." Let's look at an example:
Por ejemplo, "Yo me lavo". La acción recae sobre la persona que realiza la acción. Pero, "Yo lavo los platos".
For example, "Yo me lavo" [I wash myself]. The action falls back upon the person who carries out the action. But, "Yo lavo los platos" [I wash the dishes].
Captions 45-48, Lecciones con Carolina Verbos reflexivosPlay Caption
In this informative video about Spanish reflexive verbs, Yabla fan favorite Carolina explains the difference between reflexive and non-reflexive verbs, in this case the verbs lavar (to wash) and lavarse (to wash oneself). Let's look at an additional example:
Yo me lavo las manos. Tú te lavas las manos.
I wash my hands. You wash your hands.
Captions 19-20, Fundamentos del Español 9 - Verbos ReflexivosPlay Caption
Unlike in English, where we express the idea of washing one's hands or some other body part with a possessive pronoun (my, your, etc.), this is not the case in Spanish. Instead, we use the definite article for the noun in question, manos (hands), in this case, las (the). Because the reflexive pronoun already indicates that the action is something we do to ourselves, it would be redundant in Spanish to say: Yo me lavo mis manos. As the correct way to express this is "Yo me lavo las manos," it might help you to remember the literal but non-sensical translation: "I wash myself the hands."
That said, let's move on to something else that's expressed with the notion of "washing" in Spanish: lavarse los dientes (to brush one's teeth).
Lavarse los dientes (literally "to wash one's teeth") is one of saying "to brush one's teeth" in Spanish:
Después, ehm... suelo lavarme los dientes en el baño,
After that, um... I usually brush my teeth in the bathroom,
Caption 3, El Aula Azul Actividades DiariasPlay Caption
Different countries, regions, or individuals might instead use cepillarse los dientes, which also means "to brush one's teeth." Let's check out an example in the preterite tense:
Se cepilló los dientes,
He brushed his teeth,
Caption 20, Aprendiendo con Carlos El microrrelato - Part 2Play Caption
By extension, the noun el cepillo means "the brush," and we might have a cepillo de dientes (toothbrush) as well as a cepillo de pelo/cabello (hair brush), as in the following caption:
Sí... -¿Qué necesitamos para ir allí? El cepillo de dientes. El cepillo del pelo.
Yes... -What do we need to go there? A toothbrush. A hair brush.
Captions 49-51, Un Viaje a Mallorca Planificando el viajePlay Caption
So, you've probably surmised by now that the verb cepillarse el pelo/cabello means "to brush one's hair."
The verb peinarse can mean "to comb one's hair" with a comb (un peine), "to brush one's hair," or "to do" or "style" one's hair in general:
Por eso paró en la playa para mirarse en el espejo y peinarse.
That's why she stopped on the beach to look at herself in the mirror and comb her hair.
Captions 21-22, Guillermina y Candelario Mi Amiga la SirenaPlay Caption
Afeitarse is the verb for "to shave" (oneself, of course)!
Vos sabés lo que es todas las mañanas... mirarse en el espejo cuando uno se afeita
Do you know what it's like every morning... to look at oneself in the mirror when one's shaving,
Captions 30-31, Muñeca Brava 8 Trampas - Part 13Play Caption
The next step in one's morning routine might be maquillarse (to put on makeup):
Aquí, siempre me maquillo para mis conciertos.
Here, I always put on makeup for my concerts.
Caption 47, Ariana Mi CasaPlay Caption
Alternatively, one might say Aquí, siempre me pinto para mis conciertos, as pintarse (literally "to paint oneself") also means "to put on makeup."
Vestirse is the way to say "to get dressed" in Spanish.
Yo salgo y... y te vistes.
I'll leave and... and you get dressed.Play Caption
Another way to say this might be ponerse la ropa (to put on one's clothes).
Although sacarse la ropa is one manner of saying "to get undressed" or "take off one's clothes," there are many other examples of reflexive verbs in Spanish that mean the same thing, including: quitarse la ropa, desvestirse, and desnudarse. Let's look at a couple of examples:
Si "Libertinaje" te saca... te invita a sacarte la ropa,
If "Libertinaje" takes off your..... invites you to take off your clothes,
Captions 4-5, Bersuit Vergarabat EPK - Part 1Play Caption
Y se desnuda poco a poco y se convierte en tu piel
And she gets naked little by little and she becomes your skin
Caption 6, Reik InolvidablePlay Caption
As you can see, the more literal "to get naked" might be an alternate translation for desnudarse.
We're finally getting to the end of our daily routine, when it's time for us to acostarnos (go to bed):
Tranquilícese, vaya a acostarse y deje de pensar en imposibles.
Calm down, go to bed, and stop thinking about impossible things.
Caption 31, Muñeca Brava 48 - Soluciones - Part 5Play Caption
And finally, once in bed, it's time to fall asleep! While the non-reflexive dormir means "to sleep," dormirse means "to fall asleep."
Me dormí pensando en ti; pensando en ti, me desperté
I fell asleep thinking about you; thinking about you, I woke up
Caption 10, 75 minutos Del campo a la mesa - Part 13Play Caption
Of course, this is just a partial list of reflexive verbs in Spanish that might be applicable to our daily routines. There are a lot more common reflexive verbs in Spanish that describe things one might do on a daily basis, including secarse (to dry oneself off), sentarse (to sit down), sentirse (to feel), emocionarse (to get excited), encontrarse con alguien (to meet with someone), acordarse de (to remember), olvidarse (to forget), sonreírse (to smile), reírse (to laugh), despedirse (to say goodbye), irse (to leave), and many, many more!
Let's talk about the Spanish conjugation of regular verbs. In particular, let's see how to form the preterite conjugation of regular verbs ending in -ar, -er, and -ir. But first, let's review the main idea behind the preterite tense in Spanish.
In very simple terms, when we talk about the Spanish preterite tense, we are talking about the simple past, in other words, a completed action that took place at a determined point in the past. Let's look at an example from the series where our friend Carlos talks about this tense:
Ayer trabajé hasta las ocho de la noche.
Yesterday I worked until eight at night.Play Caption
In this example, trabajé is the preterite conjugation of the regular verb trabajar for the first-person singular yo (I). Note that the only change necessary to form the preterite in this example is removing the -ar ending of the infinitive verb and replacing it with the ending -é.
There are a couple of things we want to mention about the conjugations you will find throughout this tutorial.
1. While usted (the formal, second-person singular "you") does not appear in our conjugation lists, keep in mind that when using that pronoun, the verb is conjugated in the exact same way as verbs in the third-person singular forms with él (he) and ella (she). Let's take a look at this in action with the preterite conjugation of the verb hablar (to speak/talk):
Usted habló de Fabio Sirenio.
You talked about Fabio Sirenio.
Caption 83, Yago 7 Encuentros - Part 14Play Caption
Entonces él habló con... con los pescadores y los pescadores aceptaron.
So, he spoke with... with the fishermen and the fishermen accepted.
Caption 17, Instinto de conservación Parque Tayrona - Part 6Play Caption
2. In order to offer a more simplistic verb conjugation snapshot, in this article, we only employ the masculine versions of the plural forms nosotros (we), vosotros (you), and ellos (they). That said, keep in mind that the conjugations are the same for the feminine forms nosotras, vosotras, and ellas.
3. Just like usted, ustedes (the standard second person plural "you" in Latin America and the formal second person plural in Spain) does not appear among the conjugations shared here. However, keep in mind that the conjugations of verbs with "ustedes" are the exact same as the third-person plural forms utilized with ellos and ellas (they). Let's look at an example of this with the preterite conjugation of the verb cantar (to sing):
Ustedes cantaron muy bien (You guys sang very well).
Ellos/Ellas cantaron muy bien (They sang very well).
Having said all this, let's explore the preterite conjugations of some regular verbs in Spanish.
Let's take a look at the preterite conjugation of the verb hablar (to speak).
Yo hablé (I spoke).
Tú hablaste (You spoke).
Él/Ella habló (He/She spoke).
Nosotros hablamos (We spoke).*
Vosotros hablasteis (You spoke).
Ellos hablaron (They spoke).
* It's important to note that because the verb conjugation for the first person plural "nosotros" (we) is the same for both the simple present and simple past tenses, the speaker's intention must be determined by context as follows:
Nosotros estudiamos mucho todos los días (We study a lot every day).
Ayer nosotros estudiamos mucho (Yesterday, we studied a lot).
Example 1.: The verb comprar (to buy)
¡Y compraste melones en vez de limones!*
And you bought melons instead of lemons!Play Caption
* Remember that pronouns are frequently omitted in Spanish. Thus, in the example above and without changing the meaning, one could say: "¡Y tú compraste melones en vez de limones!" However, despite the fact that the speaker does not use the pronoun here, the -aste verb ending lets the listener know that the person referred to is "tú" (you).
Example 2.: The verb escuchar (to listen/hear)
La canción que escuchamos introduce la quinta parte del primer episodio
The song that we heard introduces the fifth part of the first episodePlay Caption
Let's take a look at the preterite conjugation of the regular verb comer (to eat).
Yo comí (I ate).
Tú comiste (You ate).
Él/Ella comió (He/She ate).
Nosotros comimos (We ate).
Vosotros comisteis (You ate).
Ellos comieron (They ate).
Example 1.: The verb aprender (to learn)
y aprendí que los pulpos pueden cambiar de color.
and I learned that octopi can change color.
Caption 45, Guillermina y Candelario La Señora PulpoPlay Caption
Example 2.: The verb vender (to sell)
creo que vendimos unos quinientos dólares en unas... tres horas, dos horas.
I think we sold about five hundred dollars (worth) in about... three hours, two hours.
Captions 25-26, Un café con Julia Año nuevoPlay Caption
Let's take a look at the preterite conjugation of the verb vivir (to live).
Yo viví (I lived).
Tú viviste (You lived).
Él/Ella vivió (He/She lived).
Nosotros vivimos (We lived).
Vosotros vivisteis (You lived).
Ellos vivieron (They lived).
Example 1.: The verb escribir (to write)
¿Por qué dices eso? Porque una vez me escribiste contándome que te casabas en Nueva York.
Why do you say that? Because once you wrote to me telling me that you were getting married in New York.
Captions 61-62, Yago 6 Mentiras - Part 5Play Caption
Example 2.: The verb abrir (to open)
Primero, Lisa Bernal abrió la herida,
First, Lisa Bernal opened the wound,
Caption 61, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 6 - Part 4Play Caption
And with this example, we have reached the end of this lesson. But before we go, a little homework for you: go ahead and choose some other regular verbs and practice the Spanish conjugation of the preterite tense. Sooner or later, you will be able to master those preterite endings! We hope you enjoyed this lesson, and don't forget to leave us your comments and suggestions. ¡Hasta la próxima!
Generally speaking, we use the present indicative in Spanish to talk about actions that are taking place at the moment (now). However, that's not the only use of it. Let's take a look at the following list so you can understand how to use the present indicative in Spanish.
Actions that are taking place right at the moment (now):
¿Dónde están las chicas? ¿Las chicas? -Ajá. Lola y Ana. -Uh... Lola y Ana viven aquí.
Where are the girls? The girls? -Uh-huh. Lola and Ana. -Uh... Lola and Ana live here.
Captions 26-29, Extr@: Extra en español Ep. 1 - La llegada de Sam - Part 4Play Caption
In the above sentence, you can see how the verbs estar (to be) and vivir (to live) are conjugated in the present indicative for the third person plural (las chicas/Lola y Ana/ellas... están/viven).
You can also talk about actions that take place over time:
Trabajo en un colegio. Soy maestra de música y de ciencias.
I work at a school. I'm a music and science teacher.
Captions 6-7, Ariana Mi CasaPlay Caption
In this example, you can see the verbs trabajar (to work) and ser (to be) conjugated in the present indicative for the first person singular (yo trabajo/soy).
IMPORTANT! Remember that in Spanish it is very common to drop the pronouns from the sentences. As you can see in the sentence above, Ariana doesn't say "yo trabajo" but rather only "trabajo".
En agosto, vamos a la playa. En septiembre, empieza el otoño.
In August, we go to the beach. In September, the fall begins.
Captions 21-22, El Aula Azul Estaciones y MesesPlay Caption
In the example above, we can see the present indicative of the verb ir (to go) in the first person plural (nosotros vamos) and the present indicative of the verb empezar (to begin) in the third person singular (el otoño empieza).
La Laguna de San Pablo está a los pies del imponente Volcán Imbabura.
The San Pablo Lagoon is at the foot of the imposing Imbabura Volcano.
Caption 13, Otavalo Un día en la ciudad de los lagosPlay Caption
In the example above, Natalia uses the present indicative of the verb estar for the third person singular (está) to state a fact.
You can talk about daily activities and habitual actions using the present indicative:
De lunes a viernes, me levanto a las siete de la mañana.
From Monday to Friday, I get up at seven in the morning.
Caption 2, GoSpanish La rutina diaria de SolPlay Caption
In the above clip, you can see how Sol uses the present indicative of the verb levantarse (yo me levanto) to express one of her habitual actions.
Dante y Mika vienen todos los días a trabajar conmigo aquí al Refugio del Burrito,
Dante and Mika come work with me every day here at the Little Donkey Shelter,
Caption 62, Rosa La perrita MikaPlay Caption
Similarly, Rosa uses the present indicative of the verb venir (to come) to describe something habitual. In this case, the verb is conjugated in the third person plural (Dante y Mika/ellos... vienen).
Did you know that the present indicative can be used for things happening in the near future? Let's see some examples.
Le prometo que termino de morfar y... y salgo a laburar. Va a ver.
I promise you that I'll finish eating and... and go out to work. You'll see.
Caption 63, Yago 8 Descubrimiento - Part 7Play Caption
In this sentence, the speaker is using the present indicative of the verb salir (to go out) in order to express an action that will take place in the near future. Once he's done with his lunch, he will go out to work. The verb is conjugated in the first person singular (yo salgo).
Bueno, pues entonces, no hay que pensarlo más. Mañana hablamos con el jefe y desde la oficina
OK, well then, we don't have to think about it anymore. Tomorrow we'll talk to the boss and from the office
Captions 11-12, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 2 - Part 6Play Caption
In the previous example, you can fully appreciate how the present indicative of the verb hablar (to talk) is used to indicate an action that will take place tomorrow! This may be a bit weird for English speakers but it is a very common formula used by Spanish speakers. The verb is conjugated in the second person plural (nosotros hablamos).
Finally, it is worth mention that in journalism and the academic field, some people like to use the present indicative when referring to historical facts. Let's see the following example:
El Imperio romano cae en el año 476
The Roman Empire falls in the year 476
And that's it for today. We hope this lesson helped you to understand how to use the present indicative in Spanish. And don't forget to send us your comments and questions.
Generally speaking, we use the conditional tense in Spanish to talk about hypothetical things. However, we also use the conditional tense for polite requests or when we want to express wishes and desires. Let's take a look at some simple rules that will help you to master the conditional tense in Spanish.
Before talking about the uses of the conditinal tense, it is important to review how to conjugate it. Let's start with the regular verbs. For these verbs, you just need to take the infinitive form and add the conditional ending.
Let's take the verb hablar (to speak)
Yo hablaría (I would speak)
Tú hablarías (You would speak)
Él/Ella hablaría (He/She would speak)
Nosotros hablaríamos (We would speak)
Vosotros hablaríais (You would speak)
Ellos hablarían (They would speak)
Let's take the verb comer (to eat)
Yo comería (I would eat)
Tú comerías (You would eat)
Él/Ella comería (He/She would eat)
Nosotros comeríamos (We would eat)
Vosotros comeríais (You would eat)
Ellos comerían (They would eat)
Let's take the verb abrir (to open)
Yo abriría (I would open)
Tú abrirías (You would open)
Él/Ella abriría (He/She would open)
Nosotros abriríamos (We would open)
Vosotros abriríais (You would open)
Ellos abrirían (They would open)
There are several irregular verbs that are used all the time in the conditional tense. For these verbs, you need to keep in mind that they maintain the same stem that they have in the future tense. Let's see the conjugation for the verbs decir (to say) and hacer (to make).
Yo diría (I would say)
Tú dirías (You would say)
Él/Ella diría (He/She would say)
Nosotros diríamos (We would say)
Vosotros diríais (You would say)
Ellos dirían (They would say)
Yo haría (I would make)
Tú harías (You would make)
Él/Ella haría (He/She would make)
Nosotros haríamos (We would make)
Vosotros haríais (You would make)
Ellos harían (They would make)
In Spanish, it is quite common to use the conditional tense when you want to do any of the following:
¿Podrías por favor decirnos a los... a nuestros amigos de Yabla
Could you please tell us to the... to our friends from Yabla
en qué lugar están ustedes?
where you guys are?
Captions 66-67, Monsieur Periné - EntrevistaPlay Caption
¿Te gustaría volver a tu ciudad?
Would you like to return to your city?
Pues la verdad es que me encantaría volver a Málaga.
Well the truth is that I would love to go back to Málaga.
Captions 33-34, Clara y Cristina - SaludarPlay Caption
Bueno, si yo fuera tú, hablaría con él.
Well, if I were you, I would speak with him.Play Caption
Cuatro horas es demasiado.
Four hours is too much.
Creo que no llegaría a tiempo a la reunión.
I think that I would not arrive in time for the meeting.
Captions 30-31, Raquel - La Compra de un Billete de TrenPlay Caption
Y que nos juramos que esto nunca iría a pasar
And we vowed to each other that this would never happenPlay Caption
That's it for this lesson. We encourage you to write some sentences for the 5 different uses we mentioned for the conditional tense. And don't forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.
Can you give orders or express requests using the subjunctive? In this lesson, we are going to answer that question. Let's analyze some model sentences to learn how to combine the subjunctive with other moods and tenses. You can read our previous lesson on subjunctive and indicative here.
You can combine the imperative (which is only conjugated in the present tense) with two different tenses of the subjunctive. The easiest and the most common case is when you use the imperative with the present subjunctive. Here are two examples (remember we're using bold for the subjunctive):
Tú haz lo que quieras y yo también.
You do whatever you want and so do I.
Caption 74, Jugando a la Brisca En la callePlay Caption
Y decile a tu amigo que deje de llamarme Vicky.
And tell your friend to quit calling me Vicky.
Caption 19, Muñeca Brava 1 Piloto - Part 4Play Caption
Keep in mind that decí (tell) is typically Argentinian. In other countries, you would hear di (tell): dile a tu amigo (tell your friend).
But going back to the subjunctive, let's analyze the meaning of the expression in the last example. Spanish uses the subjunctive here because what has been said is in the realm of possibilities (in this case, it is the expression of a desire) not in the realm of facts. So you can't say dile que me deja de llamarme Vicky—this is incorrect because the indicative deja (he quits) is reserved to state facts, as in tu amigo deja de llamarme Vicky (your friend quits calling me Vicky).
Another way to phrase the same request could be dile a tu amigo que no me llame Vicky (tell your friend not to call me Vicky). Note that instead of using the verb dejar (to quit) we use a negation plus the verb llamar (to call) in present subjunctive (llame). Again, you could not possibly use the indicative mood here and say dile a tu amigo que no me llama Vicky. This is incorrect— well, at least if what you want to express is a desire or a request.
For the pure pleasure of curiosity, consider an expression in which this last construction could happen, for example: dile a tu amigo que no me llama Vicky que venga a mi fiesta (tell your friend who doesn't call me Vicky to come to my party). See? We use the indicative llama (he calls) to express that it's a fact that he doesn't call Victoria "Vicky," and then we use the subjunctive venga (to come) because it states Victoria's desire for him to come to her party.
But let's not torture ourselves with games and let's see the second case of imperative combined with subjunctive, this time the pretérito perfecto (equivalent to present perfect subjunctive) which is a compound tense that uses the auxiliary verb haber (to have):
Haz lo que te hayan dicho los doctores.
Do whatever the doctors have told you.
Dame lo que hayas cocinado.
Give me whatever you have cooked.
Dime lo que María te haya contado.
Tell me whatever Maria has told you.
This is not exactly an easy tense, right? Compare these sentences with the following ones that use the imperative with the present subjunctive (reviewed first in this lesson):
Haz lo que te digan los doctores.
Do whatever the doctors tell you.
Dame algo de lo que cocines mañana.
Give me some of what you cook tomorrow.
Dime lo que María quiera.
Tell me whatever Maria wants.
The good news is that you can find ways to get away without using the pretérito perfecto del subjuntivo. For example, you can just use the simple past indicative. It's much less... let's say sophisticated, because the subtle meaning of indeterminacy that the subjunctive gives to the expression (which in English is expressed using the word "whatever") gets lost. Still, the past indicative gets the job done:
Haz lo que te dijeron los doctores.
Do what the doctors told you.
Dame lo que cocinaste.
Give me what you cooked.
Dime lo que María te contó.
Tell me what Maria told you.
That's it for today. We hope you liked this lesson and don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions.
¡Hasta la próxima!
The Spanish subjunctive is one of the most challenging concepts for English speakers to master. Even though English does actually have a subjunctive mood (already challenging by itself), its use is more associated with formal and written speech. By contrast, Spanish uses the subjunctive in everyday situations far more often. And it gets even more challenging if you consider the many ways in which the subjunctive can be combined with other moods in Spanish. So let's try to tackle this prickly subject. But instead of talking about rules and grammar, let's try to take a more practical approach by learning and analyzing model sentences.
A brief intro. It's very likely that you have already read a lot about the subjunctive. You know that it is not a tense but a mood. That it doesn't refer to the time when an action takes place (past, present, future, etc.), but rather that it reflects how the speaker feels about it. Therefore, that it's radically different from the most commonly used indicative mood, which expresses factual information, certainty, and objectivity. Very much like an evil twin, the subjunctive is used to express the opposite: things like doubt, uncertainty, subjectivity, etc. We have explored the basic use of the subjunctive before in previous lessons, and you are welcome to explore them again. Some are:
We also have a couple of videos on the subjunctive:
El Aula Azul - La Doctora Consejos - Subjuntivo y condicional
Escuela Don Quijote - En el aula - Part 1
In this lesson we will focus on the use of the subjunctive combined with the indicative mood by studying model sentences. Take note: we will always use bold to highlight the subjunctive and underlining for the indicative. Also, we recommend that you use https://conjuguemos.com if you need to check out the Spanish verb conjugation charts.
The Spanish present subjunctive is notoriously used combined with the indicative present in sentences for which English uses only the indicative. There is a memorable sentence you can use as a model to remember this:
Quiero que me quieras
I want you to want me
Caption 1, Gael García Bernal - Quiero Que Me QuierasPlay Caption
So never say quiero que me quieres, ok? That makes the same sense in Spanish that "I want that you would want me" makes in English. Get it? Another example: don't say no deseo que sufres, instead say no deseo que sufras ( I don't want you to suffer).
Present subjunctive can be combined with indicative future:
Desearé que tengas un buen viaje
I'll wish that you have a good journey
Captions 40-41, Kany Garcia - Hoy Ya Me VoyPlay Caption
Now, you can also combine the past indicative with the past subjunctive. The easiest and most common case is when you combine the pretérito del indicativo (simple past indicative) with pretérito imperfecto subjuntivo (past imperfect subjunctive). Call it the Simple Past Mash-up:
Siempre quise que fueras feliz.
I always wanted you to be happy.
Caption 16, Yago - 3 La foto - Part 6Play Caption
Then you can also combine the pretérito imperfecto del indicativo (imperfect past indicative) with the same pretérito imperfecto subjuntivo (past imperfect subjunctive). As you may know, the imperfect is used to refer to past habitual actions or to set the scene in the past. So if this is of any help to you, you could call this the Habitual Past Mash-up. Here's a model sentence using the same verb querer (to want):
Ella quería que yo leyera.
She wanted me to read.
Caption 17, Carli Muñoz - Niñez - Part 1Play Caption
So, in Spanish you have these two options that translate the same way in English. Feel comfortable using either of them; the difference is quite subtle:
Ella no quizo que yo leyera / Ella no quería que yo leyera.
She didn't want me to read / She (habitually) didn't want me to read.
Note: there are other options to combine the past indicative with the past subjunctive, but we'll skip them since they use compound forms of the verb and are not used that often in common speech. Instead, let's analyze and learn some interesting combinations of present indicative with past subjunctive next.
Spanish speakers use present indicative with past subjunctive and vice versa. This happens with the past perfect tense (either in the subjunctive or in the indicative moods) because of its proximity to the present tense.
When it's present indicative with past subjunctive, it's with the pretérito perfecto subjuntivo, a compound tense in the subjunctive mood that uses the verb haber (to have) plus a participio (the -ado, -ido, -to, -so, -cho ending):
No creo que hayas venido nada más que para decirme algo que yo ya sé.
I don't think that you've come just to tell me something that I already know.
Caption 12, Muñeca Brava - 3 Nueva Casa - Part 10Play Caption
We suggest you to practice this model sentence with other persons and forms of this subjunctive (using different participios as well):
No creo que hayan tomado mucha cerveza / I don't think that they've drunk a lot of beer.
No creo que él haya salido de ahí / I don't think that he has come out of there.
No creo que hayamos impreso eso / I don't think that we've printed that.
No creo que hayas dicho eso / I don't think that you've said that out.
Note also that here no creo (I don't think) is expressing doubt, and that's why the sentence needs the use of subjunctive. If we were to say the opposite, yo creo (I think), we could also combine it with a past tense but in the indicative mood. For the first example: Creo que han tomado mucha cerveza (I think they have drunk a lot of beer).
Finally, the other way around, Spanish speakers can use past indicative with present subjunctive. When this happens it's with the pretérito perfecto indicativo, a compound tense in the indicative mood that uses the verb haber (to have) plus aparticipio (the -ado, -ido, -to, -so, -cho ending):
Él no ha querido que yo diga nada.
He hasn't wanted me to say anything.
And that's it for now. Who said this lesson wouldn't be loaded with grammar? Anyway, we suggest that you learn the model sentences and try to build new ones making substitutions. We will continue next week analyzing sentences that combine subjunctive with other two moods: the conditional and the imperative.
Let's stop by the kitchen of the Di Carlo mansion, setting of preparations for the big gala in Muñeca Brava. The maids are very excited. They want to get a detailed description of how Mili looked as she made her Cinderella-like debut. Notice that Socorrito uses the imperfect tense of both ver (to look) and bajar (to go down, to lower, to descend) when she asks:
...Contame, contame, ¿cómo se la veía cuando bajaba de la escalera?
...Tell me, tell me, how did she look as she was walking down the stairs?
Caption 1, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta - Part 2Play Caption
If you've ever heard anything at all about the imperfect tense, it's that it applies to past actions that are not completed or that are ongoing. We see that quite clearly above in the case of bajaba; Mili "was walking down," an action that was ongoing at the time. However, another rule of the imperfect, one less bandied about, also comes into play here: the imperfect is employed when describing two or more simultaneous past actions. Socorrito wants to know how Mili "looked" (using the imperfect veía) as (at the same point in time) she was going down the stairs.
With her usual enthusiasm, Mariposa definitely puts them in the moment when she answers:
Socorrito, ¡no sabe lo que era! Parecía una princesa.
Socorrito, you can't imagine! She looked like a princess.
Caption 2, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta - Part 2Play Caption
There is yet another well-documented use of the imperfect that we can cite here: its use to "set the scene" or provide background information, especially at the beginning of a larger story. She uses the imperfect era (from ser, to be) when she says ¡no sabe lo que era! which literally translates to "you don't know how it was!" And she employs parecía (she looked like), which is an imperfect conjugation of parecer (to appear as/to look like/to seem like). Mariposa is setting the stage for the fairy tale taking place in the ballroom, and doing so in much the same way one would recite an actual fairy tale (which is no surprise if you remember that Muñeca Brava is a retelling of the Cinderella story).
The start of your average ghost tale or mystery story makes a good illustration of using the imperfect to paint a background picture:
Era una noche oscura y tormentosa, llovía y unos pájaros cantaban a lo lejos.
It was a dark and stormy night. It was raining and a few birds were singing from a distance.
[Note that in Spanish one can also use the past continuous tense, for example estaba lloviendo (it was raining) or estaban cantando (they were singing)—but it would not likely be used by native speakers when setting a scene or providing a backdrop. We'll look at the past continuous, aka past progressive, in a different lesson.]
More well-known to the average student of Spanish is the use of the imperfect to refer to a habitual or repeated action in the past. We saw an example of this in an earlier episode of Muñeca Brava when Milena says to Louise:
Sí, antes nos veíamos siempre.
Yes, we always used to see each other.
Caption 68, Muñeca Brava 18 - La Apuesta - Part 11Play Caption
Y muchas veces la gente se confundía.
And several times people would get confused.Play Caption
The other simple past tense in Spanish (called "simple" because its conjugations are only one word long) is known as preterite and is used for past actions that are completed and non-habitual. We find an example in a recent music video from The Krayolas:
Cuando yo la vi por primera vez me enamoré en un dos por tres
When I saw her for the first time I fell in love with her instantly
Captions 1-2, The Krayolas - Little FoxPlay Caption
The singer uses the preterite vi (saw) instead of the imperfect veía (was seeing/used to see) because he is talking about a specific, completed instance of laying eyes on someone.
Somos dos, nunca sola vas a ir
We are two, you will never go alone
Caption 17, Liquits - Desde QuePlay Caption
Somos dos, juntos vamos a vivir
We are two, together we will live
Caption 19, Liquits - Desde QuePlay Caption
A quick word about the future tense in spoken Spanish: In many cases, it's simply not used. Instead, you commonly hear the present tense of ir (voy, vas, va, vamos, van) followed by a, followed by an infinitive of a verb (such as, ir or vivir). In this song by the Mexican group Liquits, the construction makes for some catchy refrains ("We are two, never alone you are going to go," and "We are two, together we are going to live.") In practical life, non-native Spanish speakers who know their ir may be grateful to buy some extra time to think of just the right vocabulary to express themselves. Voy a... voy a... voy a aprender a hablar con más fluidez, you might finally come out and say. The same sentence using the future tense? Aprenderé a hablar con más fluidez.