Spanish Lessons


How to Use the Present Indicative in Spanish

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.


1. To talk about actions in the present


Actions that are taking place right at the moment (now):


¿Dónde están las chicas?

Where are the girls?

¿Las chicas? -Ajá.

The girls? -Uh-huh.

Lola y Ana. -Uh...

Lola and Ana. -Uh...

Lola y Ana viven aquí.

Lola and Ana live here.

Captions 26-29, Extr@: Extra en español - Ep. 1 - La llegada de Sam

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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.

I work at a school.

Soy maestra de música y de ciencias.

I'm a music and science teacher.

Captions 6-7, Ariana - Mi Casa

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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".


2. To express absolute statements and facts as well as universal truths


En agosto, vamos a la playa.

In August, we go to the beach.

En septiembre, empieza el otoño.

In September, the fall begins.

Captions 21-22, El Aula Azul - Estaciones y Meses

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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

The San Pablo Lagoon is at the foot of the imposing

Volcán Imbabura.

Imbabura Volcano.

Caption 13, Otavalo - Un día en la ciudad de los lagos

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In the example above, Natalia uses the present indicative of the verb estar for the third person singular (está) to state a fact.


3. To talk about routines and repetitive actions

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 Sol

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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

Dante and Mika come work with me every day

aquí al Refugio del Burrito.

here at the Little Donkey Shelter.

Caption 62, Rosa - La perrita Mika

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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).


4. To talk about actions that will take place in the near future


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

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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.

OK, well then, we don't have to think about it anymore.

Mañana hablamos con el jefe y desde la oficina

Tomorrow we'll talk to the boss and from the office

Captions 11-12, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 2

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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 first person plural (nosotros hablamos).


Finally, it is worth mentioning 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.


Trucos: Useful Tricks

Strolling down the historic streets of Burgos, Carlos and María Angeles (who goes by Angeles) tell us about their local nightspots. Pubs, they say, manage to circumvent local laws and keep customers through the night -- until about 8 AM -- by briefly closing and then opening again. Angeles explains:


Sí, son trucos, pequeños truquitos de la picaresca española.

Yes, they're tricks, little tricks of Spanish wiliness.

Captions 78-79, Burgos - Caminando

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Trucos are "tricks." And, as we've explained before, the ending -ito is diminutive, so truquitos are "little tricks." Saying pequeños truquitos is merely repetitive, for effect. It emphasizes that we're talking about "little, harmless tricks." Also: note that truquitos is spelled here with a 'qu' to preserve the hard 'c' sound in Spanish (like 'k' in English).


Hace todo... es muy inteligente, hace todo lo que le pides, se sabe un montón de trucos.

He does everything... he's very smart, he does everything you ask him, he knows a ton of tricks.

Captions 55-56, Rosa - La perrita Mika

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Deberíamos decirle que nos enseñe unos truquitos.

We should tell him to teach us some little tricks.

Caption 5, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 4

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A related word in the first quote of this lesson is the adjective picaresca, which means "rascally" or "picaresque" in the literary sense. Remember, picaresque literature was founded in Spain, "flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe and continues to influence modern literature," according to Wikipedia's entry (in English) on the subject. The genre usually features the adventures of a roguish hero (un pícaro), living by his wits. You might note that Angeles -a Spanish history fan herself- utters the term picaresca with a giggle and a knowing appreciation of the form.


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The Verb Contar in Spanish

Are you familiar with the verb contar and its meanings in Spanish? Beyond its most common translations, which we'll be sure to reveal, this extremely useful verb is used in many additional ways. Let's take a look at some of them. 




Contar for Telling 

One of the most common meanings of contar is "to tell." Let's see this in action:


Abuelo, te voy a contar un secreto.

Grandpa, I'm going to tell you a secret.

Caption 9, Guillermina y Candelario Mi Primer Tesoro

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Soy Rosa Chaparro y os voy a contar la historia de Mika.

I'm Rosa Chaparro, and I'm going to tell you the story of Mika.

Caption 2, Rosa La perrita Mika

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Contar for Counting 

We also use the verb contar when we want to quantify, or "count," things:


Y vamos contando cuántas hierbas tenemos, ¿sí?

And we're counting how many herbs we have, right?

Caption 47, Otavalo Proyecto familiar Kawsaymi - Part 7

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That said, we hope it is now clear that it's one thing contar los números (to count numbers) and another, very different thing contar historias (to tell stories). Context, however, should make it perfectly clear which meaning is meant, which we can see in these two clips from our friend Luis Guitarra:


Para contar los números, podemos usar los dedos de nuestras manos.

To count the numbers, we can use the fingers on our hands.

Captions 5-6, Luis Guitarra Aprendiendo a contar

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Con él, yo aprendí a contar historias.

With him, I learned to tell stories.

Caption 71, Luis Guitarra Influencias musicales - Part 1

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Contar con as an Alternative toTener (to Have)

Rafael, the speaker in the following clips, consistently uses the verb contar coupled with the preposition con where we might have expected to hear tener (to have). Let's take a look:


Cuando uno ya cuenta con familia...

When you already have a family...

Caption 11, Rafael T. - Viaje al norte

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Yo cuento con una... con una farmacia, con una mini-farmacia.

I own a... a pharmacy, one mini-pharmacy.

Caption 18, Rafael T. - Viaje al norte

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Although its literal meaning is "to count with," when Rafael uses contar con to talk about a family, he means when one "has" a family, while this same verb has been translated as "own" in the example regarding the pharmacy. Let's check out another clip from our friend Fermín:


Por supuesto, tenemos la suerte de contar con una señora británica que se encarga de controlar que los gatos callejeros que viven aquí

Of course, we are lucky enough to have a British lady who's in charge of making sure that the alley cats who live here

Captions 20-21, Fermín y los gatos Mis gatas vecinas

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So, we see that "to have" or "to own" are both acceptable translations for contar con.  


Contar con in a Different Context

On the other hand, if someone asks "¿Puedo contar contigo?" they don't want to know if they can "have" you, but rather whether they can "count on" you. Let's look at a couple of examples of contar con with this meaning.


cuente con mi apoyo y con la embajada para lo que se le ofrezca.

count on my support and on the embassy for whatever you need.

Caption 42, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 4 - Part 4

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sabes que puedes contar conmigo, ¿sí? -Bueno.

you know that you can count on me, OK? -OK.

Caption 71, Muñeca Brava 36 La pesquisa - Part 6

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Sin Contar con (Something)

And finally, sin contar or sin contar con, which literally mean "without counting (with)," can be utilized to express the idea of "not to mention" or "without taking into account." Let's look at a couple of clips from our series Confidencial: El rey de la estafa:


Eso sin contar los lujos que te debes dar

That's not to mention the luxuries you must give yourself

Caption 21, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 3 - Part 8

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Eso, sin contar con la publicidad que vais a recibir

That, without taking into account the publicity that you're going to get

Captions 52-53, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 5 - Part 5

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That's all for today. We hope you've enjoyed this lesson on some of the many uses of the Spanish verb contar, and don't forget to send us your suggestions and comments




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