How do we talk about our emotions in Spanish? Although there are many different ways, this lesson will focus on three main categories of words that are typically used to express the whole range of emotions in Spanish while covering some of the major emotions in Spanish we might wish to talk about.
The three main word categories for talking about our emotions in Spanish are adjectives, reflexive verbs, and nouns. Let's take a closer look at some tendencies of each of these three parts of speech when describing emotions in Spanish.
Remember that adjectives modify, or describe, nouns, and to name a few simple ones in Spanish, we could take contento/a(s) (happy), triste(s) (sad), and enojado/a(s) (angry). As always, such emotional adjectives must agree with the noun they modify in terms of number and gender. You will note that the adjectives that describe emotions in Spanish are commonly used in conjunction with particular verbs, such as estar (to be), sentir (to feel), ponerse (to become/get), or quedarse (to become/get), to name a few. So, "Estoy contento," for example, would mean: "I'm happy."
Reflexive verbs in Spanish actually convey the action of feeling a certain emotion in and of themselves. As an example, since enojarse means "to get angry," one could say simply "Me enojé" (I got angry) in lieu of using an adjective/verb combination like "Me puse enojado," which conveys the same thing.
As a third option, nouns like tristeza (sadness) are additionally employed to talk about emotions in Spanish. Among others, one common manner of doing so is with the word "Qué..." in fixed expressions like, "¡Qué tristeza!" which literally means, "What sadness!" (but would be more commonly expressed in English with an expression like "How sad!"). Verbs like sentir (to feel) or tener (to have) are also commonly used with such emotional nouns in sentences such as "Siento mucha alegría" ("I feel really happy," or, more literally, "I feel a lot of happiness").
Adjectives that mean "happy" include feliz/felices, contento/a(s), and alegre(s). Let's take a look at some examples of these words in context along with some of the aforementioned verbs:
pues, que yo creo que él sí quiere formalizar algo conmigo y yo estoy muy feliz.
well, I think that he does want to formalize something with me, and I'm very happy.
Captions 40-41, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 5 - Part 9Play Caption
y, pues, me siento muy contento de que lo... lo pude lograr.
and well, I feel very happy that I... I was able to achieve it.
Caption 27, Rueda de la muerte Parte 1Play Caption
Y estoy alegre, alegre de que no sea cierto.
And I'm happy, happy it's not true.
Caption 31, Chus recita poemas Neruda y PizarnikPlay Caption
Remember that the verb estar is used to talk about emotions in Spanish rather than the verb ser because emotions tend to be temporary rather than permanent. That said, if someone (or something) permanently embodies a particular emotional attribute (e.g. a "happy person"), the verb ser can be used because this emotion becomes a trait, as in the following example:
La Vela se caracteriza además por ser un pueblo alegre,
La Vela is also characterized as being a happy town,
Captions 16-17, Estado Falcón Locos de la Vela - Part 1Play Caption
Moving on to the verb category, a common reflexive verb that expresses the idea of "cheering up" or "getting" or "being happy" or "glad" is alegrarse. Let's see some examples of this verb:
Qué bien; me alegro de que estén aquí.
How great; I'm glad you're here.
Caption 42, Club 10 Capítulo 1 - Part 2Play Caption
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 felt 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
Lastly, we will deal with the corresponding nouns that mean "happiness" or "joy": (la) alegría and (la) felicidad.
Ay, bueno, Don Ramiro, de verdad, qué alegría escuchar eso.
Oh, well, Mister Ramiro, really, what a joy to hear that.
Caption 33, Tu Voz Estéreo Laura - Part 10Play Caption
While "what a joy" was translated a bit more literally here, it could also be a rough equivalent of "how great" (to hear that) or, of course, "I'm so happy" (to hear that). Let's look at one more example:
Hasta el sábado, amiga. ¡Qué felicidad!
See you Saturday, my friend. [I'm] so happy!
Caption 83, Cleer y Lida Conversación telefónica - Part 1Play Caption
Again, while "What happiness!" would be the literal translation of "¡Qué felicidad!" in English, you will note that this and many of our other examples of expressions with the word "Qué" plus an emotional noun have been translated slightly differently to reflect what an English speaker might say in a similar situation.
"Excitement" might be looked upon as an extension of happiness, and adjectives like emocionado/a(s) (excited) or entusiasmado/a(s) (excited/enthusiastic) express this in Spanish:
Estoy tan emocionado de volver a verte.
I am so excited to see you again.
Caption 53, Yago 11 Prisión - Part 3Play Caption
Ehm... Mi amor, estás muy entusiasmado con todo esto. -Mmm.
Um... My love, you're very enthusiastic about all this. -Mmm.
Caption 7, Yago 10 Enfrentamientos - Part 4Play Caption
As you might have guessed, the verbs for "to be/get excited" are emocionarse and entusiasmarse:
Ya me emocioné.
I already got excited.Play Caption
¿Por qué no entusiasmarnos más?
Why not get more excited?Play Caption
Although the noun (la) emoción can indeed mean "emotion," it can also mean "excitement":
Entonces... -¡Qué emoción! Qué emoción, y después... ¡oh!, ¿sí?
So... -How exciting! How exciting, and afterward... oh, really?
Captions 31-32, Clase Aula Azul La segunda condicional - Part 2Play Caption
That said, while emocionado/a(s), emocionarse, and "¡Qué emoción!" can also be used to talk about "being moved" with emotion, context should usually let you know the speaker's intention.
Triste(s) is undoubtedly the most common adjective that means "sad" in Spanish:
nos dimos cuenta [de] que mi barco estaba partido. Candelario se puso triste.
we realized my boat was split. Candelario got sad.
Captions 43-44, Guillermina y Candelario El Gran RescatePlay Caption
The reflexive verb entristecerse, on the other hand, means "to get" (or "feel" or "be" or "become," etc.) "sad":
La alumna se entristeció mucho al saber que se había fallecido su maestro.
The student became really sad when she found out that her teacher had passed away.
The noun (la) tristeza literally means "sadness," but is utilized along with "Qué" to say, "How sad":
Qué tristeza, ¿no? Terrible.
How sad, right? Terrible.
Caption 5, Tu Voz Estéreo Feliz Navidad - Part 19Play Caption
While there are a lot of adjectives that mean "angry" or "mad" in Spanish, the two most common standard (rather than slang) ones are probably enojado/a(s) and enfadado/a(s). Let's take a look:
¿Qué te pasa? ¿Estás enojado conmigo? No, no estoy enojado, estoy cansado. Estoy cansado, ¿OK?
What's going on with you? Are you mad at me? No, I'm not mad, I'm tired. I'm tired, OK?
Captions 42-43, Muñeca Brava 48 - Soluciones - Part 3Play Caption
Estamos muy enfadadas. Estoy muy enfadada.
We are very angry. I am very angry.
Captions 30-31, El Aula Azul Estados de ánimoPlay Caption
By extension, verbs that mean "to get mad" or "angry" include enojarse and enfadarse, although there are many more:
Se enojó muchísimo con el viejo
She got really angry with my old man
Caption 86, Muñeca Brava 2 Venganza - Part 6Play Caption
No me enfadé con él, ni le insulté,
I didn't get mad at him, nor did I insult him,
Captions 78-79, Cortometraje Beta - Part 1Play Caption
There are a lot of nouns that refer to anger in Spanish, and we bet you guessed two of them: (el) enojo and (el) enfado. Others include (la) ira, (la) rabia, and (la) bronca. Although it is not as common to hear these words in expressions with "Qué..." as some of the other nouns we have talked about, we can give you some examples of how a couple of these words are used to express anger in captions from our Yabla Spanish library:
Lo que yo sentía en ese momento era algo mucho más profundo que un enfado.
What I felt at that moment was something way deeper than anger.
Caption 81, Cortometraje Beta - Part 1Play Caption
porque claro, alguna vez siento mucha rabia y no me gusta sentir tanta rabia
because of course, sometimes I feel a lot of rage and I don't like feeling so much ragePlay Caption
For a lot of additional standard and slangy manners of talking about anger, feel free to refer to this lesson on expressing feelings of tiredness or anger in Spanish.
Let's start with the adjective that means "surprised": sorprendido/a(s).
Profesores, la verdad es que me he quedado sorprendida;
Professors, the truth is that I have been surprised;
Caption 19, Alumnos extranjeros del Tec de MonterreyPlay Caption
The reflexive verb that means "to be" or "to get surprised" is sorprenderse:
Es que... me sorprendí, querida. -¿Por qué?
It's just that... I was surprised, dear. -Why?
Caption 65, Muñeca Brava 18 - La Apuesta - Part 11Play Caption
And finally, the noun (la) sorpresa can be used with "Qué" to say "How surprising" or "What a surprise":
Qué sorpresa. -Qué... Vale, qué lindo verte.
What a surprise. -What... Vale, how nice to see you.
Caption 15, Español para principiantes Saludos y encuentrosPlay Caption
The common Spanish adjectives decepcionado/a(s) and desilusionado/s(s) both mean "disappointed":
Mi novia está desilusionado conmigo por haberle mentido.
My girlfriend is disappointed in me for having lied to her.
No. Estoy decepcionada. ¿De mí? ¿Y por qué estás decepcionada?
No. I'm disappointed. In me? And why are you disappointed?
Captions 61-63, Muñeca Brava 41 La Fiesta - Part 6Play Caption
Naturally, the verbs decepcionarse and desilusionarse mean "to get" or "be disappointed." Let's take a look at them in context:
Me decepcioné mucho cuando suspendí el examen.
I was really disappointed when I failed the test.
Nada. Tengo qué sé yo, miedo a desilusionarme, va.
Nothing. I have, I don't know, a fear of being disappointed, well.
Caption 38, Muñeca Brava 39 Verdades - Part 5Play Caption
So, of course, "Qué desilusión" or "Qué decepción" would be "How disappointing" or "What a disappointment":
What a disappointment.Play Caption
Digo, personalmente no, no, no fue una desilusión porque viste, que cuando sos chico las pérdidas son diferentes.
I mean, personally it wasn't a disappointment because you know, when you are a kid, losses are different.
Captions 48-49, Biografía Natalia Oreiro - Part 2Play Caption
Let's conclude today's lesson by talking about some more of what might be considered sentimientos negativos (negative feelings) in Spanish: worry, anxiety, and stress.
Adjectives like preocupado/a(s)(worried), estresado/a(s) ("stressed" or "stressed out"), ansioso/a(s) (anxious), or nervioso/a(s), which often means "restless," "anxious," etc. in addition to "nervous," can be used to describe those unpleasant sensations in Spanish. Let's look at some examples:
Entonces, cuando usted sufra una infección fuerte o esté preocupado o estresado,
So, when you get a strong infection or are worried or stressed,
Captions 35-36, Los médicos explican Consulta con el médico: herpesPlay Caption
Le noto un poco nervioso, ¿le pasa algo? -No, no, no...
I notice you're a bit on edge, is something wrong with you? -No, no, no...
Caption 9, Muñeca Brava 33 El partido - Part 6Play Caption
¿Hay algún pensamiento o algo que le mantenga a usted ansioso o desde cuándo... o algo que haya desencadenado todos estos problemas?
Is there some thought or something that keeps you anxious or from which... or something that has triggered all these problems?
Captions 32-33, Los médicos explican Diagnóstico: nervios y estrésPlay Caption
The reflexive verb preocuparse means "to worry," while estresarse means "to stress" or "get stressed out," etc.:
¿De verdad se preocupa por mi seguridad? Claro que sí me preocupo.
Do you really worry about my safety? Of course I worry.
Captions 36-37, Muñeca Brava 48 - Soluciones - Part 3Play Caption
un día tengo que pagar uno, otro día otro, y eso, la... la gente se estresa.
one day I have to pay one, another day another one, and that... people get stressed out.
Caption 67, Cuentas claras Sobreviviendo enero - Part 2Play Caption
The corresponding nouns for the verbs and adjectives we have talked about are: (la) preocupación (worry), (el) estrés (stress), (los) nervios (nerves), and (la) ansiedad (anxiety), which can be used in sentences in infinite ways to describe these nerve-wracking sensations. For example, we might say "¡Qué nervios!" or "¡Qué estrés!" to say something like "I'm so nervous/anxious!" or "How stressful!"/"I'm so stressed out!" Let's look at some additional examples of these nouns with the verbs tener (to have) and sentir (to feel):
Últimamente tengo mucho estrés y estar un poco en la naturaleza es muy bueno.
Lately, I've been really stressed out, and it's great to be in nature a bit.
Captions 68-69, Cleer y Lida PicnicPlay Caption
Siento ansiedad, la necesidad de contar quién soy
I feel anxiety, the need to tell who I am
Caption 2, Monsieur Periné Mi libertadPlay Caption
You will note that while the literal translation of the first example would be "I have a lot of stress," "I've been really stressed out" may be the more likely equivalent for English speakers in this context. On the other hand, while the translator opted for the more literal "I feel anxiety" in the second example, "I feel anxious" would also be a viable option in English. For additional insight into how to discuss anxiety and stress in Spanish, we recommend the video Diagnóstico: nervios y estrés (Diagnosis: Nerves and Stress) from our series Los médicos explican (The Doctors Explain).
We have covered a multitude of emotions in Spanish, and videos like this one from our Curso de español [Spanish Course] series about Expresiones de sentimientos [Expressions of Feelings] and this one on Estados de Ánimo [Moods] by El Aula Azul can help you to express many more. And while most of the feelings we have talked about are pretty clearly negative or positive, the video Ni bien ni mal [Neither Good nor Bad] can help us to talk about some of those so-so emotions in Spanish. Are there any other feelings or emotions you'd like to learn to speak about in Spanish? Don't forget to let us know in 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.
Today's lesson will examine Yabla's "Top 12" picks for the most useful verbs for having a conversation in Spanish. This time, we'll focus on the meanings of those verbs as well as giving you a lot of simple, conversational examples from Yabla's Spanish video library. Additionally, we'll provide you with conjugation tables for the "Top 3" most useful Spanish tenses: the simple present, the imperfect (which describes ongoing or continuous past actions), and the preterite (which describes completed past actions).
In addition to the aforementioned links, you can consult this lesson entitled Spanish Verb Tenses Explained if you need to brush up on those tenses and more! Although memorizing all of these conjugations might seem a bit intimidating, it could really help your ability to converse in Spanish.
The fact that there are two verbs that mean "to be" in Spanish, ser and estar, can feel quite confusing for non-native speakers. Generally speaking, the verb ser is employed to describe more permanent characteristics. The acronym DOCTOR (description, occupation, condition, time, origin, relationship) is very useful for helping us to remember some of the many situations in which this verb is used. Let's take a look at how this verb is conjugated as well as some examples:
|Él, ella, usted||es||era||fue|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||son||eran||fueron|
Soy profesor de fotografía.
I'm a photography teacher.
Caption 13, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 5Play Caption
Sus cuadros eran muy extraños.
His paintings were very strange.
Caption 25, El Aula Azul - Adivina personajes históricosPlay Caption
También fuimos parte de todas estas, eh... mega empresas, pero...
We were also part of all these, um... mega companies, but...
Caption 22, Doctor Krápula - EntrevistaPlay Caption
Notably, although ser usually denotes permanence, while the preterite tense denotes that something had a definite ending point, the verb ser is used in the preterite to describe something that "was" in the past, but did come to a conclusive end.
The verb estar also means "to be" for traits that are variable/less permanent. The acronym PLACE (position, location, action, condition, emotion) might help you to remember some contexts in which the verb estar should be chosen. Let's take a look:
|Él, ella, usted||está||estaba||estuvo|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||están||estaban||estuverion|
Sí... Vale, entonces, estamos aquí.
Yes... OK, then, we're here.Play Caption
Un poquito y ajá, y estaba triste porque
A little bit, and uh-huh, and I was sad because
dejaba mi familia y eso y ya.
I was leaving my family and all that and that's it.
Caption 70, Cleer - Entrevista a LilaPlay Caption
Los árabes estuvieron en España más de seiscientos años.
The Arabs were in Spain for more than six hundred years.
Caption 23, Rosa - Antequera, MálagaPlay Caption
Be sure to check out this lesson if you want to learn more about the difference between ser and estar.
The verb tener means "to have" in Spanish. Let's take a closer look:
|Él, ella, usted||tiene||tenía||tuvo|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||tienen||tenían||tuvieron|
¿Tienes plumones y tijeras?
You have markers and scissors?
Sí, tengo plumones y tijeras,
Yes, I have markers and scissors,
pero no tengo mi teléfono.
but I don't have my phone.
Captions 20-22, Conversaciones en el parque - Cap. 1: No tengo mi teléfono.Play Caption
Tenían mi mochila en la Oficina de Objetos Perdidos.
They had my backpack in the Lost and Found.
Caption 44, Raquel - Oficina de objetos perdidosPlay Caption
La noche anterior a la rumba, tuve otro sueño.
The night before going out on the town, I had another dream.
Caption 1, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 7Play Caption
Additionally, we invite you to explore some of the many idiomatic expressions with the verb tener.
And, we'll just take a second to mention that if you throw in the word que after the verb tener plus a verb's infinitive ("to" form), you'll have the very useful Spanish construction tener que that means, "to have to" (do something):
Hoy tengo que trabajar.
Today I have to work.
Caption 74, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 14Play Caption
Tuvimos que trasladarnos a esta nueva ciudad.
We had to move to this new city.
Caption 39, Ciudad de Panamá - Denisse introduce la ciudadPlay Caption
|Él, ella, usted||hace||hacía||hizo|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||hacen||hacían||hicieron|
Y ¿tú qué haces?
And what are you doing?
Caption 24, Guillermina y Candelario - Un pez mágicoPlay Caption
Y yo no hacía esto. Yo hago otro acto, que es con las motos.
And I didn't do this. I do another act, which is with motorcycles.
Caption 35, Rueda de la muerte - Parte 1Play Caption
También hizo alguna película.
He also made a movie.
Caption 28, El Aula Azul - Adivina personajes históricosPlay Caption
|Él, ella, usted||va||iba||fue|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||van||iban||fueron|
Voy a la piscina los lunes y los miércoles.
I go to the pool on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Caption 7, Ariana - Mi SemanaPlay Caption
Iba mucho con mi padre al campo.
I used to go with my father to the countryside a lot.
Caption 56, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 10Play Caption
¿Por qué fuiste al cine?
Why did you go to the movies?Play Caption
You might have noticed that the preterite form of the verb ir is conjugated in the exact same way as the verb ser. However, in most cases, context should help you to easily identify which verb is in use.
Another great "trick" to be aware of is that adding an a plus a verb's infinitive to the verb ir is a very simple way of expressing what we are "going to" do and is, thus, an alternative to the future tense. Let's take a look:
Vamos a hablar de mi familia, ¿sí?
We are going to talk about my family, OK?Play Caption
Porque las chicas iban a salir, para no dejarte sola.
Because the girls were going to go out, so you wouldn't be alone.
Caption 11, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La ApuestaPlay Caption
If we're going to talk about ir (to go), we'd better mention venir (to come)! Let's look:
|Él, ella, usted||viene||venía||vino|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||vienen||venían||vinieron|
Yo vengo del sur de España
I come from the South of Spain
Caption 10, Carolina - AcentosPlay Caption
¿Qué venía después?
What came next?
Caption 23, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 8Play Caption
Los otros cisnes vinieron hacia él.
The other swans came toward him.
Caption 50, Cleer - El patito feoPlay Caption
The Spanish verb decir means "to say" or "to tell."
|Él, ella, usted||dice||decía||dijo|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||dicen||decían||dijeron|
Yo digo que Playa Balandra es el paraíso oficial.
I say that Balandra Beach is the official paradise.
Caption 67, Alan x el mundo - Mi playa favorita de México!Play Caption
Pero siempre me decía: ¡Mira! Mira eso allá.
But he always used to tell me: Look! Look at that over there.
Caption 42, Federico Kauffman Doig - ArqueólogoPlay Caption
Y la señorita me dijo algo completamente diferente.
And the lady told me something totally different.
Caption 45, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 5Play Caption
Since we often say or tell things "to" others, you will notice that the verb decir is quite typically accompanied by indirect object pronouns like me (to me), te (to you), etc. to indicate the person to whom something is said or told. You can learn more about this and other aspects of this verb in our lesson entitled The Spanish Verb Decir.
The verb poder means "to be able." It can be used alone to say simply "I can," "you could," etc. but is often used in conjunction with an infinitive verb to express what it is one "is able" to do. Let see it in action:
|Él, ella, usted||puede||podía||pudo|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||pueden||podían||pudieron|
¿Puedo ver el menú por favor?
Can I see the menu please?
Caption 12, Cata y Cleer - En el restaurantePlay Caption
¿Por qué las cosas no podían ser sencillas?
Why couldn't things be easy?
Caption 31, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 10Play Caption
Gracias a su cola, pudieron volar.
Thanks to its tail, you were able to fly.
Caption 49, Guillermina y Candelario - Una aventura extremaPlay Caption
To learn more about the verb poder and how it is used, we recommend the following lesson: The Verb Poder - Common Expressions.
This word means "to know," but, in its preterite form, can mean "to find out."
|Él, ella, usted||sabe||sabía||supo|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||saben||sabían||supieron|
Pero no sé dónde!
But I don't know where!
Caption 28, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concursoPlay Caption
No sabía qué decirle.
I didn't know what to say to her.
Caption 12, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 1Play Caption
Nunca supe la verdad
I never found out the truth
Caption 2, Aleks Syntek - IntocablePlay Caption
If we're going to converse in Spanish, we had better be able to say what we "want"! The verb querer can stand alone to express our desire for a particular thing or be used with an infinitive verb to say what we "want to do." Let's take a look:
|Él, ella, usted||quiere||quería||quiso|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||quieren||querían||quisieron|
Porque realmente quiero mi propio baño.
Because I really want my own bathroom.
Caption 37, Cleer y Lida - Reservando una habitaciónPlay Caption
Y algunos querían volver a su casa.
And some wanted to go back to their home.Play Caption
No me quiso decir su nombre.
She wouldn't tell me her name.
Caption 8, Yago - 14 La peruanaPlay Caption
Keep in mind that when the verb querer is used with no in the preterite, it can convey the idea that someone "wouldn't" do something or "refused to."
One more important aspect of the Spanish verb querer is that, when speaking about actions that we "want" others to do or that we "want" to happen, the subjunctive form of the verb that follows is required (vuelvas instead of vuelves in the following example):
Quiero que... que vuelvas a New York.
I want for... for you to come back to New York.
Caption 23, Yago - 11 PrisiónPlay Caption
|Él, ella, usted||da||daba||dio|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||dan||daban||dieron|
Yo doy agua a mi gato.
I give water to my cat.
Caption 14, Lecciones con Carolina - Verbo - darPlay Caption
Adriana Espinel siempre daba unas respuestas tan profundas.
Adriana Espinel always gave such deep answers.
Caption 72, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 4Play Caption
Eh... Mi asistente me dio sus datos.
Um... My assistant gave me your information.
Caption 39, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 1Play Caption
Like the verb decir, the verb dar is often accompanied by indirect object pronouns to highlight the person to whom something is given.
And, to conclude our list of the Top 12 Spanish verbs for carrying on a conversation, we thought it would be a good idea to give you a verb to describe the things you observe!
|Él, ella, usted||ve||veía||vio|
|Ellos, ellas, ustedes||ven||veían||vieron|
Eh... ¿Cómo veo la vida?
Um... How do I see life?
Caption 79, Adícora, Venezuela - El tatuaje de RosanaPlay Caption
¡Pero veíamos serpientes por todos lados!
But we saw snakes everywhere!Play Caption
Vimos una película.
We saw a movie.
Caption 14, Zulbani - Trip to MeridaPlay Caption
Although it was certainly tough to narrow down the top 12 useful verbs in Spanish for carrying on a conversation, we hope you've enjoyed this lesson and that it helps you to hold a lot of stimulating conversations! Let us know with your suggestions and comments if there are any other verbs or topics you'd like to learn more about.