Points to Remember in Learning Spanish Verbs.

Points to Remember in Learning Spanish Verbs.

Tonic accent or stress

Basically, the purpose of the tonic accent is to show which vowel or syllable should be stressed. The accent is expressed as a rise in pitch. This is a dynamic accent, and is referred to as ‘stress.’

In words ending in vowel, n or s, the stress falls on the penultimate syllable.

In the word manzana (apple), the stress falls on the 2nd syllable, za.

This means it is stressed more than the two.

In comía (he /she ate), the accent shows the i vowel is stressed and creates a hiatus.

In words ending in a consonant (xexcept n or s), the stress falls on the last syllable: cantar (to sing), Madrid, pastel (cake)

In pájaro (bird), the stress, which falls on the first syllable, is shown by a written accent. The accent is used to mark irregular cases. Otherwise, according to the general rule, the stress should fall on the last syllable but one which here would be ja



The unfolding action described by the form of the verb -the beginning, duration and end -is called ‘aspect’. Each event is described by the tense of the verb (present, past, future).

Ex: Pablo comía (Pablo ate)

Pablo había comido (Pablo had eaten)

1. The difference between these two examples isn’t to do with the tense (as both are in the past) but rather the aspect. e.i. the description of whether an action is taking place, Pablo comía, or whether it’s already finished, Había comido.

An ‘auxiliary’ is a verb used to form compound tenses and the passive voice.

In Spanish, compound tenses are formed with the auxiliary haber.


Ex. He dormido. (I have slept)

The passive voice is formed with two auxilliaries, ser and estar

La puerta es cerrada por el profesor. ( The door is closed by the teacher.)

El rey está acompańado por la reina.( The king is accompanied by the queen.)



The ending of a word (noun, pronoun, article, adjective, verb) gives you the grammatical information. Together with the stem (which contains the sense), it constitutes an inflected form.


Libros (books).

In libros, os indicates the gender (masculine) and the number (plural).

In the verb, the ending shows the mood, the tense and the person.


Canto (I sing).

In this verb, the ending o shows the mood (indicative), the tense (present) and the person (1st person singular)



A diphthong is a compound vowel (two consequent vowels) which changes in tone as it is sounded. It constitutes a single syllable. There are two types.


  • The diphthong which starts with a closed vowel and ends in an open vowel.

Ex. Empiezo (I start)

With ie, we start with the yod, or closed semivowel (j), and end in the open vowel (e).


  • The diphthong which starts with the most open vowel, (a), and ends with the yod.

Ex. Hay (There is).

With ay, we start with (a), and end with the yod.



Enclisis is the technical term given to tagging a word onto the end of another word. Adding a pronoun onto the end of a verb, for example, is a common case in point. The unit constitutes a single word with stress applying to only one syllable. The most common case in Spanish relate to infinitive, the gerund and the imperative.


Estaba escribiéndole (I was writing to him).


The enclitic pronoun le is added onto the gerund escribiendo.



An inflection consists in joining the stem of a word, the part which carries the meaning, and the ending in which contains grammatical information.

In a noun, the ending shows its function in the sentence.

In a verb, the ending provides information on the mood, the tense, the person. This is one of the ways in which Spanish differs from English.


  1. (I write)

In Spanish, the single verbal form contains the whole information.



When two vowels appear together, there are two possible ways of pronouncing them: either as a hiatus, or a diphthong.

If each vowel forms a separate syllable, it is a hiatus.


Escribía: es/cri/bi/a (He was writing)


If the two vowels joined together form a syllable (compound syllable), this is called a diphthong.

Puedo: pue/do (I can)



‘Impersonal’ can refer to a mood or a verb, and generally, to anything that does not have a person as the subject.

Verbal forms which are not attributable to a person such as the infinitive, the gerund and the past participle, are classified as impersonal.

Concluir (to conclude)

Llueve (It is raining)


Romance Languages

Romance languages are related group of a language which have a common origin in spoken Latin but have evolved differently. This family includes French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Rumanian, Catalan, Galician, Provencal…



The speaker is the person who is trying to communicate something be it orally, in writing or through gestures. In the verb system, the reference point is always the speaker.


Cantábais ( You were singing)

I, the speaker, speaking from my point of view in the present, am saying that you were singing.


Verbal Phrase

A phrase is a group of words formed by at least a noun (nominal phrase),a verb (verbal phrase) or an adverb (adverbial phrase). Usage is what makes there known as ‘fixed expressions.’


ser de (to be from, to be made of)

verb+ preposition de


haber que (to need, must)

verb + relative pronoun que



The position adopted by the speaker of the action being described is known as “mood”.

When forming a verb, choosing the mood is the first stage before the aspect, the voice, the tense and the person.


Es verdad que has venido. (It is true that you have come.)

No me gusta que hayas venido. ( I am not happy that you have come.)


In the two statements above, it isn’t the action that is different. In both cases ‘he/she has come.’ The difference is held in the position adopted by the speaker.

In the 1st example, he states a fact without implying anything or including his own opinion. This is the indicative mood. In the 2nd example, he takes up a position (no me gusta or me gusta). This is the subjunctive mood.


Impersonal Mood

The impersonal mood applies to verb forms in which do not take a personal subject and which do not show who the speaker is via inflection. These are: infinitive, the gerund (or present participle) and the past participle.

In English, an impersonal verb always takes the impersonal pronoun ‘it’: It is raining./It raines.

In Spanish, impersonal verbs conjugated in the third person singular which gives the tense. The impersonal subject is assumed in the meaning of the verb: Llueve/Llovio



A preposition serves to link two parts of a sentence. Without prepositions, many words would not be able to be linked directly. The choice of preposition clarifies the relationship between the two parts of the sentence.


El reloj de mi hermana. (My sister’s watch)

De here serves to link two nouns: el reloj and mi hermana.


Voy a París.

A here links the verb and the proper noun (which acts as an adverbial phrase).
Se lo diré a mi hermana (I’ll tell my sister.)

A here links the verb and the noun phrase (the indirect object of the verb).


Main Clause

A simple sentence contains only one clause.

A complete sentence contains at least two clauses.

The main clause is a basic sentence containing a subject and a verb. It can stand alone. A subordinate clause is dependent on the main clause.


Es improbable que lo haya hecho (It is unlikely that he has done it.)

Main clause (which could stand alone) compared to the subordinate clause (which couldn’t).


Subordinate Clause

A subordinate clause is always dependent on the main clause. Subordinate clauses can never stand alone.

Es improbable que lo haya hecho. (It is unlikely that he has done it.)

Que lo haya hecho is not stand alone sentence.



The stem is part which contains the meaning of a word. To form a verb, you take the stem and add an inflected ending which gives the grammatical information.

Together they form a conjugated verb.

Verbs can be conjugated from several stems.


Canto (I sing)

From the stem cant, the present indicative, the present subjunctive, and the preterit are formed.


Cantaré (I will sing)

From the stem cantar (the infinitive), the future and the future conditional are formed.


Cantaron (They sang)

From the stem canta, the imperfect subjunctive (which has two possible forms ra and se) and the future subjunctive are formed.

The more irregular a verb is, the greater the range of stems used to conjugate it.


Poder-pued, pod, podr


Direct/Indirect Object

An ‘object’ is a word or clause which is dependent on a verb in a sentence. Verbs can have a direct object (where no preposition is necessary) or an indirect object (with preposition).


Hoy pienso terminar. (I’m going to finish today.)


Hoy quiero terminar. ( I want to finish today).

The object, terminar, is the object of the verb quiero.

It is a direct complement of the verb as ther is no preposition. This is known as a ‘direct object.’


Pienso en las vacaciones. (I’m thinking about my vacation.)

Las vacaciones is the object of the verb pienso.The object here is introduced by the preposition en. This is known as an ‘indirect object.’


Active Voice

A verb can have an active voice or passive voice. The form depends on the relationship between the verb, the subject and the object. When the subject of the verb is the person or thing performing the action, or in other words is the agent of the verb, the verb is an active verb or in in an active voice.


Marta come la manzana. (Marta eats the apple.)

come-present tense


Marta ha comido la manzana. ( Marta ate the apple.)

ha comido -Present perfect tense


Martha is the subject of the verb and the agent of the action come.

This action relates to the object, la manzana, which is the ‘patient’ or the noun affected by the action of the verb.


Passive Voice

When the subject of the verb is affected by the action, or the action is done to it, the verb is in the passive voice.


La puerta es cerrada por Marta. (The door is closed by Marta.)

La puerta is the subject of the verb es cerrada.

Here, the subject is affected by an action performed by the agent of the verb, Marta.



When the vowel /i/ forms part of a diphthong, it can be pronounced in two ways. This is referred to as a ‘yod’ or ‘semivowel’ or semiconsonant.’

When it is the first letter of the diphthong, it functions as a semiconsonant: empiezo ( I start).

When it is the second letter of the diphthong, it functioned as a semivowel: hay (there is).




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