Learning Spanish Verbs.

Learning Spanish Verbs.

People learning Spanish come up against two major difficulties which need to be tackled before they can begin ti communicate. They need to possess a certain amount of vocabulary and master the grammar, of which verbs from an essential part.

The conjugation of Spanish verbs is considered difficult because there are so many irregular verbs. In order to begin to learn them, it is essential to group them in types rather than just in an alphabetical listing. This is what we aim to do. You can refer to to tables of irregular verbs in a logical and systematic manner which can serve as models. The verb tables, as well as showing all forms of the verb, highlight all irregular forms so that these are obvious to the eye and can be more easily to learn.

This approach of full verbs table plus grammatical summary helps you to gain understanding of how certain verbs conjugates so that you can learn the rules and apply them to verbs which belong to the same group, without worrying about having to learn each one individually.

In order to be able to do this, you will need to be familiar with certain basic grammatical terms that are used in the verb table section and the grammar summary.


The Verb Table

The choice of a model verb is based on the criteria that it should be in current use (except the few cases of defective verbs which are not often used but which have a peculiar conjugation worth noting) as well as be representative enough of the verbs which follow the same conjugation. The characteristics of the Spanish verb which differs from English and is explained more fully at the very beginning of the grammar summary.


Classification Principles

All Spanish verbs, both regular and irregular, are divided into three groups which are easily identifiable by their infinitive ending.

First group: stem + ar: amar, soňar, estar…

Second group: stem + er: temer, hacer, poder…

Third group: stem + ir: partir, pedir, decir…

Three different stems can be used to form the simple tenses.

The stem of the verb, without the infinitive ending, is used to form the present indicative, the present subjunctive, the imperative, the imperfect indicative and the gerund and the past participle.
The whole of the infinitive forms is used to form the future indicative and the conditional.
The third person plural of the preterit drops the final syllable to provide us with the third stem which is used to form the imperfect and the future subjunctive.
So, the terms ‘irregular verb’ will be used to denote all stem-changing verbs that involve one or more vowel or consonantchanges.

The classification of the model verb tables is based on two principles:


First Classification Principles

An irregular system must not be confused with a simple spelling change.

This type of spelling change merely exists to preserve the sound and is not classified an irregularity. Spelling changes apply equally to regular and irregular verbs.

For example, in order to keep the sound of the last consonant of the stem, many verbs undergo a spelling change. Apart from this small change, these verbs are perfectly regular.

In addition, an irregular verb can combine an irregular stem with standard spelling changes. The thing that makes it count as irregular though is the fact that it has an irregular stem. Verbs which share the same irregularity are grouped in a way that makes it easier to distinguish between what is just a standard spelling change, which all helps when trying to learn irregular verbs.

Example: the verb trocar is irregular because the vowel of the stem changes to diphthong, ue, in some moods, tenses and persons. In addition, the stem contains the (k) sound which is in Spanish is written with a (c) when it precedes a and o, but which changes to qu before e and i. This verb, therefore, undergoes spelling change when the ending begins with e or i. This spelling change is only consequence of the irregularity of the verb.

Second Classification Principle

The most irregular verbs, that is those with several stem changes, are the ones that are most frequently used in day-to day Spanish conversation and it is therefore essential to learn them from the start. These are the basic verbs; ser, estar, haber, tener, poder, poner, ir, sabir… These are the auxiliary verbs or verbs which are used in that role to express things such as existence and belonging, as well as the modal verbs which express ideas such as possibility, permission or intention.

The way we have classified the model verbs follows an incremental pattern starting with the least irregular and working up to those four defective verbs at the end. It seems logical that these highly irregular verbs, which have many irregularities in common -especially the sixteen verbs which have a strong preterit – should be placed at the end. Their position at the end of the verb tables reflects their degree of irregularity and should be viewed as an indication of their difficulty and prominence in the Spanish language.

General Classification

The verb tables have been classified as follows:
1. Three perfectly regular verbs representing each of three groups;
2. Regular verbs with a consonant or vowel change in the stem.
3. Irregular verbs in order of increasing irregularity. These verbs may also undergo standard spelling changes.
4. Defective verbs.


Grammar Summary

The Spanish verb system also needs an organized grammar and this is provided in the form of systematic, easy-access sections in the Grammar summary. This summary deals with the formation of simple and compound tenses as well as the role of the verb in the relation to other parts of speech such as personal pronouns, object pronouns, adverbial phrases and prepositions.


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