3.1 Present Tense of -ar Verbs

Infinitives (which correspond to the English “to go,” to drink,” etc.) end in –ar-er and -ir. -Ar verbs are by far the most common of the three:

hablar to speak
beber to drink
abrir to open

When a regular –ar verb is conjugated, the -ar of the infinitive is dropped and the following endings are added: -o, -as, -a, -amos, -áis, -an. Thus the verb hablar, conjugated in the present tense, is:

Person Singular Plural
1st yo hablo (I speak) nosotros/-as hablamos (we speak)
2nd hablas (you speak)
vosotros/-as habláis (you speak)
3rd él, ella, Ud. habla (he/she/it speaks) ellos, ellas, Uds. hablan (they/you speak)

The subject pronouns listed in parentheses will not be present in the texts you read and are given here only to help initially. As you learn more and more verb forms, it will become challenging to guess the meanings if you do not really recognize the forms, so taking the time to memorize the endings now will help you save time when translating in the future .

A few generalizations can be made about verb endings, which are true of all regular verbs (-ar, -er, and -ir) in the present tense (and in some other tenses):

  • The only form ending in an unaccented –o corresponds to yo, meaning “I.”
  • The only forms ending in –s correspond to tú and vosotros , both meaning “you” (fam.).
  • The form ending in vowel + mos always corresponds to nosotros, meaning “we,” in all tenses.
  • The only form ever to end in –n corresponds to ellos/-as and Uds., meaning “they” and “you” (pl.), in all tenses. 

The present tense has four possible and common translations. Using hablo as the model, these are:

  1. I speak (the most frequent translation)
  2. I am speaking (the progressive form [see also section 8.5.])
  3. I do speak (the emphatic form)
  4. I will (am going to) speak (near future meaning, common in speech)

Context usually dictates that one of these translations is more logical than others, though hablo español could just as easily mean “I am speaking Spanish” as “I speak Spanish.” Often the presence of an adverb of time will indicate the most logical meaning or best translation.

Hablo español ahora. I’m speaking Spanish now.
Te hablo mañana. I’ll speak to you tomorrow.

When the meaning is emphatic, it is common to insert the word  after the subject. The  itself is not translated, but is rather rendered by the inclusion of the emphatic “do” or “does”:

Giorgio sí habla español e italiano. Giorgio does speak Spanish and Italian.
Yo sí quiero visitar el museo contigo. I do want to visit the museum with you.

There are also three less frequent meanings of the present tense. Occasionally it is used for a command. (See section 11.4.) It is also used in questions when the English translation is “shall” or “will.” (¿Compro la ropa? [“Shall I buy the clothes?”]) At times, its meaning is past, when used at the “historical present.”

Vocabulario básico 

Verbos:

ayudar- to help
buscar- to look for, to search for
caminar- to walk
cenar- to dine, to have dinner, to eat the evening meal
comprar- to buy
descansar- to rest
entrar (+ a/en + object)- to enter, to go in
escuchar- to listen
esperar- to wait, to hope, to expect
llegar- to arrive*
llevar-to carry, to take
mirar- to look at (cognate- to admire) 
nadar- to swim (cognate: natatorium)
necesitar- to need
pagar- to pay
preguntar- to ask
preparar- to prepare
sacar- to take (photos), to take out, to get a grade
tomar- to take (in/by the hand), to drink, to eat (when what is consumed is not solid)
usar- to use, to wear
viajar- to travel (cognate- voyage)

* It may help to remember that the verb of motion of the two is llegar, which has the g, as in the verb of motion “to go.”

Sustantivos:

el agua (fem.)- water*
el/la alumno/-a- student (false friend)
el árbol- tree (cognate-arbor, arboreal)
el bolígrafo- pen
la casa- house, home
el centro- center, center of city, uptown, downtown
la comida- food, meal, evening meal
el cuaderno- notebook
la cuenta- bill**
el cuento- story, short story**, ***
el disco- record, (computer) disk
la escuela- school
el/la estudiante- student
la frase- sentence, phrase
la historia- story (in a general sense), tale, history ***
el lápiz- pencil
la mesa- table
la nota- grade; bill (currency); note
el papel- paper
la pared- wall
la pizarra- chalkboard
la pregunta- question
la puerta- door**
el puerto- port**
la ropa- clothes, clothing (false friend)
la silla- chair
la telenovela- soap opera
el tiempo- time, weather
la ventana- window
la vez- time, occasion
el viaje- trip
la vida- life (cognate- vital, vitality)

Números:

treinta- thirty
cuarenta- forty
cincuenta- fifty
sesenta- sixty
setenta- seventy
ochenta- eighty
noventa- ninety
cien(to)- one hundred
mil- one thousand

Adjetivos:

bueno- good
gran/ grande- great, large
malo- bad

Preposición:

por- because of

Expresiones:

a casa- home (to home) (expresses motion)
a la vez- at the same time
a tiempo- on time
en casa- at home (expresses location)
por eso- therefore, for that reason, that’s why

Otras palabras:

como- like, such, as, how
más- more (or with adjective- most)

*Agua takes the masculine definite article for phonetic reasons only. It remains feminine and all adjectives modifying it are feminine (see section 3.2.): El agua está fría hoy. 

**Be careful to differentiate between the very similar nouns cuento and cuenta, as well as puerto and puerta. 

***Cuento and historia are often not synonymous. The former often refers to the literary genre while the latter mean “story” in a general sense. If one wrote of “the story of Romeo and Juliet,” la historia de Romeo y Julieta would be used.

Helpful Notes on Vocabulary Lists in This Text

  • Whenever possible and helpful, English cognates are given in parentheses immediately after vocabulary listings. They are routinely omitted in very obvious cases (such as entrar, preparar, estudiar, visitar, etc.), but are given in other less or not obvious cases. At times, they may seem obscure or relatively so. The larger your English vocabulary is, the easier it will be to recognize them.
  • The examples of vida and “vital/-ity” as well as nadar and “natatorium” are two of many in which you see a d in Spanish taking the place of a in English. In general, these two consonants are similar.
  • The amount of vocabulary presented, if you are a true beginner, may at times seem overwhelming. Nonetheless, many of the new words are related to each other, e.g., preguntar (“to ask”) and pregunta (“question”); estudiar (“to study”), estudiante (“student” [n.]) and estudiantil (“student” [adj.]). At the beginning of this text, most of the vocabulary given should be taken to be basic. As you progress in the text, you may be able to choose which vocabulary items may be useful to you and your field of study/interest and which may not.
  • Noticing patterns in word families, such as the examples in the previous bullet point, and making note of the words you think you may encounter in your own research and reading are two to of the best practices you can develop while taking this class. 
Last revised on June 16, 2021.