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Introduction to Spanish verbs:
the present tense of -ar verbs

The Spanish present tense is a one-word verb form that is often similar in meaning to English forms such as I sleep, he goes, they speak. The Spanish present tense is commonly used to describe two types of action or state of affairs:

  • something "happening at present" (equivalent to he is working now);
  • something that is more of a "present generality" (equivalent to he works on Tuesdays).

A further use of the simple present tense— in both Spanish and English— is a "present tense narrative", to describe a series of events that are "unfolding in front of your eyes". For example: He gets up. He has breakfast. He goes to work.

Strictly speaking, the form we're talking about here is sometimes called the simple present tense, because it's made of just one word. English also has simple present tense forms such as works, sleeps etc. But in English, people don't usually say he works to mean he is working. The Spanish simple present tense is therefore a bit different from English: in Spanish, it is possible to use the simple present tense to describe a present, ongoing action such as he is working.

(Spanish does also have continuous verb forms, more similar to English is working, are sleeping etc, which we'll look at later.)

 Practise -ar verbs
 Radical-changing verbs
 -er and -ir verbs
 Perfect tense

We're going to start here by looking at the present tense forms of so-called -ar verbs. These are verbs whose infinitive ends in -ar.

The infinitive and conjugation

The infintive is the "simple dictionary" form, that doesn't reflect any particular tense or person. The basic meaning of a Spanish infinitive is often closer to when we put to before a verb in English. So for example, we can say that the Spanish verb trabajar (which is the infinitive form) means to work.

Changing the infinitive into a form that reflects a particular tense (present, past etc) and person (I, you etc), is often called conjugation. So here, we are going to learn how to conjugate the verb trabajar in the present tense.

Present tense forms of -ar verbs

On the next page, we look at the present tense of trabajar (to work), which we have just said is a regular -ar verb.

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