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Introduction to Spanish verbs:
the present tense of -ar verbs (ctd)

We'll start with the present tense forms of the verb we just mentioned: trabajar. To form the present tense of -ar verbs, this is generally the pattern:

  • remove the -ar to the stem;
  • depending on the person, add to this stem one of the present tense endings: -o, -as, -a, -amos, -áis, -an.

This gives the following:

PersonStemEndingResulting form
trabaj--o(yo) trabajo
I work
you, familiar, singular
-as(tú) trabajas
you work
-a(él/ella) trabaja
he/she works
you (Sir/Madam)
(usted) trabaja
you work (Sir/Madam)
-amos(nosotros/nosotras) trabajamos
we work
you (all), familiar*
-áis(vosotros/vosotras) trabajáis
you (all) work
-an(ellos/ellas) trabajan
they work
you (all)
(ustedes) trabajan
you (all) work

* Generally used in Spain only: see below

A few things to note here. Don't worry if you don't remember all these details: we'll review them gradually on the next pages, where you'll also be able to practise the present tense:

  • We've put the Spanish subject pronouns (yo, etc) in brackets. Spanish is a so-called pro-drop language, meaning that the subject pronouns are normally not used except to mark contrast or emphasis (as a rule of thumb, use them only where you'd stress the corresponding word I, you etc in English). So the single word trabajo in itself means I work.
  • Spanish has different equivalents to English you. The choice in Spanish depends firstly on whether the person is being addressed on formal or informal terms. "Formal terms" means roughly where you'd address somebody as Sir or Madam, for example when addressing a customer in a shop, a teacher, or a high-ranking boss or superior at work. The issue of which form of address to use is actually quite complex.
  • The choice of word for you also varies from region to region. In Spain, the vosotros/as form is used as a familiar plural form, and ustedes is a formal, plural, form of address (i.e. for speaking to more than one person on formal terms). In Latin America, ustedes covers plural form of address generally (both informal and formal), and vosotros/as and the corresponding verb form is not used at all. This gives the following situation:
    Form of youSpainLatin America
    Singular, familiar
    Singular, formalusted
    Plural, familiarvosotros / vosotrasustedes
    Plural, formalustedes
  • In Spain, usted and ustedes are often capitalised and written Ud, Uds.
  • The verb form for usted is always the same as the "he/she" (él, ella) form.
  • Similarly, the ustedes form is always the same as the "they" form.
  • The "he/she" form also covers "it" as a subject, but there is often no corresponding explicit pronoun in Spanish. (Since "it" is generally unstressed by definition, and subject pronouns are generally stressed in Spanish, it follows that Spanish generally has no word for "it" as a subject!) Unlike French, where il and elle can refer to inanimate things, Spanish ellos/ellas generally always have a human or animate referent.

We mentioned in our introduction to Spanish verbs that verb forms generally end in a person marker. The person marker determines the subject of the verb (I, you, he/she etc). The form of the present tense therefore changes depending on the person.

Next: practise these forms

On the next pages, you can start practising the present tense of -ar verbs.

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