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Spanish tenses are more diverse then in English, also a finite verb agrees in person and number with its subject (the doer of the action), even when the subject is understood without being expressed by a noun or pronoun. There are three persons which exist in all tenses in Spanish: First person is the speaker, second person is the one spoken to, and third person is the one spoken about.
First person singular: (Yo) soy marinero (I'm a sailor). First person plural: (Nosotros) somos marineros (We are sailors)
Second person familiar, singular: (Tú) eres abogado (you're a lawyer). Second person familiar, plural: (Vosotros) sois Americanas. (You girls are Americans.)
Second person polite, singular: Ud. es muy generoso (You are very generous), Second person polite, plural: Uds. son muy generosos. (You all are very generous.)
Third person singular: (Él) es abogado. (He is a lawyer). Third person plural: (Ellos) son abogados. (They are lawyers.)
Note: The usted/ ustedes (the polite "you") form of address is second person but uses third person verb forms.

 

Spanish Tenses

Conjugations Types

Simple Tenses

Compound Tenses

Moods

-First Conjugation

-ar: hablar (to speak)

-Second Conjugation

-er: comer (to eat)

-Third Conjugation

-ir: vivir (to live)

-Present Tense (presente):
hablo (I speak)

-Future Tense (futuro):
hablará (he will speak)

-Imperfect Tense (pretérito imperfecto):
hablaba (he used to speak)

 

-Preterit/ Past Tense:
habló (he spoke)

-Present Perfect (préterito perfecto):
he comido (I have eaten)

-Future Perfect (futuro perfecto):
habrá comido (he will have eaten)

-Pluperfect or Past Perfect (pretérito pluscuamperfecto):
había hablado (I had spoken)

-Preterit Perfect or Past Anterior (pretérito anterior): hubo comido (he had eaten)

-Indicative (indicativo): To express a fact:
Estoy en el restaurante.
(I’m in the restaurant.)

-Subjunctive (subjuntivo): To express a wish, an emotional attitude, or a doubt:
Quiero que Ud. venga. (I want you to come.)
Siento que no venga Ud. (Sorry you're not coming.)
Dudo que venga Ud. (I doubt that you'll come.)

-Conditional (potencial or condicional):
Expressing the idea of (would):
Juan no lo haría así. (Juan wouldn't do it that way.)

-Imperative (imperativo): Expressing a direct command: ¡Venga Ud! (Come!)

Spanish Present Tense


The present tense (presente) of regular verbs is formed by removing the infinitive ending (-ar, -er or -ir) and adding personal endings to the verb stem, it's the most used tense, and it functions quite similarly to the present tense in English.

 

Present Tense in Spanish

    Present (regular)

hablo,as,a,amos,an

como,es,e,emos,en

vivo,es,e,imos,en

    Present (Irregular)

conozco,es,e,mos,en

doy,das,a,mos,n

digo,dices,-,decimos,n

empiezo,as,a,ezamos,n

encuentro,as,a,o-mos,an

estoy,as,a,amos,an

hago,haces,-,mos,n,

voy,vas,a,mos,n

 

The present tense is used to describe something that is happening right now: (yo hablo) I speak. To refer to habitual actions: corro 5 km todos los días (I run 5 km every day). It’s also used to describe something happening in the near future: empiezo la semana que viene (I start next week). Also note that the present tense is sometimes used in literature to replace the preterit, also called the vivid present used in a narrative, to tell of the past (we will see that later).

 

Spanish Future Tense

 

The future tense (futuro) of regular verbs is formed by adding personal endings to the infinitive of the Spanish verb, which makes it one of the easiest tenses to conjugate. The endings are the same for all three conjugations.

 

Future Tense in Spanish

   Future (Regular)

hablaré,ás,á,emos,án

comeré,ás,á,emos,án

viviré,ás,á,emos,án

   Future Irregular

diré,ás.á,emos,án

encontré,ás,á,emos,án

haré,ás,á,emos,án

podré,ás,á,emos,án

pondré,ás,á,emos,án

querré,ás,á,emos,án

sabré,ás,á,emos,án

saldré,ás,á,emos,án

tendré,ás,á,emos,án

vendré,ás,á,emos,án

 

The future tense is often used in discussing things that will happen & expressing future time: Iré a la oficina mañana (I will go to the office tomorrow). The future tense can express also uncertainty or probability in the present: Tendrá hambre (he must be hungry).

 

Spanish Imperfect Tense

The imperfect tense (pretérito imperfecto) of regular verbs in Spanish is formed by removing the infinitive ending (-ar, -er or -ir) and adding personal endings to the verb stem. The good news is that there is one set of endings for the first (-ar) conjugation and a second set of endings for both verbs with (-er) and third (-ir). And not many irregularities, In English it’s usually the equivalent of "was ...-ing" or sometimes "used to".

 

Imperfect Tense in Spanish

Imperfect regular

hablaba,s,-,mos,n

comía,s,-,mos,n

vivía,s,-,mos,n

Imperfect Irregular

iba,s,-,íbamos,n

era,s,--,éramos,n

veía,s,-,mos,n

 

The imperfect tense is used to describe a situation in the past, or an action, which occurred repeatedly: corría 5 km cada día (I used to run 5 km everyday).

It is also used to refer to an action in the past that occurred over an extended period of time.Yo bebía frecuentemente té (I used to drink tea frequently).

The imperfect is used to express time or age in the past: era las nueve de la noche (it was 9 pm), tenía 3 años cuando su padre murió (he was 3 when his father died).

It is also used to describe a scene in the past: el palacio era maravilloso (the palace was gorgeous).

 

Spanish Preterit (Past Tense)

The preterite tense or past tense (pretérito indefinido) of regular verbs is formed in Spanish by removing the infinitive ending (-ar, -er or -ir) and adding personal endings to the verb stem. As with the imperfect tense, there is one set of endings for the first (-ar) conjugation and a second set of endings for both verbs with (-er) and third (-ir) Conjugations.

Spanish Past Tense

       Preterit (Regular)

 hablé,aste,ó,amos,aron

comí,iste,,imos,ieron

viví,iste,,imos,ieron

       Preterite (Irregular)

anduve,iste,o,imos,ieron

di,ste,o,mos,eron

dije,iste,o,imos,eron

dormí,iste,durmió,imos,u-ieron

empecé,empezaste,ó,amos,aron

estuve,iste,o,imos,ieron

hice,iste,hizo,imos,ieron

fui,iste,e,imos,eron

,ste,oyo,mos,oyeron

pude,iste,o,imos,ieron

puse,iste,o,imos,ieron

quise,iste,o,imos,ieron

supe,iste,o,imos,ieron

tuve,iste,o,imos,ieron

traje,iste,o,imos,ieron

vine,iste,o,imos,ieron

vi,ste,o,mos,eron

 

The preterit tense is used for the past actions that are seen as completed, with a definite beginning or ending in the past or has a verb which refers to an action that has a clear end: yo hablé con él (I spoke with him). Maria salío con él anoche (Maria went out with him last night). Fui ayer a la oficina (I went to the office yesterday).
It is also used to indicate an event or action that took place while another action (usually in the imperfect tense) was still ongoing: Cantaba cuando llegué. (He was singing when I got there). Also we use the preterit when we use a word referring to the time of the past: (ayer, anoche, el lunes, el año pasado).

Spanish Imperfect vs Preterit:

Since it’s easy to confuse between the Imperfect and Preterit, and also because they’re not interchangeable, we will learn here what’s the unique differences that each of them has:

Preterit

Imperfect

-To refer to something that happened once or more but with a specific end: fue ayer al gimnasio (dos veces) (I went to the gym (two times) yesterday).

-To indicate a short event took place while another action (usually in the imperfect tense) was still ongoing: comía cuando llamé por teléfono (he was eating when I called).

-Also used when we refer to the time of the past:

(ayer, anoche, el lunes, el año pasado).

 

-Habitual events (used to, would): corría 5 km cada día (I used to run 5 km everyday).

-Duration, ongoing/incomplete events (was …ing) el comía mucho (he was eating a lot).

-Past action in progress: el teléfono sonó mientras él dormía (the phone rang while he was sleeping)

-Used when we refer to a general time reference: siempre, con frecuencia

The preterit tense is used more often than the imperfect tense; there are some exceptions though with the verbs: querer, pueder, tener, saber, creer, and esperar. We will see examples of some of them and how their meaning change by changing the tense:

 

Verbs

 Imperfect

Preterit

Conocer

conocía: to have known someone

conoció: to have met someone

Saber

sabía: to have known something

supo: to have found out something

Querer

quería: wanted

quiso: tried

No Querer

no quería: didn't want

no quiso: refused

Poder

podía: was able to

pudó: managed to

No Poder

no podía: wasn't able to

no pudó: failed to

 

Spanish Perfect Tense

 

The compound tenses (tiempos compuestos) are formed in Spanish with the auxiliary verb "haber" and the past participle of the main verb. The past participle in compound tenses is invariable in form and keeps the same endings in both singular & plural.
-The present perfect (pretérito perfecto) uses the present tense of the auxiliary verb haber: (he, has, ha, hemos, habéis, han) + (stem+ado or ido). -ado for -ar ending verbs, -ido for -er and -ir ending verbs. he hablado, has comido, he vivido. It's used almost the same way English does. To express that something has happened at a certain point just before now, at an undetermined time in the past. It cannot be used with specific times, dates, days, or years, only if it indicates a repeated action during that same period of time. Ya he estado aquí (I have already been here).

He, has, ha, hemos, habéis, han + (one of the examples in the table).

 

Spanish Past Participle (regular)

hablando

comiendo

viviendo

Past participle (irregular)

abierto

dicho

escrito

hecho

ido

puesto

sido

visto

vuelto

 

-The future perfect (futuro perfecto) uses the future tense of the auxiliary verb haber, not used that often to indicate an action that will have taken place before another action in the future. (habré, habrás, habrá, habremos, habréis, habrán) + (stem +ado or ido), -ado for -ar ending verbs, -ido for -er and -ir ending verbs.
habrás comido (you will have eaten). habrán visto (they will have seen).

Future tense of haber (habré, habrás, habrá, habremos, habréis, habrán) + (one of the examples in the table).

 

Past Participle regular

hablando

comiendo

viviendo

Past participle irregular

abierto

dicho

escrito

hecho

ido

puesto

sido

visto

vuelto

 

-The pluperfect or past perfect (pretérito pluscuamperfecto) uses the imperfect tense of haber. It's used to refer to an action in the past which happened before another action in the past:  cuando llegué a la casa, mi familia ya había dormido (when I got home, my family was already sleeping).

había, habías, había, habíamos, habíais, habían + (one of the examples in the table)

 

Past Participle regular

hablando

comiendo

viviendo

Past participle irregular

abierto

dicho

escrito

hecho

ido

puesto

sido

visto

vuelto

 

Examples: había comido (I had eaten). habíamos dicho (we had said). habían visto (they had seen)

-The preterit perfect or past interior (pretérito anterior) is formed with the preterit of haber + past participle, and it has the same meaning as the past perfect. But this tense is usually used only after conjunctions of time, such as así que, luego que, tan pronto como (as soon as); cuando (when); después (de) que (after); and hasta que (until). apenas (scarcely) or luego que (as soon as), so it's strictly a literary tense; in conversation: Después que hube escrito la tarjeta, salí por la oficina de correos. (After I had written the letter, I went out to the post office).

The preterit of haber (hube, hubiste, hubo, hubimos, hubisteis, hubieron) + (one of the examples in the table)

 

Past Participle regular

hablando

comiendo

viviendo

Past participle irregular

abierto

dicho

escrito

hecho

ido

puesto

sido

visto

vuelto

 

Examples: hube comido (I had eaten), hubiste dicho (you had said), hubieron puesto (they had put).

-The perfect infinitive (infinitivo compuesto) is composed of the infinitive of haber and the past participle of the verb: haber comido (to have eaten). haber visto (to have seen), haber comido (to have eaten). It indicates interiority to a given moment: de haber sabido, lo habría hecho (having known, I would have done it).

-The perfect participle (gerundio compuesto) is composed of the present participle of haber and the past participle of the verb: habiendo comido (having eaten).
It refers to an action, which ended before the one of the principal verb: Habiendo visto eso, salió llorando (Having said that, she left crying).

Hopefully you learned something about Spanish tenses, like the present tense, past tense in Spanish, future tense, Spanish imperfect, present perfect tense. If you have any question, my e-mail is below. Good luck!!

 

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