When you’re learning Spanish, the term conjugation chart comes up a lot. In this article, we’ll explain what a Spanish conjugation chart is and why they’re so important.
We’ll assume you know very little Spanish, so we’ll explain the concepts using English examples.
Once you understand what conjugation charts are and how to use them, it will be easy for you to use Spanish conjugation charts as you’re learning the language.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What conjugation charts are
- Regular and irregular verbs
- How to master irregular verbs
Related post: Complete Spanish Grammar
A conjugation chart shows how the form of a verb changes depending on the subject and time.
Here’s your first conjugation chart. It’s for the verb “to walk” English, in the present tense.
|English present tense||To Walk|
The English conjugation chart for “to walk” in the present tense is pretty boring! The only verb ending that changes is for he/she. All the others have “walk”, while the he/she form has “walks“.
But in Spanish it’s never that simple. There are different verb conjugations for every row in the Spanish conjugation chart.
The other thing about verb conjugations is that they also let you know when the sentence is about (past, present, future…).
If I say “I walk“, you know I’m talking about the present or something habitual. But if I say “I walked” then you know I’m talking about something I did in the past.
- Verb conjugations are how the verb endings change depending on the subject (I, you, he/she…) and time (past, present, future…)
- A conjugation chart shows the verb conjugations for all the personal pronouns (I, you, he/she…) in that tense.
The concepts are just the same in Spanish.
When you see a Spanish conjugation chart, it will be for a particular tense (past, present, future, etc.) and show all the verb endings for I, you, he/she (in Spanish, i.e. yo, tú, él/ella…)
Thus, these conjugation charts are essential for learning how to use that verb in the given tense.
When you get more advanced in Spanish, you’ll also see conjugation charts for a given mood (indicative, subjunctive, imperative) in a given tense. But don’t worry about that for now. By the time you get to learning about moods in Spanish, you’ll already be very comfortable using Spanish conjugation charts.
Regular and irregular verbs
In all Spanish tenses, there are both regular and irregular verbs.
Regular verbs follow a simple pattern that is common to almost all other verbs that have the same ending. Once you learn the rule for how verbs with that ending conjugate, then you can conjugate hundreds of other verbs with the same ending correctly.
But then, there are those pesky irregular verbs. Irregular verbs do not follow the same pattern as most other verbs with the same ending, so you have to learn each one off by heart.
To make the idea easier to understand, the same is true in English. We have both regular and irregular verbs.
For example, in English to form the past tense of a regular verb, just add -ed to the end of the verb. For example, “to walk” becomes “I walked“.
Almost all verbs in English have the same conjugation in the past: to talk -> talked, to ask -> asked, to laugh -> laughed.
Given that’s the rule for forming the past tense in English, then we’d obviously also have: to say -> sayed, to feel -> feeled, to sleep -> sleeped, to come -> comed.
No wait! That’s not right!
These are all irregular verbs in the past tense in English. It’s actually: to say -> said, to feel -> felt, to sleep -> slept, to come -> came.
So, in English, most verbs are regular, and a few verbs are irregular.
The same in Spanish. Most verbs are regular and a few verbs are irregular.
When native Spanish speakers learn English, they learn the rules for the regular verbs first, then they have to learn all the irregular verbs by heart, one by one.
Unfortunately, the same will be true for you as you learn Spanish. You’ll learn the regular rules first, which will let you know how to conjugate almost all verbs in that tense just by following the rules. Then you’ll have to learn those pesky irregular verbs one by one.
There’s good news and bad news about irregular verbs.
The bad news is that the most frequently used verbs tend to be irregular, while rarely used verbs tend to be regular. Thus, you can’t get away with just skipping learning the irregular verbs, as they come up all the time in conversation.
The good news is that because they do come up all the time, you’ll get plenty of practice with them in conversations, so you’ll be able to learn and master them quite quickly.
How to master irregular verbs
So, what’s the best way to practice and master irregular verbs?
First a question: how did you know that “feel -> feeled” was incorrect in English?
It just sounded wrong and felt wrong, right? Unless you’re a 3 year old, you cannot say or hear “feeled” without feeling weird. It’s just wrong.
And this comes from practice. Lots and lots of practice.
An English speaking 3 year old can say “feeled” because they just haven’t had enough conversational practice for it to just feel wrong.
So, the best way to get conversational fluency, especially with irregular verbs, is just to get lots and lots of practice talking with a native Spanish speaker.
Without practice, it’s really tough. With practice, it just becomes easy and natural.
Check out our series of Complete Spanish Grammar articles – everything you’ll ever need to know about Spanish grammar.
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