When you’re learning Spanish, the term “conjugation chart” comes up a lot. In this article, we’ll explain what conjugation charts are and why they’re so important.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert at Spanish to understand this article. We’ll explain the concepts using English examples in case you’re just starting out.
Once you get the hang of conjugation charts and how to use them, it will be easier for you to learn the language.
In this article we’ll cover:
- What are conjugation charts?
- Regular and irregular verbs
- How to master irregular verbs
What are conjugation charts?
You’re going to have to rely on conjugation charts throughout the entire process of learning Spanish. So, it makes sense to get to know them inside and out from the get-go. So here comes the million-dollar question:
What are conjugation charts?
A conjugation chart shows how the form of a verb changes depending on the subject and time.
Well, that was a bit of a textbook-style answer.
But, why don’t we take a look at one so that you can get an even better idea of what we’re talking about?
Here’s your first conjugation chart. It’s for the verb “to walk” in English, in the present tense.
|Personal pronoun||To walk|
Now, we must admit, that wasn’t the most interesting conjugation chart. The verb “to walk” in the present tense is pretty dull. The only verb ending that changes is the pronoun he/she. All the other pronouns use “walk”, while the he/she form uses “walks“.
But the good news is that Spanish conjugation charts are a lot more interesting. There are usually different verb conjugations for every set of pronouns. That means the chart isn’t going to bore you to sleep like the last one just did.
Go on, try and convince us that that chart didn’t make your eyes feel heavy!
That’s right, there’s no shortage of exciting things to learn when it comes to Spanish!
Verb conjugations also let you in on more interesting information. That is when the sentence is taking place. It could be:
- In the past
- In the present
- In the future
For example, the words “she walks“, let you know we’re talking about an action taking place in the present or something habitual. But if we were to say “she walked” then you know we’re talking about something someone did in the past.
Here’s a summary of what we’ve learned so far:
- 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 same is true in Spanish. When you see a Spanish conjugation chart, it will be for a particular tense (past, present, future…) and show all the verb endings for the different personal pronouns such as:
So, these conjugation charts are essential for learning how to use a verb in the given tense.
When you move on to learning more advanced Spanish, you’ll also see conjugation charts for different moods such as:
- The indicative
- The subjunctive
- The imperative
But let’s not get too caught up with these moods right now. You’ll be very comfortable using Spanish conjugation charts by the time you have to worry about those.
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 to conjugate those verbs, then you can correctly conjugate hundreds of other verbs with the same ending.
But then come those pesky irregular verbs. We’re sure you’ve heard that these guys have a bad reputation. Let us explain why.
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. This creates a lot of extra work, especially when you’re new to the language.
But is Spanish the only language with irregular verbs?
No, English has both regular and irregular verbs. And so do most languages.
For example, in English to form the past tense of a regular verb, you just add -ed to the end of the verb.
- To walk
Almost all verbs in English have the same conjugation in the past:
- To talk
- To ask
- To laugh
So, given that’s the rule for forming the past tense in English, then we can conjugate any verb using the same -ed pattern. To say, sayed. To feel, feeled. To sleep, sleeped. To come, comed.
No, wait! Something smells fishy here.
These are all irregular verbs in the past tense in English. They should actually be conjugated like this:
- To say
- To feel
- To sleep
- To come
In English, most verbs are regular, and only a few are irregular. And in Spanish, the same is true. Most verbs are regular and only a few verbs are irregular.
Isn’t that a relief?
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. As you learn Spanish, you will have to go through the same process. You’ll learn the regular rules first, which will let you know how to conjugate almost any verbs in that tense just by following the rules. Then you’ll have to learn those pesky irregular verbs one by one.
Ok, so would you like the good news or the bad news first?
We’ll start with the bad news, which is that the most frequently used verbs tend to be irregular. And yep, you’ve guessed it. The more scarcely used verbs tend to be regular. So, you can’t skip learning the irregular verbs, as they come up all the time in conversation.
But there is good news! Since irregular verbs come up all the time, you’ll get plenty of practice with them in conversation. This will help you to master them quite quickly.
How to master irregular verbs
So, what’s the best way to practice and remember irregular verbs?
Allow us to ask you this first, how did you know that “feeled” was incorrect in English?
It just sounded wrong and felt wrong. (And if you’re a grammar buff like we are, then it probably even looked wrong, it definitely made our eyes sting).
You cannot say or hear “feeled” without it giving you the heebie-jeebies. This is because you have heard the past tense of the verb “to feel” as “felt” your entire life.
An English-speaking child on the other hand might say the word “feeled” because they just haven’t had enough conversational practice for it to sound wrong.
So, what’s the lesson?
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. With practice, it quickly becomes easier and more natural.
So why not get off on the right foot by booking your first Spanish class with a native speaker today?
Check out our series of Complete Spanish Grammar articles – everything you’ll ever need to know about Spanish grammar.
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