Unit 0 - Introduction
Lesson 0.3 - The Powerful Spanish Verb

Why Spanish verbs have so many different conjugated forms.

A view down the tree-lined Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City, including el Ángel de la Independencia

Versatile Verbs

Verbs are the workhorses of the Spanish language. Since the verb in Spanish can also indicate the subject and the "mood" of the phrase, there are many word forms of each verb.

As a student, it can be intimidating to realize that each verb has more than 100 different conjugations. Fortunately, most of those variations are easily formed once you understand the process. And really, it is this multiplicity of verb forms that makes Spanish such an efficient and expressive language.

In Spanish, the conjugated verb form conveys a lot of information to the listener or reader. The form of a verb can tell us:

1) Who or what did the action. (The implicit pronoun)

2) When the action occurred or will occur. (The tense)

3) Whether the event is a matter of fact or more speculative in nature. (The mood)

In English, much of this information is conveyed by other words in the sentence. For native English speakers, it takes some time and effort to accustom our brains to the wonderfully versatile Spanish verb.

English vs Spanish verb forms

As an example, let's look at the verb 'to sing' in English present tense:

I singWe sing
You singYou (plural) sing
He/She singsThey sing

Note how five of the six forms are identical, with the exception being He/She, where we add an "s" to the end of the verb. So we really have only two forms of this verb in English, sing and sings.

Now look at the same regular verb (cantar Play Audio = to sing) in Spanish:

Yo cantoNosotros cantamos
Tú cantasVosotros cantáis
Él/Ella cantaEllos cantan

In the Spanish version, each of the six verb forms is unique. And roughly the same thing occurs with each of the tenses in Spanish.

Since the word form changes for each subject, the pronoun is optional. Indeed, it is usually omitted. So Canto. Play Audio is a complete Spanish sentence, meaning I sing.