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Spanish Present Tense: A Comprehensive Guide

Present Tense in Spanish — a pair of glasses on an open notebook

You may have noticed that as new age hippies take on pop-culture with their yoga and essential oils, there has been a big trend towards “being present”. Just BE in the present moment man, LIVE in the now!

But anyone who has tried to do so knows that just because the idea is simple does NOT mean it is easy.

Same goes with the Spanish present tense…

The Spanish present tense is actually quite challenging because it can express past, present, AND future (….say whaaaat?), not to mention the fact that it is riddled with orthographic (aka spelling), stem-vowel and diphthongization irregularities.

But HAVE NO FEAR, Extremely-Thorough-Grammar-Man is here! In today’s guide, you will not want to miss out on:

  • Spanish present tense explained (as past, present, present continuous and future)
  • How to conjugate the Spanish present tense step-by-step
  • Spanish present tense practice for all uses
  • Present tense Spanish sentences you can actually use!

Without further ado, let’s take a deep breath into the present moment and start breaking down this bad boy step-by-step!

Spanish Present Tense Explained With Examples

In this section, I will explain the different uses of the Spanish present tense, how it can be used in the past, present and future, and give several examples.

Comparison of the Simple, Continuous and Perfect Present Tense

First, here is a side-by-side look at the different present tense forms:

Language Simple Present Continuous Present Perfect Present
English I speak I am speaking I have spoken
Spanish Yo hablo Yo estoy

hablando ← gerund!

Yo he

hablado ← past participle!

The simple present + continuous present tenses ACTUALLY express what’s happening in this very moment or habitually, unlike the perfect present which only expresses the past.

Even though we love all tenses equally (sorry perfect), we will just focus on the simple present + continuous present in this article. (For all about the Perfect Present, check out this guide!)

Here’s how you use the simple present and continuous present in action!

Occurs Right Now (Simple Present)

These verbs show an action that is happening right now.

  • Tengo frío/calor. (I am cold/hot, Literally: I have cold/hot.)
  • Quiero un taco. (I want a taco.)
  • El café está listo. (The coffee is ready.)
  • Pablo necesita ir al baño. (Pablo needs to go to the bathroom.)

Habitual Action (Simple Present)

This is an ongoing action or something that takes place habitually.

  • Todos los días voy al centro. (Every day I go to the center.)
  • Aquí venden tacos. (They sell tacos here.)
  • Los domingos vamos a la iglesia. (On Sundays we go to church.)
  • Me gustan las películas. (I like movies.)

Historic Past (Simple Present)

This use of the present tense is mostly scholastic. It describes a past action with historical relevance. You can see this usage every day either in news articles or in history class.

  • Hallan un enorme agujero negro en nuestra galaxia. (They discovered an enormous black hole in our galaxy.)
  • Los portugueses llegan a Brasil en el año 1500. (The Portuguese arrived in Brazil in the year 1500.)
  • Descubren asombroso cadáver de una sirena en Reino Unido. (They discovered the astonishing corpse of a mermaid in the UK.)
  • Encuentran una colección de artefactos nazis en Argentina. (They found a collection of Nazi artefacts in Argentina.)

Past Action (Simple Present)

This expresses an action that was started in the past and continues to the present. It follows the form “hace” + amount of time + que + verb in present tense. Take a look at the examples:

  • Hace dos años que no voy al dentista. (It’s been two years since I’ve been to the dentist.)
  • Hace mucho tiempo que no nos vemos. (It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other.)
  • Hace un año que trabajo en la iglesia. (It’s been a year that I am working in the church.)
  • Hace más de dos meses que viaja por Brasil. (It’s been more than two months that he’s traveling in Brazil.)

Future Action (Simple Present)

This is an easier way of expressing an action that hasn’t already occurred but will take place in the future. (For more on this use of the present in Future Tense Spanish, check out this awesome guide!)

  • Le hablo mañana. (I’ll talk to him tomorrow.)
  • Te llamo más tarde. (I’ll call you later.)
  • Nos vemos en un rato. (We’ll see each other in a bit.)
  • Lo hago mañana. (I’ll do it tomorrow.)

I don’t always exercise, but when I do, I do it tomorrow

Occurring Now (Continuous Present)

This describes an action that is taking place at this very moment. IMPORTANT: Although the simple present may ALSO be used for the same purpose, there are certain verbs that ONLY make sense in simple present (i.e. quiero, tengo, está…) and others that express progressive ongoing action (estoy caminando, estoy haciendo…)

  • ¿Qué estás haciendo? (What are you doing?)
  • Estoy comiendo verduras. (I am eating vegetables.)
  • Estamos yendo al super. (We are going to the supermarket.)
  • Están hablando demasiado. (They are talking too much.)

(For a refresher on Gerunds in Spanish, check out this article!)

BOTTOM LINE

We totally underestimate the importance of the Spanish present tense because it has so many uses. Now let’s learn how to conjugate it correctly, so we can actually start using it in all its glory!

How to Conjugate the Spanish Present Tense Step-by-Step

In this section, we will learn how to conjugate regular and irregular verbs ending in -ar, -er and -ir in the present tense.

Regular AR Verbs in Spanish Present Tense

Step 1: Identify the verb (hablar, andar, marcar, llamar…) and eliminate the -ar to get the verb stem (hablar, andar, marcar, llamar…)

Step 2: Add the appropriate endings:

yo  –o
as
él/ella/Usted a
nosotros amos
vosotros áis
ellos/ellas/ustedes an

Step 3: The results:

HABLAR (TO SPEAK) ANDAR (TO WALK) MARCAR (TO MARK)
yo hablo yo ando yo marco
tú hablas tú andas tú marcas
él/ella/Usted habla él/ella/Usted anda él/ella/Usted marca
nosotros hablamos nosotros andamos nosotros marcamos
vosotros habláis vosotros andáis vosotros marcáis
ellos/ellas/ustedes hablan ellos/ellas/ustedes andan ellos/ellas/ustedes marcan

Regular ER Verbs in Spanish Present Tense

Step 1: Identify the verb (comer, beber, aprender, prender…) and eliminate the -er to get the verb stem (comer, beber, aprender, prender…)

Step 2: Add the appropriate endings:

yo o
es
él/ella/Usted e
nosotros emos
vosotros éis
ellos/ellas/ustedes  –en

Step 3: The results:

COMER (TO EAT) BEBER (TO DRINK) APRENDER (TO LEARN)
yo como yo bebo yo aprendo
tú comes tú bebes tú aprendes
él/ella/Usted come él/ella/Usted bebe él/ella/Usted aprende
nosotros comemos nosotros bebemos nosotros aprendemos
vosotros coméis vosotros bebéis vosotros aprendéis
ellos/ellas/ustedes comen ellos/ellas/ustedes beben ellos/ellas/ustedes aprenden

NOTE: Almost exactly the same as the -ar verbs, just swap -a for -e.

Regular IR Verbs in Spanish Present Tense

Step 1: Identify the verb (vivir, recibir, escribir, discutir…) and eliminate the -ir to get the verb stem (vivir, recibir, escribir, discutir…)

Step 2: Add the appropriate endings:

yo o
es
él/ella/Usted e
nosotros imos
vosotros ís
ellos/ellas/ustedes en

Step 3: The results:

VIVIR (TO LIVE)  RECIBIR (TO RECEIVE) ESCRIBIR (TO WRITE)
yo vivo yo recibo yo escribo
tú vives tú recibes tú escribes
él/ella/Usted vive él/ella/Usted recibe él/ella/Usted escribe
nosotros vivimos nosotros recibimos nosotros escribimos
vosotros vivís vosotros recibís vosotros escribís
ellos/ellas/ustedes viven ellos/ellas/ustedes reciben ellos/ellas/ustedes escriben

NOTE: Only the nosotros and vosotros change from -er to -ir verbs.

Spanish Present Tense Irregulars: Conjugations to Watch Out For

In this section, we’ll cover the tricky irregularities that come out in the present tense conjugations. This really matters because the irregularities you learn in present tense carry over to the subjunctive tenses as well. Simple, but not easy!

Verbs with Irregular Yo Forms in the Present Tense

The following are some of the most common verbs that have unique yo forms.

PRONUNCIATION TIP: When a combines with i, it creates the sound “eye” (caigo – this is a diphthong!)

Spanish English yo
caer to fall caigo
caber to fit quepo
conocer to know conozco
dar to give doy
hacer to do hago
poner to put pongo
saber to know
salir to go out salgo
traducir to translate traduzco
traer to take traigo
valer to be worth valgo
ver to see veo

NOTE: Most verbs ending in -cer (parecer, crecer) and -cir (conducir, deducir) will change in yo → (reconozco, crezco) (conduzco, deduzco).

BUT THERE’S MORE: All stems are IMPORTANT. From the verb poner you also get proponer, suponer, posponer (to propose, to suppose, to postpone). These all change in the same exact way you have seen above (propongo, supongo, pospongo).

Verbs with Spelling Changes in the Yo Form Present Tense

Because of funny phonetic rules, some tricky verbs that end in -ger and -gir swap the g for a j in the yo form, and verbs ending in -guir must have yo forms ending in go. For example:

  • distinguir (to distinguish) → distingo
  • extinguir (to extinguish) → extingo
  • dirigir (to direct) → dirijo
  • escoger (to choose) → escojo
  • exigir (to demand) → exijo
  • coger (to grab) → cojo

Verbs with Irregular Stem Changes in the Present Tense: O → UE

Some verbs that contain the letter o change the stem from o to ue with all pronouns EXCEPT nosotros and vosotros.

PRONUNCIATION TIP: When u combines with e, it makes a “w” sound (almuerzo – this is also a diphthong!)

For example, look at the irregularities in almorzar (to have lunch):

yo almuerzo
almuerzas
él/ella/Usted almuerza
nosotros almorzamos
vosotros almorzáis
ellos/ellas/ustedes almuerzan

Same goes for the following:

  • contar (to tell) → cuento
  • dormir (to sleep) → duermo
  • encontrar (to find) → encuentro
  • mostrar (to show) → muestro
  • poder (to be able) → puedo
  • recordar (to recall) → recuerdo
  • volver (to come back) → vuelvo

NOTE: Exception to the exception is the verb “jugar”, which conjugates juego, jugamos, and jugáis.

Verbs with Irregular Stem Changes in the Present Tense: E → IE

Some verbs that contain the letter e (cerrar, comenzar, empezar, entender, pensar, perder, preferir, querer…) change the verb stem from e to ie with all pronouns EXCEPT nosotros and vosotros.

PRONUNCIATION TIP: When i is followed by another vowel, it produces the “y” sound from “year” (cierra – you guessed it – diph to the thong!)

For example, check out the verb cerrar (to close):

yo cierra
cierras
él/ella/Usted cierra
nosotros cerramos
vosotros cerréis
ellos/ellas/ustedes  cierran

Same goes for the following:

  • comenzar (to commence) → comienzo
  • empezar (to start) → empiezo
  • entender (to understand) → entiendo
  • pensar (to think) → pienso
  • perder (to lose) → pierdo
  • preferir (to prefer) → prefiero
  • querer (to want) → quiero

Verbs with Irregular Stem Changes in the Present Tense: E → I

These are the smallest category of irregulars. Verbs with e (pedir, repetir, seguir, conseguir, servir…) change the verb stem from e to i with all pronouns EXCEPT nosotros and vosotros.

Let’s analyze the verb pedir:

yo pido
pides
él/ella/Usted pide
nosotros pedimos
vosotros pedís
ellos/ellas/ustedes piden

Same goes for its brothers:

  • repetir (to repeat) → repito
  • seguir (to follow) → sigo
  • conseguir (to get) → consigo
  • servir (to serve) → sirvo

Complete Irregular Verbs (Ser & Ir) in Present Tense Being Extra AF

These are two of THE MOST common verbs. You just need to memorize these verbs if you want to Spanish (yes, I made Spanish a verb).

SER (TO BE)  IR (TO GO)
yo soy yo voy
tú eres tú vas
él/ella/Usted es él/ella/Usted va
nosotros somos nosotros vamos
vosotros sois vosotros vais
ellos/ellas/ustedes son ellos/ellas/ustedes van

Phew! Irregulars out of the way, let’s quickly look at the much simpler continuous present and then knock out some practice!

How to Conjugate the Spanish Present Continuous Tense Step-by-Step

In this section, we’ll break down the present continuous, aka progressive tense, or “I am doing/eating/walking” tense. This tense is simply the verb estar conjugated + gerund (doing/eating/walk).

LISTEN UP: The continuous is IMPORTANT because it’s identical to the English use AND it carries into the past imperfect too (I was doing/eating/walking…). Master this and double your fluency!

Step 1: Conjugate the verb estar:

yo estoy
estás
él/ella/Usted está
nosotros estamos
vosotros estáis
ellos/ellas/ustedes están

Step 2: Add gerund

  • hacer (to do) → haciendo → estoy haciendo (I am doing)
  • estudiar (to study) → estudiando → (ella) está estudiando (She is studying)
  • caminar (to walk) → caminando → están caminando (They are walking)

All done! Wasn’t that easy? Well, THAT’S NOT ALL! We have got some practice to see if you were paying attention!

Spanish Present Tense Practice

In this section, I will give you some verbs in the infinitive and you’ll conjugate it into real examples you can turn around and use in your everyday life!

REMEMBER: Pronouns are not usually used in Spanish because the conjugation itself indicates the subject. However, in the practice, we’ve highlighted the pronouns in (red) to facilitate!

  1. (Dormir) Todas las noches (yo) ________ a las 10. (I sleep every night at 10.)
  2. (Escoger) (Yo) ______ estar contigo todos los días. (I choose to be with you every day.)
  3. (Comer) (Yo) _______ ________ ahora, no puedo hablar! (I am eating now, I can’t talk!)
  4. (Hacer) (Yo) lo ________ mañana en la tarde. (I’ll do it tomorrow afternoon.)
  5. (Cerrar) (Yo) siempre ______ la puerta de mi cuarto. (I always close the door to my room.)
  6. (Volver) ¿A qué hora ________ ()? (What time do you come back?)
  7. (Estudiar) (Ellos) _______ ______ en este momento, no los molestes! (They are studying right now, don’t bother them!
  8. (Ser) () ______ lo mejor! Gracias! (You are the best! Thank you!)
  9. (Ir) Hace dos años (yo) no ____ al médico. (It’s been two years since I’ve been to the doctor.)
  10. (Encontrar) (Ellos) ______ cadáver de mamut de casi 40 mil años. (They found the corpse of a 40,000-year-old mammoth.)

Answers to Spanish Present Tense Practice

  1. (Dormir) Todas las noches duermo a las 10. (I sleep every night at 10.)
  2. (Escoger) Escojo estar contigo todos los días. (I choose to be with you every day.)
  3. (Comer) Estoy comiendo ahora, no puedo hablar! (I am eating now, I can’t talk!)
  4. (Hacer) Lo hago mañana en la tarde. (I’ll do it tomorrow afternoon.)
  5. (Cerrar) Siempre cierro la puerta de mi cuarto. (I always close the door to my room.)
  6. (Volver) ¿A qué hora vuelves? (What time do you come back?)
  7. (Estudiar) Están estudiando en este momento, no los molestes! (They are studying right now, don’t bother them!)
  8. (Ser) Eres lo mejor! Gracias! (You are the best! Thank you!)
  9. (Ir) Hace dos años no voy al médico. (It’s been two years since I’ve been to the doctor.)
  10. (Encontrar) Encuentran cadáver de mamut de casi 40 mil años. (They found the corpse of a 40,000-year-old mammoth.)

How did you do?! These practice sentences show you just how diverse the present tense can be! Let’s do a quick recap!

Back to the present moment…

I can’t emphasize enough how important the mastery of the present tense is! Simple, but not easy!

Let’s go over the many uses of the Spanish present tense that we covered in this article:

  • Spanish present tense to express the past (Los portugueses llegan a Brasil en el año 1500…)
  • Spanish present tense to express a habit (Los domingos hago yoga…)
  • Spanish present tense to express the present moment (Tengo frío…)
  • Spanish present tense to express the future (Hablamos mañana…)
  • Irregularities in the Spanish present tense that carry over into the subjunctive (duermo → espero que duermas)
  • Continuous present tense works just like English and carries over to the past imperfect (estoy haciendo… estaba haciendo)

Of course, you can’t just meditate on all the irregulars, you hippies! You need to practice. Check out this awesome interactive game to master the present tense Spanish!

Challenge yourself with Clozemaster

Test your skills and see what you’ve learned from this article by playing a selection of sentences with the Spanish present tense:

Sign up here to save your progress and start getting fluent with thousands of Spanish sentences at Clozemaster.

Clozemaster has been designed to help you learn the language in context by filling in the gaps in authentic sentences. With features such as Grammar Challenges, Cloze-Listening, and Cloze-Reading, the app will let you emphasize all the competencies necessary to become fluent in Spanish.

Take your Spanish to the next level. Click here to start practicing with real Spanish sentences!


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