Spanish verbs. Lesson 1

Free course on Spanish verbs - Lesson 1

Spanish verbs
Course on verb tenses and forms

Lesson 1: ¿Qué estás haciendo? What are you doing?

In this lesson we will learn:

  • how to use the present tense (Presente)
  • what is the Spanish gerund (Gerundio) and how to use it with the verb estar
  • the difference between the forms Presente and estar + gerundio

Does it seem to you that there are so many Spanish tenses, that you will never master them? You’re wrong. The secret of success is to create a clear matrix in our head where each tense has its special place. First, stop trying to remember all the tenses at once. Remember the situations and the time markers for each tense. You will see that at the end of the course, all the tenses will take their place in a logical and beautiful system of verb forms.

New vocabulary


In this lesson, we will practice the following vocabulary. Read the words, listen to the audio and remember them:



gente jóven

young people



compañero de trabajo




chiste sin gracia

unfunny joke

por su culpa

because of him/her (it’s his/her fault)






herb, grass





recoger la habitación

to clean up a room


to help


to concentrate


to use


to lie / to tell lies


to throw away


to begin


to hate

sacar de quicio

to drive someone crazy


to bother, disturb

contar chistes

to tell jokes


to laugh

convertirse en

to turn into


to jump


to get dirty


to beat, to strike

resolver conflictos

to resolve conflicts

Dialogues in Spanish


Listen carefully to the following Spanish dialogues. They will help you understand the grammar of this lesson:

Spanish grammar

Spanish grammar

Read carefully the explanation of the grammar of this lesson:

How the present tense is formed (Presente)

Using Spanish verbs is not an easy thing. They have different endings for almost every pronoun and we’ll have to memorize them all. So let’s start with the present tense. In general, Spanish verbs can be divided into 3 types of conjugation:

  • verbs ending with -ar
  • verbs ending with -er
  • verbs ending with -ir

We are going to see an example of a verb for each type of conjugation. Try to memorize the endings of the verbs for every pronoun. It will help you to use the rest of the verbs in Spanish.

person -ar: hablar (to speak) -er: aprender (to study) -ir: escribir (to write)
yo hablo aprendo escribo
hablas aprendes escribes
él, ella, usted habla aprende escribe
nosotros hablamos aprendemos escribimos
vosotros habláis aprendéis escribís
ellos, ustedes hablan aprenden escriben

The verbs that form the present tense according to this table are called “regular”. However, there are also “irregular” verbs. The irregular forms of the verbs should be learnt by heart. They will be useful not only to form the present tense, but also to create other verb forms.

Let’s see the most “irregular” changes:

person o ⇒ ue : poder (to be able/can) e ⇒ ie : entender (to understand) e ⇒ i : repetir (to repeat)
yo puedo entiendo repito
puedes entiendes repites
él, ella, usted puede entiende repite
nosotros podemos entendemos repetimos
vosotros podéis entendéis repetís
ellos, ustedes pueden entienden repiten

There are several “irregular” verbs in our lesson

Let’s pay attention to the irregular verbs that appeared in the dialogues of this lesson:

  • mentir (to lie) ⇒ yo miento, tú mientes, él miente, nosotros mentimos, vosotros mentís, ellos mienten
  • empezar (to begin) ⇒ yo empiezo, tú empiezas, él empieza, nosotros empezamos, vosotros empezáis, ellos empiezan
  • contar (to tell) ⇒ yo cuento, tú cuentas, él cuenta, nosotros contamos, vosotros contáis, ellos cuentan
  • resolver (to resolve) ⇒ yo resuelvo, tú resuelves, él resuelve, nosotros resolvemos, vosotros resolvéis, ellos resuelven

Besides, there are verbs, which have only one irregular form – the 1st person singular. The rest of the forms are regular. Remember these verbs:

  • saber (to know) ⇒ yo
  • hacer (to do) ⇒ yo hago
  • salir (to go out) ⇒ yo salgo
  • poner (to put) ⇒ yo pongo

Some verbs have several irregular forms that are difficult to group according to any principle. They should be memorized:

person ser (to be) ir (to go) tener (to have) venir (to come) decir (to say) oir (to hear)
yo soy voy tengo vengo digo oigo
eres vas tienes vienes dices oyes
él, ella, usted es va tiene viene dice oye
nosotros somos vamos tenemos venimos decimos oímos
vosotros sois vais tenéis venís decís oís
ellos, ustedes son van tienen vienen dicen oyen

Reflexive verbs

In Spanish, there is a special group of verbs called “reflexive”. These are the verbs with the ending -se which can be understood as “oneself” in English: convertirse (to turn (oneself) into), ensuciarse (to get dirty or to make oneself dirty). The conjugation of these verbs is the same as the conjugation of ordinary verbs. The only difference is that the final “-se” turns into a personal pronoun and should be placed before a verb. Let’s see how to conjugate the reflexive verbs from this lesson:

person convertirse (to turn into) ensuciarse (to get dirty)
yo me convierto me ensucio
te conviertes te ensucias
él, ella, usted se convierte se ensucia
nosotros nos convertimos nos ensuciamos
vosotros os convertís os ensuciáis
ellos, ustedes se convierten se ensucian

Note that these pronouns should never be omitted:

  • Los niños siempre se ensucian en el parque. – Children always get dirty in the playground.
  • Cuando tengo hambre me convierto en un monstruo. – When I am hungry, I turn into a monster.

With infinitives, the pronouns should be put at the end of the verb:

  • No quiero convertirme en un monstruo. – I don’t want to turn into a monster.
  • Cuidado, aquí puedes ensuciarte. – Be careful, here you can get dirty.

Common mistake
Those naughty pronouns!

If you omit the pronoun the meaning can change:

  • Los niños siempre se ensucian en el parque. – Children always get dirty at the playground.
  • Los niños ensucian mis cosas. – Children make my things dirty.

Don’t forget to inflect pronouns with infinitives. The pronoun is placed at the end in the corresponding form:

  • No quiero convertirme en un monstruo. – I don’t want to turn into a monster.
  • Cuidado, puedes convertirte en un monstruo. – Be careful, you can turn into a monster.

What’s that mysterious thing called “gerund”?

In English, “gerund” is the “-ing” form that we can add to verbs (reading, cooking, walking). In Spanish, there is also a gerund. It’s not always used in the same situations as in English, but the concept is very similar. First, let’s see how the gerund in Spanish is formed:

  • verbs with the ending -ar: -ando (hablando, trabajando, comprando)
  • verbs with the ending -er /-ir: -iendo (comiendo, entendiendo, escribiendo)

Pay attention to the verbs that have some irregularities in the present tense. The gerund of these verbs usually keeps these “irregular” changes:

  • dormir –> durmiendo
  • preferir –> prefiriendo
  • decir –> diciendo

Sometimes the root (or the “stem”) of a verb ends in a vowel (like “o-ir”). These verbs form gerund with the ending -yendo. Remember their forms:

  • oir –> oyendo
  • leer –> leyendo

The construction estar + gerund is used to say what we are doing at the moment of speech. It’s an equivalent of the form “to be doing something” in English. You’ll see that this construction is very easy to use in Spanish. Read carefully the translation of these sentences and compare them:

  • Estoy leyendo un libro. – I am reading a book.
  • ¿Qué estás haciendo? – What are you doing?
  • No puedo hablar porque estoy trabajando. – I can’t speak because I am working.

So what should we choose, “hago” or “estoy haciendo”?

Choosing between the present tense and the gerund in Spanish is quite easy. Just listen to your intuition (and to our tips):

Presente Estar + gerundio
1. A regular action in present:

Siempre jugamos en este parque.

(We always play at this park)

2. The verbs of perception (ver, oir):

Veo que los niños están en el parque.

(I see that the children are at the park)

(We don’t choose whether to see or not to see. It’s not a conscious activity)

3. In set expressions:

¿Sabes? No me gusta la playa.

(You know, I don’t like the beach)

1. An action in process:

Ahora estamos jugando al fútbol.

(Now we are playing football)

2. With the verbs of perception:

Estoy viendo la tele.

(I am watching TV)

(this is an activity with a certain purpose, which I am doing consciously)

3. In order to express irritation about someone’s actions:

¡Siempre está hablando alto para molestarme!

(He is always speaking loudly to bother me!)

(this is a very emotional expression)

tense markers:

siempre, nunca, a veces, rara vez, a menudo

todos los días, todos los meses, todos los años

cada mañana, cada semana, cada año, cada siglo

2 veces por semana

tense markers:

en este momento, en este instante

ahora mismo

¡siempre…! (in order to express irritation)

You already know how to complain in Spanish!

If somebody irritates you don’t hesitate to use “estar + gerundio” to express your indignation. Get used to being emotional. You are learning Spanish after all!

  • ¡Siempre estás cantando esta canción tonta! ¡Me sacas de quicio! – You are always singing this silly song! You’re driving me crazy!
  • ¡Siempre está contando chistes sin gracia! – He is always telling unfunny jokes!
Spanish exercise


Check what you remember from this lesson:

1. No puedo hablar ahora, ____ .
estoy trabajando

2. ¿Quieres ___ en una princesa?
te conviertes

3. Mi hijo a menudo ____ .
está mintiendo

4. Pablo, tienes que ____ la habitación.

5. ¿ ____ qué? No quiero ir al cine contigo.
Estás sabiendo

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