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Irregular Verbs In Spanish: Beginner's Guide

Irregular verbs in Spanish are some of the most confusing and frustrating parts of the language for most learners. Not only in Spanish either - the English language has more than 200 common irregular verbs, meaning that the vast majority of verbs in the English language are irregular.

In contrast, the Spanish language has around 40 extremely common irregular verbs.

While this means that there are far fewer Spanish irregular verbs than there are English irregular verbs, they can still be kind of a pain to memorize.

Fortunately, most irregular verbs follow a clearly set pattern. As long as you can pick out what type of irregular conjugation you're dealing with, you should be able to master this complicated part of the Spanish language in no time at all.

Below, we've listed some of the most common irregular verbs in the Spanish language, as well as their patterns, conjugations, and how to correctly use them in a sentence.

What are the different types of irregular verbs in Spanish?

As a general rule, Spanish has four main types of irregular verbs. These four types are:

All Irregular, All the Time. These verbs are the trickiest conjugations to learn, simply because they don't follow any established rules. Unfortunately, they're also some of the most common verbs in the Spanish language.

Because they don't follow any set rules, the easiest way to learn the verbs in this category is simply to memorize them. While it may seem frustrating or confusing at first, because verbs in this category are used nearly all the time, they'll soon become second nature to any new Spanish speaker.

Only Irregular in the "Yo" Form. The first person singular, or "yo" form, is used in the same way that the English word "I" is usually used. Some irregular verbs have a unique spelling only in this form.

For the rest of the forms—the he/she form or we/us form, for example—these verbs will follow the standard conjugation rules for either an -ar, -er, or -ir. However, in the first person singular conjugation, they take a unique spelling and pronunciation that doesn't seem to line up with the rest of the verb chart!

As with the previous category, it's easiest just to memorize the verbs that fall into this category. They're less common than the fully irregular verbs, but will still take a little bit of work and practice to fully memorize.

Stem-Changing Verbs. Stem-changing verbs refer to irregular verbs that have a spelling change in the stem or root of the word. This category of verbs can be further divided into four subcategories.

"E to IE" verbs change the E in the main part of the word into an IE, and the same tenet holds true for "O to UE", "E to I", and "U to UE" verbs. Unlike the "yo form" irregular verbs, these changes are used throughout the conjugation. One important thing to remember with these verbs is that the spelling change holds throughout the conjugation except in the nosotros and vosotros forms. While vosotros may not be as common as nosotros, both of these inclusive plural forms skip the spelling change.

In the nosotros or vosotros conjugations, the spelling will be the same as it is in the verb itself, without any strange switches or spelling changes! Memorize the verbs that fall into this category and you should be good to go!

Verbs With Spelling Changes. The last category of irregular verbs specifically refers to verbs that change the spelling at the end, as opposed to in the middle of the word.

The most common spelling changes that you see in Spanish verbs will usually be in one of four subcategories. While it may seem like the rules surrounding irregular verbs are nearly overwhelming, just remember that English has far more irregular verbs—and even fewer hard and fast rules!

The first category of spelling change irregular verbs is "-CIR/CER to -ZO". In other words, the verbs that end in -cir or -cer will have the last leg of their spelling cut off and replaced with -zo in the yo form. From there, you conjugate the verb the way you normally would, ignoring the first spelling change.

The same principle holds for the remaining three spelling changes: "-CER to -ZCO", "-GER/GIR to -JO", and "-GUIR to GO". Unfortunately, like the previous three categories of irregular verbs, the best way to get used to these verb changes is to memorize the words that they affect.

Again, while it may seem like a tall task to memorize such an apparently large number of irregular verbs, these words are so often used in everyday speech that you'll quickly get used to hearing them in conversation. As a result, it's easy to pick up on and start to use each new word.

The most common Spanish irregular verbs

While irregular verbs in Spanish may be slightly less common than irregular verbs in English, there are still a lot of irregular verbs. We may not have the time or space to get into each and every one of those verbs, but we've narrowed it down to some of the most common.

As mentioned previously, there are around 40 common Spanish irregular verbs. Of those, we've picked the fifteen most common irregular verbs. These fifteen verbs cover the four categories of irregular verbs outlined above and provide a good example of what you can expect from your first forays into the Spanish language.

The fifteen most common irregular verbs in Spanish are:

Ser, which means "to be" (as a permanent trait or quality), and is conjugated as yo soy, tú eres, él/ella/usted es, nosotros somos, vosotros sois, and ellas/ellos/ustedes son.

EnglishEspañol
I amyo soy
You aretú eres
He, she, it isél/ella/usted es
We arenosotros somos
You (pl.) arevosotros sois
They areellas/ellos/ustedes son

Haber, which means "to have to" or "must", and is conjugated as yo he, tú has, él/ella/usted ha, nosotros hemos, vosotros habéis, and ellas/ellos/ustedes han.

EnglishEspañol
I mustyo he
You musttú has
He, she, it mustél/ella/usted ha
We mustnosotros hemos
You (pl.) mustvosotros habéis
They mustellas/ellos/ustedes han

Estar, which means "to be" (as in a location or temporary state), and is conjugated yo estoy, tú estás, él/ella/usted está, nosotros estamos, vosotros estáis, and ellas/ellos/ustedes están.

EnglishEspañol
I amyo estoy
You aretú estás
He, she, it isél/ella/usted está
We arenosotros estamos
You (pl.) arevosotros estáis
They areellas/ellos/ustedes están

Tener, which means "to have" (as in possession) and is conjugated as yo tengo, tú tienes, él/ella/usted tiene, nosotros tenemos, vosotros tenéis, and ellas/ellos/ustedes tienen.

EnglishEspañol
I haveyo tengo
You havetú tienes
He, she, it haveél/ella/usted tiene
We havenosotros tenemos
You (pl.) havevosotros tenéis
They haveellas/ellos/ustedes tienen

Poder, which means "can" or "to be able to", and is conjugated as yo pongo, tú pones, él/ella/usted pone, nosotros ponemos, vosotros ponéis, and ellas/ellos/ustedes ponen.

EnglishEspañol
I canyo pongo
You cantú pones
He, she, it canél/ella/usted pone
We cannosotros ponemos
You (pl.) canvosotros ponéis
They canellas/ellos/ustedes ponen

Hacer, which means "to do" or "to make", and is conjugated as yo hago, tú haces, él/ella/usted hace, nosotros hacemos, vosotros hacéis, and ellas/ellos/ustedes hacen.

EnglishEspañol
I doyo hago
You dotú haces
He, she, it doél/ella/usted hace
We donosotros hacemos
You (pl.) dovosotros hacéis
They doellas/ellos/ustedes hacen

Decir, which means "to say", and is conjugated as yo digo, tú dices, él/ella/usted dice, nosotros decimos, vosotros decís, and ellas/ellos/ustedes dicen.

EnglishEspañol
I sayyo digo
You saytú dices
He, she, it sayél/ella/usted dice
We saynosotros decimos
You (pl.) sayvosotros decís
They sayellas/ellos/ustedes dicen

Ir, which means "to go", and is conjugated as yo voy, tú vas, él/ella/usted va, nosotros vamos, vosotros vais, and ellas/ellos/ustedes van.

EnglishEspañol
I goyo voy
You gotú vas
He, she, it goesél/ella/usted va
We gonosotros vamos
You (pl.) govosotros vais
They goellas/ellos/ustedes van

Ver, which means "to see", and is conjugated as yo veo, tú ves, él/ella/usted ve, nosotros vemos, vosotros veis, and ellas/ellos/ustedes ven.

EnglishEspañol
I seeyo veo
You seetú ves
He, she, it seesél/ella/usted ve
We seenosotros vemos
You (pl.) seevosotros veis
They seeellas/ellos/ustedes ven

Dar, which means "to give", and is conjugated as yo doy, tú das, él/ella/usted da, nosotros damos, vosotros dais, and ellas/ellos/ustedes dan.

EnglishEspañol
I giveyo doy
You givetú das
He, she, it givesél/ella/usted da
We givenosotros damos
You (pl.) givevosotros dais
They giveellas/ellos/ustedes dan

Saber, which means "to know" (as in information), and is conjugated as yo sé, tú sabes, él/ella/usted sabe, nosotros sabemos, vosotros sabéis, and ellas/ellos/ustedes saben.

EnglishEspañol
I knowyo sé
You knowtú sabes
He, she, it knowsél/ella/usted sabe
We knownosotros sabemos
You (pl.) knowvosotros sabéis
They knowellas/ellos/ustedes saben

Querer, which means "to want", and is conjugated as yo quiero, tú quieres, él/ella/usted quiere, nosotros queremos, vosotros queréis, and ellas/ellos/ustedes quieren.

EnglishEspañol
I wantyo quiero
You wanttú quieres
He, she, it wantsél/ella/usted quiere
We wantnosotros queremos
You (pl.) wantvosotros queréis
They wantellas/ellos/ustedes quieren

Llegar, which means "to arrive" or "to reach", and is conjugated as yo llego, tú llegas, él/ella/usted llega, nosotros llegamos, vosotros llegáis, and ellas/ellos/ustedes llegan.

EnglishEspañol
I arriveyo llego
You arrivetú llegas
He, she, it arrivesél/ella/usted llega
We arrivenosotros llegamos
You (pl.) arrivevosotros llegáis
They arriveellas/ellos/ustedes llegan

Poner, which means "to put" or "to place", and is conjugated as yo pongo, tú pones, él/ella/usted pone, nosotros ponemos, vosotros ponéis, and ellas/ellos/ustedes ponen.

EnglishEspañol
I putyo pongo
You puttú pones
He, she, it putsél/ella/usted pone
We putnosotros ponemos
You (pl.) putvosotros ponéis
They putellas/ellos/ustedes ponen

Parecer, which means "to seem", and is conjugated as yo parezco, tú pareces, él/ella/usted parece, nosotros parecemos, vosotros parecéis, and ellas/ellos/ustedes parecen.

EnglishEspañol
I seemyo parezco
You seemtú pareces
He, she, it seemsél/ella/usted parece
We seemnosotros parecemos
You (pl.) seemvosotros parecéis
They seemellas/ellos/ustedes parecen

How the verbs are used:

Verbs are used pretty much the same way in most languages.

In general, use verbs to describe an action or a state of being.

They can also be used as commands, although some of the imperative forms of Spanish's many irregular verbs may require further unique conjugation or even abbreviation!

Examples:

It's easy to find examples for most of these words in Spanish-language books, news articles, or movies.

If you want a direct example of each word, however, online resources like SpanishDict can help you see each verb in a sentence, which can help you grasp the concept of each word.

For example, with the verb parecer: Pareces triste. ¿Qué pasó?

Resources

Fortunately, we've come a long way since the old days of "sink or swim" styles of learning a new language. There are so many resources available online or in book form that can help you learn Spanish, study the different conjugations, and memorize the trickier forms of each irregular verb.

Duolingo is one of the most popular language-learning apps, but there are a lot of other apps that can provide a learning experience that's specifically suited to your learning style.

For a fully online or group setting, try Babbel. For a more casual, informal learning style, try Memrise or Mondly. If you want to learn a language quickly, without any extra frills, try apps like Busuu.

If you don't necessarily want to learn Spanish off of an app, there are still tons of resources available online. You can also check out Spanish language books from the library or look into instructional courses at your local community college. However, when it comes to free, easily available Spanish sources, the internet is always a good first place to look.

Of course, if at all possible, immersion is one of the best ways to learn any new language. If you're trying to master Spanish as quickly as possible, try to find places where you'll be encouraged to speak Spanish as much as you can!

Irregular verbs can be overwhelming at first glance, but they don't have to be. Unlike English, irregular verbs in the Spanish language mostly follow a set of clear, specific rules that make figuring them out fairly easy.

Pay attention to the accent marks and the pronunciation of each of these verbs to make sure you're getting it perfect! Even if the rules may be fairly simple, the pronunciation can make a world of difference, so take the time to get each word down completely.

If you live in a place that primarily speaks English, you may want to consider watching movies or television shows in Spanish. This will help you get a feel for the way the language sounds while being spoken. It will also help you pick out some of the more common irregular verbs by ear!

As always, practice is key when it comes to nailing any language!


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Author: Jada
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