August 15

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Start Learning Spanish Grammar With These Four Verbs

Ya chole chango chilango

Qué chafa chamba te chutas

No checa andar de tacuche

Y chale con la charola

“Chilanga Banda” by Cafe Tacvba

It's no secret that grammar can be one of the most difficult parts of learning a new language. But don't let that stop you from learning Spanish! There are plenty of resources to help you master the basics of Spanish grammar, and I'm here to give you a head start with four essential verbs.

With these four verbs under your belt, you'll be able to construct basic Spanish sentences and start communicating confidently. There are some minor differences between Castilian Spanish and Mexican Spanish, but for the most part, these verbs will be understood no matter where you go.

There are four basic Spanish verbs that you should learn to start understanding the grammar of the language. These verbs are “to be,” “to have,” “to do,” and “to go.” Each one has a unique conjugation you will need to know to use in a conversation properly. For now, we will focus on the present tense.

  • “Ser” (to be)*
  • “Estar” (to be)*
  • “Haber” (to have)
  • “Ir” (to go)
ALLEZ ELIZABETH - CUSTOM LARGE RECTANGULAR AD - CASTILIAN SPANISH LANGUAGE LEARNING RESOURCES
If you're looking for a great way to learn Castilian Spanish, I've got some resources to help.

The Verb “Ser”

Ser is one of the most important verbs in Spanish, as it is used to describe what something or someone is. It can also be used as an auxiliary verb, but we'll focus on its use as a main verb for now. In English, we use “to be” for this purpose. For example:

Yo soy un estudiante. (I am a student.)

Tú eres un maestro. (You are a teacher.)

Él es un niño. (He is a boy.)

Ella es una niña. (She is a girl.)

Nosotros somos amigos. (We are friends.)

Vosotros sois profesores (m.) /profesoras (f.)./Ustedes son profesores/profesoras. (You are teachers.)

Ellos son atletas. (They are athletes.)

Ellas son estudiantes. (They are students.)

Present Tense of “Ser”

Yo soy (I am)

Tú eres (You are)

Él es (He is)

Ella es (She is)

Nosotros somos (We are)

Vosotros sois / Ustedes son (You are; formal plural)

Ellos son (They are; masculine)

Ellas son (They are; feminine)

The Verb “Estar”

Estar is another important verb, as it is used to describe the location of something or someone. Another auxiliary verb, its use as the main verb will be the focus of this lesson. In English, we use “to be” for this purpose. For example:

Yo estoy en la clase. (I am in class.)

Tú estás en el parque. (You are in the park.)

Él está en la biblioteca. (He is in the library.)

Ella está en casa. (She is at home.)

Nosotros estamos en la cafetería. (We are in the cafeteria.)

Vosotros estáis en el laboratorio./Ustedes estàn el el laboratorio. (You are in the laboratory.)

Ellos están en el edificio. (They are in the building.)

Ellas están en la calle. (They are on the street.)

Present Tense of “Estar”

Yo estoy (I am)

Tú estás (You are)

Él está (He is)

Ella está (She is)

Nosotros estamos (We are)

Vosotros estáis / Ustedes están (You are; formal plural)

Ellos están (They are; masculine)

Ellas están (They are; feminine)

The Difference Between SER and ESTAR Explained In Under 3 Minutes!

What is the difference between Ser and Estar?

The difference between ser and estar can be confusing for English speakers, as both words translate to “to be” in English.

SER is used to talk about what something is. This includes describing the permanent state of something.

ESTAR is used to talk about how something is (the current state), which includes describing temporary states.

For example:

Soy rubio/a. (I am blond/e.)

Soy mexicana. (I am Mexican.)

Tú eres inteligente. (You are intelligent.)

Yo estoy cansada. (I am tired.)

Estoy aprendiendo frances. (I am learning French.)

Ella está triste. (She is sad.)

Another way to look at it is when describing someone's profession and what they do.

Ser would be used to describe someone's profession, while estar as an auxiliary verb is used to describe what someone is doing in that current occupation.

For example:

Él es un cocinero. (He is a cook.)

Está cocinando la cena. (He is cooking dinner.)

Estar, as an auxiliary verb + the gerund of cocinar "to cook" to form the present progressive.

Quick Recap: Ser vs. Estar

Ser is used:

  • To describe someone's profession
  • To describe what something is
  • To describe a permanent characteristic or attribute of something

Estar is used:

  • To describe the current state of something
  • To describe how something is
  • To describe a temporary state of something
  • To describe what someone is doing in their occupation (auxiliary verb)

If you're wondering how you will ever remember this? Well, here's a cute little graphic with acronyms to help you.

ALLEZ ELIZABETH - GRAPHIC - SER VS ESTAR (TWITTER) - Start Learning Spanish Grammar With These Four Verbs
Doctor SER goes to the ESTAR(bucks) on Melrose Place.

Using Acronyms to Remember the Difference Between Ser and Estar

Paging D.O.C.T.O.R. Ser

Date

  • ¿Qué dia es? (What day is it (today)?)
  • ¿Cuando es el cumpleaños de Marisol? (When is Marisol's birthday?)
  • Hoy es el 15 (quince) de agosto. (Today is August 15th.)

Occupation

  • Ella es mi doctora. Se llama Tiffany. (She is my doctor. Her name is Tiffany.)
  • Ellos son musicos. (They are musicians.)
  • Carrie Bradshaw era escritora. (Carrie Bradshaw was a writer.)
Era (s/he was) is the imperfect tense of ser.

Characteristics

  • Yo soy de talla grande. (I am a size large.)
  • Tu eres la mas bonita del mundo. (You are the prettiest in the world.)
  • La fiesta fue muy aburrida. (The party was really boring.)
Fue (s/he was) is the indicative preterite tense of ser.

Time

  • ¿Qué hora es? (What time is it?)
  • Son las siete y media de la noche. (It is 7:30 PM)

Origin

  • ¿De donde eres tu? (Where are you from?)
  • ¿Tu eres de Argentina? (Are you from Argentina?)
  • Nosotros somos de California. (We are from California.)

Relation

  • Ella es mi tia. (She is my aunt.)
  • Mi hermano es pintor. (My brother is a painter.)
  • La esposa de mi hermano es mexicana. (My brother's wife is Mexican.)

Estar in a P.L.A.C.E.

Position

  • Estoy al lado derecho. (I'm on the right-hand side.)
  • La Torre Eiffel está en la orilla izquierda. (The Eiffel Tower is on the left bank.)
  • El semáforo está en la esquina. (The traffic light is on the corner.)

Location

  • ¿Donde está el restaurante? (Where is the restaurant?)
  • ¿Estan el la piscina? (Are you (pl.) at the beach?)
  • Estamos en la playa. (We are at the beach.)

Action

  • Ella está corriendo. (She is running.)
  • El está nadando. (He is swimming.)
  • Ellos están jugando baloncesto. (They are playing basketball.)

Condition

  • Hoy estuvo caliente. (Today was hot.)
  • La caja está rota. (The box is broken.)
  • Las llantas están nuevas. (The tires are new.)
Estuvo is the indicative preterite tense of estar.

Emotion

  • (Yo) estoy féliz. (I am happy.)
  • Ese perro está enojado. (That dog is mad.)
  • Estos/as políticos/as están locos/as (m./f.). (These politicians are insane.)
An auxiliary verb, often known as a "helping verb," is a verb that usually works in tandem with another word to construct a verb phrase (for example, by putting it in front of an infinitive or a gerund). Think of it as your ride-or-die homie who makes life more fun!

The Verb “Haber”

The verb “haber” is an important auxiliary verb used to form compound tenses. It also has other uses, such as expressing the existence and necessity of something or someone.  In English, we use “to have” for this purpose. For example:

Yo tengo un libro. (I have a book.)

Tú tienes una pluma. (You have a pen.)

Él tiene un cuaderno. (He has a notebook.)

Ella tiene un lápiz. (She has a pencil.)

Nosotros tenemos una mesa. (We have a table.)

Vosotros tenéis una silla./Ustedes tienen una silla. (You have a chair.)

Ellos tienen una computadora. (They have a computer.)

Ellas tienen unos libros. (They have some books.)

Present Tense of “Haber”

Yo tengo (I have)

Tú tienes (You have)

Él tiene (He has)

Ella tiene (She has)

Nosotros tenemos (We have)

Vosotros tenéis / Ustedes tienen (You have; formal plural)

Ellos tienen (They have; masculine)

Ellas tienen (They have; feminine)

The Verb “Ir”

Ir is used to describe the act of going somewhere. In English, we use “to go” for this purpose. For example:

Yo voy a la escuela. (I am going to school.)

Tú vas al trabajo. (You are going to work.)

Él va a la tienda. (He is going to the store.)

Ella va al cine. (She is going to the movies.)

Nosotros vamos al museo. (We are going to the museum.)

Vosotros vais a la biblioteca./Ustedes van a la biblioteca (You are going to the library.)

Ellos van al parque. (They are going to the park.)

Ellas van a la casa. (They are going to the house.)

Present Tense of “Ir”

Yo voy (I go)

Tú vas (You go)

Él va (He goes)

Ella va (She goes)

Nosotros vamos (We go)

Vosotros vais / Ustedes van (You go; formal plural)

Ellos van (They go; masculine)

Ellas van (They go; feminine)

Conclusion

Certainly, there is a lot to understand as you learn Spanish verbs. There are many words and verb forms to remember. However, if you remember that English has many of the same structures, you will find that it's not so confusing. 

Learning these four verbs is a great first step in mastering Spanish grammar. With a little practice, you'll be able to construct basic sentences and start communicating confidently in no time!

Now that you know these four essential Spanish verbs, you're well on your way to constructing basic sentences and communicating in Spanish.

¡Buena Suerte!


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