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"Conjugal Bliss. A trusted friend on the route to Spanish." –Nathalia Madera for Language Magazine,

"The Little Spanish Verb Book That Could"
–Steven Roll, t

"A 'safe haven' for the panicked student and a resource for teachers." –Jerry Curtis,

"A ready instructional reference; thoroughly 'user friendly'" The Midwest Book Review

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Entries in Spanish verb conjugation (9)


Spanish 'Verbs Like Gustar': What's Not to Like?

When learning basic vocabulary, beginners study the Spanish verb “gustar” to communicate what they like, or what they like to do. It may come as a surprise that the English verb conjugation “I like” is actually translated in Spanish to “it pleases me,” or “it is pleasing to me.”  The idea is the same, but the sentence construction is very different.

If it weren’t for the Spanish verb “gustar,” beginners would probably skip over learning about indirect objects and pronouns. Remember that a direct object answers the question “What?”, while an indirect object answers the question “To whom?” or “For whom?”. 

Understanding object pronouns brings to light the difference between the subject of a verb, (the person or thing performing the action) and the object of the verb, (the receiver of the action).

While communicating the same idea, note the difference between the subjects and objects below:

                  1.  “I like Pizza”: “I” am the subject; “Pizza is the (direct) object

                         (What do I like?   Pizza = the direct object)

                  2.  “Pizza is pleasing to me”: “Pizza” is the subject; “to me” is the (indirect) object

                        (To whom is pizza pleasing?   Me = the indirect object)

The second example illustrates a literal translation of the Spanish verb “gustar” in the first person and how indirect objects enter the grammatical equation. This comparison also explains why we don’t use the Spanish verb conjugation “gusto” for “I like”: where “I” is the subject of the verb “gustar,” a regular -ar ending verb.

Beginners usually memorize the third person verb conjugations of “gustar” without understanding the reasons why they are used with indirect object pronouns. In any case, it encourages beginners to use indirect object pronouns (me, te, le, etc.), and it provides the pattern for other common Spanish verbs that take on indirect object pronouns. 

There are other Spanish verbs that fall into the same verb group as “gustar”; they are commonly referred to as “verbs like gustar.” The most common Spanish “verbs like gustar” are: encantar, faltar, importar, molestar, and parecer.

I don't know why, but I always remember the first time I heard the Spanish verb "importar" in context, and the concept of using "verbs like gustar" finally sunk in. I heard someone respond, "A mí no me importa" which meant, "It doesn't matter to me" with me emphasized through "a mí."

The following excerpt from The Spanish Verb Conjugator’s ‘Basics’ section illustrates how to use “verbs like gustar”:  

Verbs Like Gustar (VLG):

The verb gustar is a regular -ar ending verb, but other regular and irregular verbs are used like gustar. Only the third person singular or plural forms are used because the person, place, or thing that is pleasing/liked (the object), will be either singular or plural: “it” or “they.” The object pronoun that comes before it (me, te, le, les, nos, os) communicates “to whom the object is pleasing.”

The indirect object pronouns precede ONLY the third person singular or plural forms:

            me  -  before gusta/gustan    it is/they are pleasing to me: I like

            te -  before gusta/gustan       it is/they are pleasing to you: you (inf.)* like

            le -  before gusta/gustan        it is/they are pleasing to him, her, you: he/she likes, you (f.)* like

            les -  before gusta/gustan      it is/they are pleasing to them, you all: they, you all (f. & inf.)* like

            nos -  before gusta/gustan     it is/they are pleasing to us: we like

            os before gusta/gustan      it is/they are pleasing to you all: you all (inf.)* like

Please note, if the object is a verb, “to dance” for example, use only the singular third person form (gusta,without an “n”) with the infinitive of the verb (bailar): “I like to dance.” (Me gusta bailar.)

Here is the irregular verb “parecer” (to seem) in the present tense as a Verb Like Gustar:

            me parece  (it seems to me).................... me parecen (they seem to me)

            te parece (it seems to you)...................... te parecen (they seem to you)

            le parece (it seems to him, her, you (f.)*...le parecen (they seem to him, her, you (f.)*

            les parece (it seems to them, you all)......les parecen (they seem to them, you all)

            nos parece (it seems to us)..................... nos parecen (they seem to us)

            os parece (it seems to you all).................os parecen (they seem to you all)

*you (inf.)=tú; you (f.)=Ud.; you all (f. and inf.)=Uds.; you all (inf.)=vosotros/as has a comprehensive database of Spanish Grammar topics. Here is a link to a lesson on the Spanish Verb Gustar and other Verbs like gustar.


Spanish Verb Patterns: The 'Secret Formula' to Spanish Verb Mastery

Recently, I was fortunate to receive a book review for The Spanish Verb Conjugator from Jerry Curtis. Jerry is an educational writer with a lot of experience spanning education and serving as a military translator. I came upon one of Jerry’s Articles (under his pen name Curt Smothers) on the web site Bright Hub: The Hub for Bright Minds. His article is an excellent overview of Spanish verbs, specifically how to approach them when you are overwhelmed in the beginning. It is written for Spanish teachers; however, I think it can apply to students as well. Here’s a direct link to that article:

“Learning Spanish Verbs: A Method to the Madness” by Curt Smothers on

As Jerry explains in his article, he encourages his tutoring students to look for patterns in verb stems and verb endings as a way to manage the daunting task of learning how to conjugate Spanish verbs. When you learn a specific Spanish verb pattern you can apply it to any verb of its kind that comes your way. By finding the Spanish verb pattern, you can predict how it will “behave.” It’s similar to formulas in science and math. By the way, there are about 50 common irregular Spanish verb patterns of the verb stem. There are a few extra that are rarely used. 

Although educators like Jerry and I find Spanish verb patterns interesting and compelling to learn, not everyone else does. But the funny thing is, once you achieve a basic level of proficiency, Spanish verb patterns become more obvious and you kind of know naturally how to apply them. It does take some time, though, it doesn’t happen overnight.

Until that natural instinct takes hold, I have felt inspired to provide support to beginners: to bridge the learning gap and provide symbolic “training wheels” for Spanish verb conjugation; to have everything beginners need in one place, in one verb guide, explained in very basic terms. 

The inspiration for my Spanish verb guide came to me in one entire vision (the whole book), so wiithout realizing it until the book was finished, it turned out to be instructional in many ways. It is definitely divided into two distinct reference areas: for regular verbs and for irregular verbs. Here’s an outline:

(Before I go further, I want to review some basics to avoid possible confusion. There are two main groups of Spanish verbs: regular and irregular; and there are two parts to every verb: the stem and the ending.)

3 Ways to Learn Spanish Verb Patterns

1. Regular Spanish Verbs

Identifying the two parts of every verb is the absolute starting point for learning Spanish verb conjugation: to learn how to find the verb stem and one of three possible verb endings: “ar,” “er,” or “ir.”

Instead of providing a long list of common regular Spanish verbs conjugated on verb tables, The Spanish Verb Conjugator provides regular verb endings on what you could call “regular verb endings' reference templates.” There is a regular verb reference template for each verb ending: Regular -AR Verb Endings, Regular -ER Verb Endings, and Regular -IR Verb Endings. Below is an example chart of the Regular -AR Verb Endings' reference template from The Spanish Verb Conjugator:

Any regular verb stem can be applied to the correct verb ending to conjugate a regular Spanish verb, but before you even use a reference template, you have to have made the decision that the verb was in fact regular (not irregular). By the way, if you don’t know, which is expected in the beginning, you can use the indexes to verify if the verb is a regular verb or not. 

So in this way of referencing Spanish verbs, you are training yourself through repetetive usage to learn which verbs are regular or irregular. If the verb you are referencing is irregular, you can then proceed as described under No. 2 below. 

The beginner is literally guided to make one decision that leads to another. With repetive practice, this decision making process will become a little faster each time as Spanish verb conjugation skills develop and become second nature. Just like my analogy of “training wheels” on a bicycle, the beginner needs that support and confidence in the beginning as they work towards independent practice.

An added bonus of using regular verb endings' reference templates is that it eliminates a large number of verb charts, therefore eliminating the bulk of a clumsy text. This makes it easy to carry while you are applying your Spanish skills in the real world where true integration takes place. 

2. Irregular Spanish Verbs

There are actually 3 main groups of Spanish verbs within the irregular verb category: stem-changers, "spell-changers" (the name I use for this group), and a group of around 28 various irregular verbs that are individually unique. There are some verbs that belong to two of the three groups at the same time.

Irregular Spanish verbs are irregular because there is a deviation (of spelling) in the verb stem of most subjects when conjugated. Irregular verb stem patterns occur primarily in the present and preterit tenses. Note that the verb endings stay the same whether a verb is regular or irregular, but there are some Spanish verbs in the group of 28 individually unique irregular verbs where the verb endings also deviate from the norm in the preterit tense only.

Furthermore, a stem-changer will have one of only 3 possible stem changes when conjugated; spell-changers will have a variety of spelling variations when conjugated (more than 3). The group of 28 various irregular verbs doesn’t follow any consistent pattern, they are individually unique in their deviation.

Did I lose you? As I mentioned earlier, teachers and linguists are interested in comparing and observing irregular Spanish verb patterns, but the average beginner is not. That is perfectly fine because irregular verb pattern recognition will naturally evolve as the result of repetitive verb modeling.

Without having to dissect Spanish verb patterns, the beginner, as well as the intermediate level student, can rely on The Spanish Verb Conjugator until irregular verb pattern recognition takes place. It is similar to how we learn our native language. We adapted to the grammatical structures as our family modeled them for us.

Click to read more ...


The 2 Most Essential Spanish Verbs Part 'Dos': 'Ser' and 'Estar' in the Past Tenses

If you missed 'Part Uno', which covers “ser” and “estar” in the present tense, feel free to read it here:
The 2 Most Essential Spanish Verbs: ‘To be’ or ....‘to be’? That is the question.

Just when “ser” and “estar” start to make sense in the present tense, you need to learn how to use them in the past. Since there are two past tenses in Spanish, the preterit and the imperfect, it’s like a quadruple challenge; the duality is squared if that is possible. Navigating “ser” and “estar” in the past reminds me of my only experience flying an airplane: you not only have to steer left and right, but keep the nose and tail even as well as the wings balanced. There’s more going on than meets the eye.

The verbs “ser” and “estar” mean “to be,” so in the past you would use them to communicate “was” and “were” depending on the subject. Observe how often you use these common verbs in English. Using “ser” and “estar” in the past requires a basic understanding of how to apply the preterit and the imperfect past tenses. To review when to use them, here is a link that I had posted earlier that provides excellent strategies to choose between the preterit and the imperfect.

The University of Minnesota's Center of Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)
Spanish Grammar Strategies Web Project: The Preterit and The Imperfect

Remember that the preterit past tense is used when there is a reference to a point of time in the past that has a definite beginning and/or ending. It’s complete, finite, a chunk of time sliced out of the past. While using the imperfect past tense you can communicate both “ser” and “estar” as “used to be.”

The following summary chart from The Spanish Verb Conjugator compares “ser” and “estar” in the present, preterit, and imperfect tenses with English equivalents. I needed a reference like this as a beginner, and honestly speaking–I could still use it to this day.

I suggest that you make as many mistakes as possible when trying out “ser” and “estar” in both past tenses. Like my classroom motto, “You have to make mistakes to learn from them.” As you ask yourself which verb and tense to use, don’t hesitate to also ask an available native Spanish speaker which tense or verb is correct. As I have mentioned before, native Spanish speakers are pretty forgiving as you are learning their language.

One of the most effective ways to learn language is through modeling. Just like when you were a child, your family modeled to you how to use your native language. Be aware, observe, and apply. But don’t worry about being perfect. “Perfection is a perfect waste of time” (author unknown).

I posted the Latin Grammy nominated song “Me fui” by the Spanish artist Bebe recently as an example of the verb “irse.” I made a mental note of the way the verb “estaba” clearly stood out in the song. It’s a good example of how “estar” is used in the imperfect past tense. Take another listen and this time pay attention to the lyrics “Dónde estaba cuando te llamaba?” (Where were you when I was calling you?) It models the imperfect tense “perfectly” in context. Here’s the link to that post where you will find the link to the YouTube video and the lyrics in Spanish with the English translation at the end of the article (We’re all connected: )

Spanish Verb Mastery Blog Post Including Links for the YouTube 'Video Official' of The Latin Grammy Nominated Song: "Me fui" by Bebe


The 2 most essential Spanish verbs: ‘to be’ or... 'to be’? That is the question

“Ser” and “estar” are the two most essential and existential Spanish verbs because they both mean “to be.” When the verb “to be” is conjugated in English it becomes the familiar “am,” “is,” “are”; “was” and “were.” In English you only need to make sure the verb agrees with the subject. Hopefully, it’s pretty obvious when they don’t match up. Sentences like, “I is hungry” or “You was busy” just don’t sound right.

But in Spanish, communicating a state of being is far more complicated. Personally speaking, the Spanish verbs “ser” and “estar” put my dyslexic tendencies into overdrive. It reminds me of my surprising confusion between “left” and “right” (in English and Spanish). My husband teases me about it every time I’m driving and following directions, but I have come to accept my dyslexia between left and right. I eventually find my way.

Just because “ser” and “estar” are the two most basic Spanish verbs doesn’t make them easy. I make a lot of mistakes when I use these verbs. It's also something I have learned to accept. You will find as I have, that native speakers of Spanish are forgiving in this respect.

So let’s take a closer look at “ser” and “estar.” The following excerpts of The Spanish Verb Conjugator are the charts for each verb that include the present and past tenses. Side note: as with all the verb charts of the verb guide, the four additional simple verb tenses are found on the backside of every verb chart page.

The following excerpt, “Ser and Estar: Too Close for Comfort” is from the basics section of The Spanish Verb Conjugator. It describes when to use each verb with some examples in the present and the past tenses: (Note: I will review "ser" and "estar" in the past tenses, the preterit and imperfect, in the next post.)

Not only do you need to know how to conjugate each verb, but also how to apply the two different classifications of existence: temporary or permanent. I consider this distinction to be more subtle than definite, so that’s what makes it challenging. In the beginning, (or if you’re like me–most of the time) it’s a little mind boggling to distinguish between these subtleties at the same time you are choosing subjects, tenses, and conjugations. Give yourself some wiggle room here. This is a perfect time to have a strategy in place that will help you make decisions on the spot when you are choosing between “ser” and “estar.”

Some great examples of grammar strategies can be found on the following link from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) Spanish Grammar Strategies Web Project. (that’s a mouthful). This page offers some basic strategies that you could apply to help you learn how to choose “ser” or “estar.” Feel free to use them or maybe they will inspire you to create some strategies of your own.

University of Minnesota's Center for Advanced Research
on Language Acquisition (CARLA)
Spanish Grammar Strategies Web Project: Ser and Estar

In the next blog post I will highlight the quadruple challenge of not only choosing between “ser” and “estar” in the present tense, but doing so in the past with the preterit and the imperfect. Until then...hasta luego.



'Vamos' or 'Vámonos'?: Learning How to Conjugate Reflexive Spanish Verbs Part 'Dos'

If you missed 'Part Uno' which covers the basics to reflexive Spanish verbs, feel free to read it here:
"Se Habla Español 'Se' What?: Learning How to Conjugate Reflexive Spanish Verbs"

Reflexive Spanish Verbs Case in Point: IR and IRSE
Have you ever noticed the difference between the commands “vamos” and “vámonos”? The reason for this variation comes from the difference between the non-reflexive verb "ir" (to go) and it’s reflexive counterpart, “irse” (to leave). 

“Vamos” is the first person plural command of the verb “ir” which means “let’s go” (let us go); and “vámonos” is the first person plural command of the verb “irse” which means “let’s leave” (let us leave). If you're wondering, the first person plural form is the nosotros form (nosotros = we/us).

In the case of "vámonos," it’s important to note: when you use a reflexive verb as an affirmative command, you have to attach the reflexive pronoun to the end of the verb. In this case it is the first person plural reflexive pronoun "nos" that is attached. To illustrate:

From Appendix A: The Basics to Use Commands, page 340 of The Spanish Verb Conjugator:

10.  Regular and irregular affirmative nosotros/as commands with reflexive pronouns drop the letter “s"
       of the conjugation when “nos” is attached to the command.

                               irse:  vámonos = “vamos” - “s” + “nos”

       (Note that an accent mark is added to preserve the appropriate stress of the verb.)

Another way of looking at it would be to leave the "s" there. "Vamosnos" just doesn't sound right.

Now let’s backtrack and review the conjugations of the present, preterit, and imperfect tenses of the verb “ir” and “irse” through the following sample verb chart from The Spanish Verb Conjugator: The Beginner's Guide to Mastering Spanish Verbs.

To help the beginner become familiar with those verbs that are used both non-reflexively and reflexively, the reflexive Spanish verb charts of The Spanish Verb Conjugator present the reflexive pronouns in parenthesis indicating that they may or may not be used according to the definition needed. (Side note: the Spanish verbs  that are most often used reflexively will not have reflexive pronouns in parenthesis.)

Reflexive Spanish Verbs: More Examples
It’s important to be able to understand the subtle difference between the verbs “ir” and “irse.” Perhaps by using this common verb as an example, it will lead to a greater understanding of reflexive verbs in general.

There are some Spanish verbs that are primarily used in the reflexive; for example, acostarse, despertarse, divertirse, etc. (Re: previous side note: so within the SVC, they will not have parenthesis around the reflexive pronouns). I designed the The Spanish Verb Conjugator to make this distinction for you without digging into the linguistic reasons why. It’s easier for beginners to just try and remember which verbs are used reflexively and which verbs can be used both reflexively and non-reflexively, as dictated by the verb's definition.

Here are some examples of verbs that change meaning when used reflexively, and that are included in the core group of 110 Irregular verbs from A to Z of The Spanish Verb Conjugator:

                         acordar:  to agree                   acordarse:   to remember
                         caer:       to fall                        caerse:        to fall down
                         poner:     to put                       ponerse:      to become, to put on clothes, to set (sun)
                         probar:    to test, to prove       probarse:     to try on clothes
                         sentir:     to feel, to regret       sentirse:       to feel and emotion, ill/well

(Re: previous side note: so within the SVC, the verbs above will have parenthesis around the reflexive pronouns because they are used both reflexively and non-reflexively; to reiterate, the verbs that are most often used reflexively will not have parenthesis around the reflexive pronouns because that is their most natural state. In this way, the SVC trains the beginner to make this distinction between all reflexive Spanish verbs.)

Reflexive Spanish Verb IRSE In Context: Latin Grammy Nominee “Me Fui”
When I was a student in Costa Rica, it confused me when I heard someone say, “me voy” (I’m leaving) when they were called from another room, or someone was waiting for them outside. This frequently used reflexive verb (irse) was overlooked in my own Spanish classes, and it wasn't included in any of the textbooks that were available when I taught high school Spanish. So I felt it was important to include in my verb guide and in today's post.

"Me voy" is the present tense yo form of "irse." So that would make "me fui" the preterit past tense yo form of “irse,” which means “I left.” To put this common reflexive Spanish verb in context, here is an excellent example: the song “Me fui” by Bebe & Carlos Jean (songwriter Bebe) which was nominated for 'Song of The Year' at the 10th Annual Latin Grammy Awards in 2009.

The following links below will bring you to the Official Video (that is not available for embedding), and lyrics in Spanish and the English translation. I have also embedded a video below the links that gives a little background info on the artist, Bebe, I think she is very interesting and very unique. Enjoy! / ¡Qué disfruten!

 Click here for the "Me fui" YouTube Video Official

Click here for "Me fui" lyrics in Spanish with English translation.