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  3.7 Irregular verbs

You may think it's a shame, but you can't change the fact that many Spanish verbs are irregular. That means that many Spanish verbs change their stem when conjugate them. In English there are those verbs that have irregular past tense and past participle:
infinitive verb simple past tense past participle
sell sold sold
give gave given
buy bought bought

Moreover, not to forget the verb to be has a total irregular conjugation:

I am we are
you are you are
he, she, it is they are

Also in Spanish there are some of these very irregular verbs. Like ser (to be) and ir (to go), but for most of the irregularities there are some rules.

Let's have a look at ser, this one is very, very irregular and there is no rule that can help you to remember it. Just read and hear it ever so often, soon you'll know them by heart. Because they are so often used that actually you can't do without them. Sentences like: I am a doctor and He is rich are going with this verb.

  ser = to be
  yo soy
  tú eres
  él es
  ella es
  nosotros somos
  nosotras somos
  vosotros sois
  vosotras sois
  ellos son
  ellas son
I am
you are
he is
she is
we are (masculine)
we are (feminine)
you are (masculine)
you are (feminine)
they are (masculine)
they are (feminine)

  ir = to go
  yo voy
  tú vas
  él va
  ella va
  nosotros vamos
  nosotras vamos
  vosotros vais
  vosotras vais
  ellos van
  ellas van
I go
you go
he goes
she goes
we go (masculine)
we go (feminine)
you go (masculine)
you go (feminine)
they go (masculine)
they go (feminine)

To want means also to love, the Spaniard says "I want her" and means "I love her".

  querer = to want
  yo quiero
  tú quieres
  él quiere
  ella quiere
  nosotros queremos
  nosotras queremos
  vosotros queréis
  vosotras queréis
  ellos quieren
  ellas quieren
I want
you want
he wants
she wants
we want (masculine)
we want (feminine)
you want (masculine)
you want (feminine)
they want (masculine)
they want (feminine)

poder (= to can) is a modal verb. You'll find the use of modal verbs in chapter 20. As a general rule one could say the Spanish modal verbs are quite similar to the English ones.

I can write = Yo puedo escribir.

An infinitive verb is appended to the (conjugated) modal verb.

  poder = to can
  yo puedo
  tú puedes
  él puede
  ella puede
  nosotros podemos
  nosotras podemos
  vosotros podéis
  vosotras podéis
  ellos pueden
  ellas pueden
I can
you can
he can
she can
we can (masculine)
we can (feminine)
you can (masculine)
you can (feminine)
they can (masculine)
they can (feminine)

(to have) is another important verb, also because it is used together with que to create must or probably more often used have to.
Yo tengo que escribir una carta. = I have to write a postcard.

But! In English the verb to have is also used to create compound tenses (I have eaten). In Spanish there is another verb used for this purpose haber. The verb haber is not only looking quite like to have, it also had once the meaning of to have. However, as history goes and things change there is now haber for compound tenses and tener for to have.

 tener = to have
 yo tengo (yo tengo que)
 tú tienes (tú tienes que)
 él tiene (el tiene que)
 ella tiene (ella tiene que)
 nosotros tenemos (nosotros tenemos que)
 nosotras tenemos (nosotras tenemos que)
 vosotros tenéis (vosotros tenéis que)
 vosotras tenéis (vosotras tenéis que)
 ellos tienen (ellos tienen que)
 ellas tienen (ellas tienen que)
I have (I must, I have to)
you have (you must, you have to)
he has (he must, he has to)
she has (she must, she has to)
we have (we must, we have to) (masculine)
we have (we must, we have to) (feminine)
you have (you must, you have to) (masculine)
you have (you must, you have to) (feminine)
they have (they must, they have to) (masculine)
they have (they must, they have to) (feminine)

The attentive reader will have noticed that in Spanish there are two words for to be, i.e. ser and estar. The difference between ser and estar is one of the most challenging issues within the Spanish grammar. The Spaniards have a difference in thinking between to be and (not) to be. One of the differences is whether a condition is permanent or not. Have a look at these examples to compare:


Él es loco.
= He is a lunatic . Meaning: He is definitely out of his mind, no chance of improvement.
Él está loco.
= He is mad. Meaning: At the moment he is in a state of madness, but there is hope that it will stop.

This example just gives an impression of what's still to come. More about it you'll find in chapter 8. A basic rule can help for a start: If the idea is that something is situated some place or is in a situation / in a state that is not permanent then the verb estar is to be used.
If it is a feature that is a permanent characteristic of an object and is not related to being situated or in state then ser is to be used.

  Example (estar meaning being situated some place)

Madrid está en España. = Madrid is in Spain.

Juan está en el jardín. = Juan is in the garden.

 Example (estar meaning being in non-permanent state; ser something rather permanent)

Él está cansado.= He is tired.
(something that can be helped; a couple of hours of sleep and he is fit again)

Él es médico.= He is a doctor.
(rather permanent feature; unless he breaks the law and he looses his licence he will be a doctor until the end of time)

As mentioned before the main task here is to learn the formation of the conjugation. First step towards knowing is to recognise the form and the verb. All the details will be discussed at a later point of time again.

  estar = to be
  yo estoy
  tú estás
  él está
  ella está
  nosotros estamos
  nosotras estamos
  vosotros estáis
  vosotras estáis
  ellos están
  ellas están
I am
you are
he is
she is
we are (masculine)
we are (feminine)
you are (masculine)
you are (feminine)
they are (masculine)
they are (feminine)

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