To learn. To laugh. To live. To love.
Most of the things that make life worthwhile depend on actions.
And you can’t do (or discuss) any actions without one simple thing: verbs.
For any sentence to be complete, it needs one. These little action words are essential to language.
As you learn Spanish, you’ll learn a lot of verbs over time. Some you’ll use much more often than others. These 50 Spanish verbs are essential for every Spanish speaker to know in and out.
Here, we’ll list them in their infinitive forms. This is the “to” form of a verb. For example, the infinitive form of “makes” is “to make.” In Spanish, the infinitive form is when verbs end in -ar, -er and -ir.
It’s usually considered the most basic, purest form of the verb. When you’re learning new Spanish vocabulary in any context, verbs will most often be listed in their infinitive forms. Consider the infinitive the raw ingredient that you use to make more complex recipes (or in this case, more complex verb forms).
As you move forward you’ll learn present tense and preterite and imperfect tenses as well to get the recipe just right. To really polish your verbs, you might also need to try some unconventional approaches.
Why you need to know these essential verbs
Remember how we said infinitive verbs are like the raw ingredients you use to make more complex recipes? Well, without that ingredient, you would not be able to make the recipe at all.
Sure, you can flail around, trying to find a way around the missing ingredient, but your dish (and your language skills) will tend to fall flat.
Go ahead: Try communicating an idea clearly (either in English or Spanish) with no verbs at all. It isn’t easy, is it? In any language, skipping the verbs will make you sound (and feel) like a toddler minus the adorable chubby cheeks.
Spend just a few minutes in a Spanish-speaking country, and you’ll hear most (if not all) of these 50 essential Spanish verbs. Learning them now will help prevent a lot of misunderstanding and confusion down the road.
How to practice your Spanish verbs
- Have conversations. Simply having a conversation in Spanish is an excellent way to practice your verbs. After all, each sentence you utter will use at least one verb—sometimes several. In just one conversation, you’ll probably find yourself using many of the essential verbs listed below. This will help reinforce your understanding of them. Additionally, since you won’t always use the infinitive form of the verb, you’ll have to conjugate which brings us to our next point…
- Conjugate, conjugate, conjugate. In normal conversations you’ll be conjugating all the time, so it helps to practice outside of conversation as well. Not only will this help ensure you have a strong functional knowledge of the word, it will also help reinforce the word’s meaning. You can practice conjugating by having a conversation, making tables of conjugations or you could just…
- Play games. Games are certainly the most fun way to learn verbs—from fun timed quizzes on Sporcle to conjugation quizzes for all sorts of verb tenses on Conjuguemos, Digital Dialects and Learn Spanish Today. You could even go onto FluentU and start watching authentic videos clips from the real, live Spanish-speaking world. You’ll see all your essential verbs in action, being used by native speakers, and you’ll have cool interactive subtitles and dynamic learning activities to help you truly learn them all. When you have a little downtime, why not fill it with a fun game that will improve your knowledge of Spanish verbs?
50 Essential Spanish Verbs
Meaning: To be
Used to describe essential characteristics, such as physical descriptions.
La fresa es roja. (The strawberry is red.)
Meaning: To be
Used to describe places, conditions or feelings. See a full explanation of the usage of ser and estar here.
Estoy cansada. (I am tired.)
Meaning: To have to
This is similar to “should” or “must.”
Debo hacer mi tarea. (I should do my homework.)
Meaning: To be able to
Puedo ir a la fiesta. (I am able to go to the party.)
Meaning: To be, have
When haber can be translated as “to be,” it’s being used to describe if an object exists or if it’s actually present. When it can be translated more as “have,” it’s generally being used in combination with other verbs to describe things that have or haven’t happened.
You’ll notice from the examples below that the conjugation of haber can be a bit weird. Its conjugations are irregular, so you’ll need to pay special attention to this one.
He trabajado en la biblioteca. (I have worked in the library.)
Hay tres libros en la mesa. (There are three books on the table.)
Meaning: To need
Necesito descansar. (I need to rest.)
Meaning: To like, to please
Me gusta dormir. (I like to sleep.)
Meaning: To hope, to expect, to wait
Espero que sea verdad. (I hope it is true.)
Meaning: To believe
Creo que la escuela es importante. (I believe school is important.)
Meaning: To feel
Me siento triste. (I feel sad.)
Meaning: To love, to want
Quiero comer. (I want to eat.)
Yo te quiero mucho. (I love you a lot.)
Meaning: To think
Pienso que debemos ir. (I think we should go.)
Meaning: To know
This is used when talking about knowledge of facts or skills.
¿Sabes la respuesta? (Do you know the answer?)
Meaning: To know, to meet
This one is used with people, places and things—not with solid facts, knowledge or skills.
¿Conoces a la profesora? (Have you met the professor? / Do you know the professor?)
Meaning: To comprehend, to understand
No comprendo la tarea. (I don’t understand the homework.)
Meaning: To decide.
Tienes que decidir qué quieres. (You have to decide what you want.)
Meaning: To see, to watch
Voy a ver la televisión. (I’m going to watch the television.)
Meaning: To look
Mira, ¡qué linda! (Look, how pretty!)
Meaning: To hear
Oigo la música. (I hear the music.)
Meaning: To listen
Escucho música. (I listen to music.)
Meaning: To go
Voy a mi casa. (I go to my house.)
Meaning: To leave
Salgo de mi casa. (I leave my house.)
Meaning: To return
Vuelvo a mi casa. (I return to my house.)
Meaning: To arrive, to come
Vengo a mi casa. (I arrive at my house.)
Meaning: To have
Tengo la tarea. (I have the homework.)
Meaning: To do, to make
Haz tu tarea. (Do your homework.)
Meaning: To eat
Me gusta comer fresas. (I like to eat strawberries.)
Meaning: To give
Dame la tarea. (Give me the homework.)
Meaning: To receive
Recibo la tarea. (I receive the homework.)
Meaning: To sleep
Duermo bien. (I sleep well.)
Meaning: To rest
En la tarde, necesito descansar. (In the afternoon, I need to rest.)
Meaning: To buy
Necesito comprar la comida. (I need to buy the food.)
Meaning: To pay
Tengo que pagar la cuenta. (I have to pay the check.)
Meaning: To take, to drink, to consume
Tomo agua. (I drink/take/consume water.)
Meaning: To live
Vivo en la ciudad. (I live in the city.)
Meaning: To learn
Aprendes los verbos. (You learn the verbs.)
Meaning: To write
Escribo un ensayo. (I write an essay.)
Meaning: To read
Leo un libro. (I read a book.)
Meaning: To study
¿Estudias español? (Do you study Spanish?)
Meaning: To work
Trabajo muchas horas. (I work many hours.)
Meaning: To change
Quiero cambiar mi vida. (I want to change my life.)
Meaning: To earn, to win
Ellos ganan el juego. (They win the game.)
Meaning: To ask
Quiero preguntar algo. (I want to ask something.)
Meaning: To help
¿Puedes ayudarme? (Can you help me?)
Meaning: To travel
Me gusta viajar a España. (I like to travel to Spain.)
Meaning: To use
Uso la computadora para escribir. (I use the computer to write.)
Meaning: To put
Pones la tarea en el escritorio (You put the homework on the desk)
Meaning: To say
Mi profesora dice que tenemos tarea. (My professor says that we have homework.)
Meaning: To talk
Quiero hablar con mi madre. (I want to talk with my mother.)
Meaning: To call
Llama a tu madre. (Call your mother.)
These 50 essential verbs are the main ingredients for using Spanish effectively.
With these in your back pocket, you’ll be able to understand and participate in virtually any conversation—at least on some level!
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