The 10 Most Common Spanish Verbs You’ve Gotta Know to Survive

What do zip-lining, kayaking and “The Dark Knight Rises” all have in common?

They’re awesome, yes, but they’re also all about action.

Oh, and you might end up doing any of these activities while abroad in the Spanish-speaking world (though the Batman flick would be called “Batman: el caballero de la noche asciende” instead). 

But you won’t be able to use your Spanish to talk about these intense experiences—or anything for that matter—if you don’t know Spanish verbs.

Fact: Verbs are essential to expressing yourself in any language.

So, if you’re just starting to learn Spanish, you’ve got to start by learning the most common Spanish verbs out there.

However, learning and remembering proper verb definitions and usage in live conversations is often cited as one of the most difficult aspects for foreign language learners of Spanish.

This is especially true at beginner and intermediate levels.

Although it sounds straightforward enough, it’s important you review definitions, proper usage and useful phrases for the most common verbs. After that, you’ll graduate to more advanced verbs. With every new verb, your ability to truly express your ideas in Spanish will improve.

So, what are the most common verbs? Pues (well), the ones most commonly used are found in around 90% of Spanish sentences to be exact. They’re survival verbs, essential to communicating day-to-day activities, introducing yourself and expressing how you feel and also your origins.

What it comes down to is that you gotta know them, sí o sí (whether you like it or not).

3 Reasons Why the Top 10 Common Spanish Verbs Are Crucial

1. No Muss, No Fuss! Produce clear sentences and communicate ideas in a straightforward fashion. If you don’t have a solid understanding of the 10 verbs used in 90% of daily Spanish language, let’s just say that you’ll be shaking your head in utter confusion in most conversations with Spanish speakers.

2. Express Yourself! Finally express where you’re from, how you’re feeling, what you’re doing or what you will do. Once you master your top 10 verbs, you may not be speaking like a Spaniard or Mexican, but you sure will be able to introduce yourself, hold solid beginner conversations and finally start to be yourself in the language.

3. Comprehension Soars! Considering the 10 most common verbs are used in 90% of Spanish sentences, your comprehension will sky-rocket once you’ve memorized definition, usage and pronunciation. You may still not understand long monologues or speeches, but you’ll be linguistically equipped to pick out bits and pieces of phrases!

When starting out, all the words in a foreign language are well…foreign. To complicate things, Spanish verbs differ considerably from their English equivalent. At first, you’ll have to put in much a lot of extra effort to make sure you remember them, but the results are more than worth it! To help you remember your the top 10 most common verbs, keep these 3 tips of the trade below in mind,

3 Tips to Remember Those Common Verbs

1. Cue Cards. Good ol’ cue cards! This is an old-fashioned method, but does it ever work. The trick here is repetition! Make sure to review your cue cards 3 times a day: In the morning with your coffee, on the train and then again in the evening. Design your cue cards in the way that helps you remember best, add glitter, color codes, bold certain words, whatever happens to be visually stimulating for you and helps you remember.

2. Visual Lists and Post-its. For those that have short memory and require constant reminders, stick post-its all around your apartment or office. A trick is to place the ones you have most difficulty remembering in the area of your house you spend most time in or where you often sit, for some this may be their bedroom, home office and for others the bathroom!

3. Texting. Are you a text monster? We all are, just a little bit. Well, turn your binge technology habits to a language learning opportunity and start texting your friends in Spanish, making sure to use the top 10 verbs! Your Spanish-speaking friends will correct you and the ones learning will thank you. Plus, the constant visual on your text message history will really sink your verbs in good!

Remember, at this point, there’s no magical tool to remember common verbs because any endeavor really comes down to your efforts. Effort means using the verbs in conversations and using the three tips above to help you along the way.

Te tengo intrigado, ¿no? (I’ve intrigued you, no?) Hold on tight and let’s explore those common Spanish verbs, along with their definitions, usages and useful phrases to get you well on your way!

1 Awesome Way to Naturally Learn These Verbs

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The 10 Most Common Spanish Verbs You Need to Know

1. Ser

Definition: To be *(permanent qualities)

Main Usage: Time, date, nationality, occupation/profession, physical description of people and places, event locations.

Useful Phrases:

Soy de Nueva York
(I am from New York) *Plug in your home city or country after “Soy de”.

Soy americano(a)
(I am American)

Hoy es viernes
(Today is Friday)

2. Estar

Definition: To be *(temporary qualities)

Main Usage: Feelings, describing food, what you’re doing or what’s actively happening (progressive tense), location of buildings

Useful Phrases:

Estoy triste porque no hace sol
(I am upset because it isn’t sunny)

La sopa está muy rica
(The soup is delicious)

El banco está al lado de mi casa
(The bank is right beside my house)

Ser and estar are tricky, so tricky that even native speakers get their exact usage confused sometimes. When to use them is so instinctual for native speakers, they might not be able to explain this distinction to you. Your best bet is to review the usage of each and practice, practice, practice!

Before moving onto number 3, do this quick quiz to drill in ser and estar.

3. Tener

Definition: To have

Main Usage: Possession, *age, phrasal verb Tener Que + Infinitivo (non-conjugated verb)
*Age: In Spanish you possess age, you are not your age as in English (e.g., “I am twenty”). With that in mind, never use ser or estar with age, as in soy 25 or estoy 25.

Useful Phrases:

Tengo 25 años
(I am 25 years old)

Tengo que ir al cine
(I have to go to the cinema)

Tienen una hermana
(They have a sister)

4. Hacer

Definition: *To make or to do
*In Spanish, there’s no difference between the activities we do and the things we make, both activities are described with the verb hacer.

Main Usage: Making food, doing an activity (i.e. homework), *sports
*Sports: For most sports, you can use the verb jugar (to play) but with certain activities like fútbol (soccer), jogging/footing (jogging), karate (karate) you’ll use hacer. If you happen to be talking about sports in general, you’d say hago deporte (I do sports).

Useful Phrases:

Hago una tarta
(I am making a cake)

Ella hace sus tareas
(She is doing her homework)

Hacemos el tonto
(We are being silly)

5. Poder

Definition: To be able to, can

Main Usage: Ability to perform an action or activity

Useful Phrases:

Puedo ayudarte
(I can help you)

Podemos ir a mi casa a comer
(We can go eat at my place)

Puede ser
(It’s possible)

6. Decir

Definition: *To say or to tell
*In Spanish, decir isn’t used to tell stories or facts, in those instances the verb contar would be used, but don’t worry about that one just yet!

Main Usage: Communicate information to someone

Useful Phrases:

Ahora te lo digo
(I will tell you/let you know straight away)

Voy a decir que no
(I am going to say no)

Te digo una cosa
(Let me tell you something)

7. Ir

Definition: *To go
*The verb ir is almost exclusively used with the preposition a, check it out in the first three phrases below

Main Usage: To go to a location, phrasal verb Ir a + Infinitivo (non-conjugated verb)

Useful Phrases:

Voy al parque
(I am going to the park)

Vas a tu casa
(You are going home)

Vosotros vais a correr una maratón
(You guys are going to run a marathon)

Voy corriendo
(I’m in hurry)

8. Ver

Definition: To watch

Main Usage: To watch a movie, *to physically see a specific person
*When ver is used to see people, you’ll use it with the preposition a (see the second phrase listed below for an example).

Useful Phrases:

Veo una película
(I am watching a movie)

Ven a un amigo hoy
(They will see a friend today)

Veo como eres
(I see how you are)

9. Comer

Definition: To eat

Main Usage: *To eat
*In Spain, comer can be used as “to have lunch” as well as a general verb for eating. In Central and South America, and perhaps certain parts of Southern Spain (such as the Canary Islands) comer is used as a general verb for eating.

Useful Phrases:

Voy a comer
(I am going to have lunch- Spain)
(I am going to eat – everywhere else)

Comemos una pizza
(We are eating a pizza)

No se te olvide comer
(Don’t forget to eat)

10. Tomar

Definition: To take, to catch, to drink

Main Usage: To take, to catch the bus, train, airplane, taxi, or to drink, to grab a coffee or another drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic)

Useful Phrases:

Tomo el autobús para ir al trabajo
(I take the bus to work)

Tomemos una copa
(Let’s grab a drink)

Tomamos un taxi a las 21h00
(We are going to catch a taxi at 9pm)

There you have it, your verb list! In addition to this list, also make sure to review your present tense conjugations for each one to really get your verb usage going. Check out this handy on-line conjugation tool, select a verb from the list and hit conjugate!

Once you review the verb list definitions and present tense conjugations, play the translation game below to test your knowledge!

Quick Translation Game

To test yourself, translate these English sentences into Spanish using your verb list and present tense conjugations. To help you, the verb is bold in each sentence to help you recall the Spanish translation.

¡Mucha suerte! (Good luck!) Translation answers are at the end of post, but make sure not to peek until you finish all your translations!

Translate English to Spanish

a) He eats pizza every weekend.

b) I grab a coffee on my way to work.

c) They have a big house.

d) I am making a cake.

e) I can be quite bossy.

f) She is from Japan.

g) I am happy today.

h) I am a happy person.

i) We are watching television.

j) Let me tell you something.

*Translation Answer Key*

a) El come pizza todos los fines de semana.

b) Tomo un café de camino al trabajo.

c) Ellos tienen una casa grande.

d) Hago un pastel.

e) Puedo ser bastante mandón(a).

f) Ella es de Japón.

g) Estoy contento(a) hoy.

h) Soy una persona feliz.

i) Vemos la televisión.

j) Te digo una cosa.

And One More Thing…

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