spanish-ir-verbs

Spanish IR Verbs: Your First Guide to Conjugating and Using Them in Sentences

Spanish verbs have three possible endings: –ar, –er and –ir.

Here we’ll shine our spotlight on the regular –ir verbs.

If that’s what you’re interested in now, you’ve probably already slogged through the regular conjugations of the more ubiquitous –ar and –er verbs.

“But why,” you may be screaming at the gods of Spanish, “do I have to learn yet another set of verb conjugations?”

Well, these benevolent deities might answer, “don’t you want to talk about living? Then we give you the magnificently useful vivir. About writing? Escribir. About existing? Existir. Do you want to interrupt, persuade or insist? Interrumpir, persuadir, insistir.”

All are regular –ir verbs.

In short, these are verbs that you’re going to want to have for any conversation in Spanish—it doesn’t take long to learn them and they’re going to be of enormous use.
 


 

The Irreplaceable, Irresistible Guide to Spanish IR Verbs

This post assumes that you’re already familiar with how to use the Spanish present tense (for –ar and –er verbs) and some basic vocabulary. So, we’ll cover the present tense for regular –ir verbs.

However, you should note that many –ir verbs such as ir (to go), seguir (to follow) and sentir (to feel) are irregular, and they don’t follow the patterns presented here. That’s a topic for another day.

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How to Learn and Practice Spanish Verb Conjugations

Many students on this topic try to quickly memorize the six conjugations of regular -ir verbs with the goal of being able to regurgitate them on command, for example, on a test or a worksheet.

That’s fine, but you also want to speak meaningful Spanish, right? If so, you need to spend time making real sentences with these verbs conjugated in the present tense. This is how the conjugations start to feel natural, so that when you speak you’re not pausing to flip through the series of conjugations, like a Rolodex in your mind, before you can finish your sentence.

So, don’t just memorize the conjugations in the next section. Rather, find ways to try them out in writing and speech (as discussed in the sections following).

Memorize entire short sentences (of just a few words) when you study with flashcards, instead of just learning each verb conjugation by itself, in isolation. This way you’ll learn vocabulary and context along with the conjugations.

You’ll want to use these verbs to talk about things you do and that others do. Get started with this by writing out a list of things you do on, for example, an average day or in an average week. Use as many of your newly-learned -ir verbs as you possibly can.

Check your short sentences to make sure they’re perfect on lang-8.com.

The Present Tense Conjugations of Spanish –ir Verbs

To form the present tense of an -ir verb, drop the -ir from the infinitive (base) form of the verb, and add the following endings:

yo                            o
tú                             es
él/ella/Ud.               e
nosotros                 imos
vosotros                 ís  
ellos/ellas/Uds.      en

As you’ve seen with the present tense of –ar and –er verbs, vosotros (the plural informal “you”) is only used in Spain. If you’re planning on just speaking Spanish in the Americas, you don’t need to learn it since you’ll use ustedes with any groups of people you encounter.

Let’s look at how these endings can be applied to the regular verb escribir (to write). First, we take off the last two letters and get:

escrib

Then we add the ending that’s appropriate for each pronoun:

yo escribo I write
tú escribes you write (said to one person, informally)
él/ella/Ud. escribe — he/she writes, you write (said to one person, formally)
nosotros escribimos — we write
vosotros escribís — you write (said to more than one person, informally)
ellos/ellas/Uds. escriben — they write, you write (said to more than one person, formally)

7 Common Spanish –ir Verbs and How to Use Them

1. Escribir

English: To write

Now that we’ve seen the conjugations for escribir, let’s look at how we might combine those conjugated forms with other words to talk about things that people actually write. To do this, we’ll need a few more common words.

Here are some things you might write in daily life:

un correo electrónico — an email
un SMS — an SMS
un WhatsApp — a WhatsApp message (this service is very popular in Spanish-speaking countries)
una carta — a letter
una tesis — a thesis
un artículo — an article

And here are a few people you might write to:

a mi madre — to my mother
a mi padre — to my father
a mi novio/novia — to my boyfriend/girlfriend
a Ana — to Ana
a Josep — to Josep
a mis amigos — to my friends

And finally some frequency and time words that often go with these present tense conjugations:

ahora — now
a veces — sometimes
cada semana — each week
todos los días — every day
una vez por mes — once per month
nunca — never

Putting these elements together to form sentences is pretty straightforward. Here are a few examples of how we can mix and match the above:

Ella escribe una tesis. — She is writing a thesis.
Escribo un correo electrónico a mi madre cada semana. — I write an email to my mother every week.
Matilda y yo escribimos un artículo. — Matilda and I are writing an article.

Notice in the above that, as with the other present tense verbs you’ve surely seen, the –ir present tense verb conjugations can be translated into English with both the gerund (she is writing) and the simple English present tense (she writes).

What about you? What do you write? Whom do you write to? How often?

2. Vivir

English: To live

Another one of the most common –ir verbs is vivir. You can use this verb with con (with) to talk about your and others’ present living situations.

Vivo con mi padre. — I live with my father.
Ellos viven con dos gatos. — They live with two cats.
Él vive con su marido. — He lives with his husband.

You can also use the preposition en (in) to talk about where people live.

¿Vivís en un barco? — Do you guys live in a boat?
Vivimos en un apartamento. — We live in an apartment.
¿Vives en una casa? — Do you live in a house?
Vivo en Nueva York. — I live in New York.

3. Confundir

English: To confuse, to conflate, to mix things up

If there’s one thing you must know how to talk about as you’re learning Spanish, it’s how to express your own confusion and mistakes. This verb can help.

Confundir means to confuse or conflate different things:

Siempre confundo la bachata con la merengue. — I always get bachata mixed up with merengue.
Confunde los dos verbos. — He has the two verbs mixed up.

If you’ve already learned about reflexive verbs, you’ll definitely want the reflexive form as well, confundirse (to get mixed up, be confused, make mistakes):

Me confundo con los nuevos verbos. — I’m confused with the new verbs.
¿Te confundes?
— Are you lost/mixed up?
Se confunde con todo. — She’s got everything all wrong.

4. Discutir

English: To argue

Be careful! This verb usually signifies more combativeness than a mere “discussion,” so native English speakers tend to use it incorrectly. Here are a few ways you might use it well in the present tense.

Siempre discutimos eso. — We’re always arguing about that.
¿Discutes conmigo? — Are you arguing with me?

5. Subir

English: To rise, to go up, to get on board

Unless you’re climbing on a lot of things, the most common ways you’ll use this verb in civilized life are to talk about getting on public transport and uploading things.

Subimos el volcán. — We’re climbing the volcano.
Suben al autobus. — They’re getting on the bus.
Subo las fotos de ayer. — I’m uploading the photos from yesterday.

6. Descubrir

English: To discover

The uses for this verb are very similar to the English “discover.”

Todos los días descubro cosas nuevas. — Every day I discover new things.
Ahora descubrimos nuestros límites. — Now we’re discovering our limits.

7. Existir

English: To exist

If vivir isn’t enough for you, you can wax on about existing!

Pienso, luego existo. — I think, therefore I am. (The translation of Descartes’ famous cogito ergo sum.)
¿Existen los zombies? — Do zombies exist?
Existo en otro universo. — I exist in another universe.

 

And that brings us to the end of our common ir verbs list. Here are a few more that are quite common, and that you might want to practice with.

decidir — to decide
interrumpir — to interrupt
percibir — to perceive
permitir — to permit

¿Ahora escribes correctamente los verbos que acaban en -ir? (Do you now correctly write the verbs that end in –ir?)

¡Vivimos con estos verbos! (We live with these verbs!)

Let’s enjoy them!


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