25 Essential Beginner Spanish Verbs

Spanish Verbs

Skill Level: Beginner Level

So many Spanish verbs to learn, where to begin? You’ve already begun to learn some, but you’re a little overwhelmed.  Verbs, I assure you, are the most important part of any language. They are the action words, the words that give life to your speech. They act as the glue that holds all the other words together in a sentence. Once you identify the verbs in a sentence your ability to understand its meaning jumps up at least 50% in my opinion. I can hear what you’re thinking right now, “But there are so many which ones should I learn first?” Yes, there are a lot, but there certainly is a list that you should focus on to drop in your toolbox in order to increase your ability to understand and communicate.

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When I started learning Spanish I focused on the basic verbs that were the most useful for everyday situations. We’re not going to look at conjugations right now.  So let’s go through the list below.

I. Learn and II. Repeat

Again the first step in learning is to get acquainted with the material being presented. So let’s go over the list below and they are in no particular order. Please understand that there are other essential verbs besides the ones on this list, but you must start somewhere. While you review the list you should repeat them out loud several times to become comfortable with their pronunciation. This will alo the start the process of memorizing them.

25 Essential Spanish Verbs to Learn for a Beginner

English Verb Spanish Verb Reason to learn it.
To speak, to talk Hablar One of the main communication verbs and most used in the language. You can use it to ask if someone speaks English too, “¿Usted habla inglés?”
To listen (to),to hear Escuchar Another communication verb and way to confirm a message was received.
To understand Entender Great confirmation verb to check if you are communicating effectively.
To write Escribir Again another communication verb and great tool to use when you need something written to help you understand something.
To read Leer Another communication verb. Can be used to ask someone to say something out loud or simply to follow along. Written language is allows easier to understand.
To eat Comer One of the most important bodily functions.
To sleep Dormir Another vital bodily function.
To do,
to make
Hacer One of the most versatile verbs in the language.
To like Gustar Express what pleases you or you don’t approve of.
To open Abrir Necessary action to complete multiple tasks.
To close Cerrar Another necessary action to complete tasks.
To need Necesitar You always express things that you lack.
To say Decir Perhaps the most important communication verbs and maybe one of the top three verbs overall. You need to learn new words; therefore, you need to ask how to “say” them.
To clean Limpiar A normal everyday task.
To leave, to go out Salir Necessary to talk about when people depart in past, present and future.
To go Ir Another one of the top used, most versatile verbs.
To go in, to enter Entrar How else would you ask someone to come inside?
To buy Comprar You need to purchase things, right?
To stop Parar Sometimes it’s necessary to end an action.
To start Empezar Everything has a beginning.
To happen Pasar You must communicate an occurrence.
To end, to finish Terminar All good things must come to an end and you should be able to say it.
To see Ver One of the 5 senses, a verb you will use quite often.
*to be Ser *Without a doubt, the MOST IMPORTANT VERBS in Spanish.
*to be Estar Estar and Ser both mean “to be” but are used in different circumstances. (More on this in a future post.)

III. Practice

You must see them over and over again to truly memorize them. That’s where flashcards will come in handy. Please download and print off the ones I created. If you can recite the verbs without much effort then you have done a fabulous job memorizing them. You will have to practice them several times. There are other ways to practice.

Other Ways to Practice with Spanish Verbs for Beginners

  • Read Spanish children’s books. You will see many essential verbs appear often while reading something that you can handle.
  • Write to Online Friends. Chatting or just emails are some of the best ways to increase vocabulary since you typically use many of the same verbs multiple times.
  • Write to Me. Use the contact information below.

IV. Use

Conversation, conversation, conversation. There’s no real secret here. You want to learn to speak Spanish, then speak Spanish. All the other practice drills are just that- drills to prepare you for the real thing. They help you memorize vocabulary and correct any mistakes. Use these verbs as often as you can.

Please feel free to write to me with questions.

Hablamos pronto,

Rick

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Speak Spanish Today: At the Restaurant/En el Restaurante, Part 2

Now let’s take what you learned from the previous post to the next level. We’re going to make complete sentences, then create flashcards to “repeat” them out loud and “practice” them in order to retain what we’ve learned.

Review the following sentence patterns and pay special attention to the sample sentences. Keep the vocabulary flashcards from the previous post. You will need them to complete this exercise.

Learn

Read over the sentence patterns, then review the sample sentences.

Sentence order

1. querer = to want
Quiero + el/la/los/las  (entremés, plato principal o postre) por favor. = I want + (appetizer, main dish, drink or dessert).
Quiere + el/la/los/las  (entremés, plato principal o postre) por favor. = (He, he, she or you) wants/want (appetizer, main dish, drink or dessert).
Quisiera + el/la/los/las   (entremés, plato principal o postre) por favor. = (I, he, she or you) would like + (appetizer, main dish, drink or dessert).

Sample sentences:

  • Quiero la sopa de vegetales por favor. = I want the vegetable soup please.
  • Quiere los plátanos maduros por favor. = He wants the sweet plantains. *Note. Also means she or you…
  • Quisiera el tres leches por favor. I would like the tres leches. *Note. Tres leches is the name of the dessert so it remains in singular form. Also note that this sentence could also mean He wants, she wants or you want. Using “quisiera” is a much more polite way to ask for something.

2. comer = to eat
Hoy quiero comer + el/la/los/las (entremés, plato principal o postre). = I want to eat +the  (appetizer, main dishor dessert).
Hoy quiere comer + el/la/los/las  (entremés, plato principal  o postre). = I want to eat + the (appetizer, main dish or dessert).
Hoy quisiera comer + el/la/los/las (entremés, plato principal o postre). = Today (I, he, she or you) would like to eat the (appetizer, main dish, or dessert)

Sample sentences

  • Hoy quiero comer el pescado. = Today I want to eat the fish.
  • Hoy quiere comer el pollo. = Today she wants to eat the chicken.
  • Hoy quisiera comer la ensalada. = Today I would like to eat the salad. *Note. You couldn’t say “comer la sope” in Spanish  instead “tomar la sopa”.

3. tomar/beber= to drink
Hoy quiero tomar + un/una (bebida). = I want to drink + a/an (drink).
Hoy quiere tomar + un/una (bebida). = I want to drink + a/an  (drink).
Hoy quisiera tomar + un/una  (bebida). = Today (I, he, she or you) would like to drink + a/an (drink).

Sample sentences

  • Hoy quiero tomar una cerveza. = Today I want to have a beer.
  • Hoy quiere tomar un jugo de naranja. = Today she wants to have an orange juice.
  • Hoy quisiera tomar un agua. = Today I would like a water. *Note. Agua is a femine word, but it is preceded by “un” and not “una” due to a grammar rule that states if a word begins with a stressed “a” sound then you precede it with the indefinite article “un”.

4. dar = to give, traer = to bring, to come with

The verb “dar” is not used as a command here so it is not pushy. This is a question and ,therefore, it is polite.

¿Me da + un/una/el/la/los/las (entremés, plato principal, bebida o postre) para mi (entremés, plato principal, bebida o postre)? = Can you give me + (appetizer, main dish, drink or dessert) for my (appetizer, main dish, drink or dessert)?
¿Me trae + un/una/el/la (bebida) por favor? = Can you bring me + a (drink) please?
¿Qué trae el/la (plato principal)? = What comes with the (main dish)?

Sample sentences

  • ¿Me da los tostones para el entremés y el pollo para el plato principal? = Could you give me the the fried green plantains as my appetizer and the chicken as my main dish.
  • ¿Me trae una cervez⌠a por favor? = Could you bring me a beer please?
  • ¿Qúe trae el pescado? = What comes with the fish?

Bonus:

Here are some Spanish verbs that replace an entire phrase in English “to have (breakfast, lunch or dinner)”. It is not correct to say “tener desayuno, tener almuerzo or tener cena” nor “comer desayuno, comer almuerzo or comer cena”.

-desayunar = to have breakfast
-almorzar = to have lunch
-cenar = to have dinner

Sample sentences

  • ¿Quisieras desayunar conmigo el lunes? = Would you like to have breakfast with me on Monday?
  • Almuerza todos los días con su mamá. = He has lunch with his mom everyday.
  • Cena a las ocho una vez la semana. = She has dinner at 8 once a week.

Repeat + Practice

Create flashcards for the verbs, indirect objects (un/una) and direct objects (el/la/los/las) out of index cards and combine these new cards with the ones you made for the post from Part 1. Create the flashcards the same way you did in Part 1. Then read the following instructions.

Flashcard Drill Instructions

  1. Make separate piles for each type of word facing up in Spanish. Then spread the piles loosely in order to see many of the cards.
  2. Make sentences following the sentence patterns above by choosing a card from each pile.
  3. Create as many sentences as possible while saying them out loud. This time realize you will not be able to check your answers on the back of the cards because the sentence order can be different between the two languages.

Use

This is where it all comes together. Unless you use what you have just “uploaded” into your brain you will lose it. So I challenge you to do one of the following.

  1. Go to the Latin/Spanish section closest to where you live and find a eatery where the majority of the staff speaks Spanish.
  2. Search online for reviews of the most authentic Latin American restaurants closest to you. They can be Mexican, Peruvian, Venezuelan, Colombian, etc. Have fun go eat there, but order in Spanish!
  3. Invite a Spanish-speaking friend out to lunch or dinner. Ask what their favorite place to eat is, but you must speak in Spanish! It will be a much more successful exercise if you invite a friend that does NOT speak much English.

How do you “learn” Spanish?

So “how do you learn Spanish”? Well, the first question should be what do you mean by “learn”? I’m going to assume you mean speak fluently. So to be able to start and hold a conversation, know more than a sufficient amount of words to communicate practically anything you need to say will require you to retain all lot of information, wouldn’t you say? And that’s where the expression, “You need to think in Spanish,” comes from. Ever heard that expression before? I’m sure you have.
Practicing many different exercises like computer games, vocabulary crosswords, flashcard drills, rehearsing Spanish songs, IMing Spanish-speaking friends and so on are all VERY important, but they aren’t enough. They are what they are- practice for the real thing, real conversation.  In a real conversation we rely on our ability to search for the next words in our heads and how to combine them into the correct order to make sentences.
How difficult will that be if we must start in English then translate to Spanish? Not very easy nor efficient that’s how difficult.  And in some cases the translations won’t even make sense.  So the real trick is to make all the Spanish words and the ordering of the sentences to come naturally, or at least as natural as possible. When you speak the Spanish words must come to your mind and only the Spanish words, no English help. When you look at a “table” you must think “mesa”, when you look up at the sky you think “cielo”, when someone asks you where you want to eat you need to describe that juicy steak you envision cutting into, “Quiero una carne asada y muy jugosa.” When someone asks you a question about what you did on your vacation you need to picture the beautiful beach setting in your mind and describe what is was like, “Daba un paseo en la playa y me bañaba todos los días en el agua.”
So how can you think in Spanish? By following a system to retain the knowledge you learn and practice it enough in real settings to allow the words to come to you with little effort.
And here is that process:
Learn-Repeat-Practice-Use
Learn: you are introduced to new information, new knowledge, for example, new vocabulary, verb conjugations, sentence order and the like.
Repeat: repeat what you learned out loud, repeat the vocabulary, repeat the verb conjugations and so on.
Practice: practice new versions of what you learned but still outside of real conversations, Spanish thinking drills if you will. They will prepare you for conversations with people.
Use: use what you have learned, repeated and practiced up to this point in real conversations.
I promise you doing these steps will improve your ability to think and react in Spanish much faster than only doing drills.  It’s what allowed me to “learn” Spanish faster, it’s what allowed me to retain what I learned and think in Spanish.
 

Top 10 Free Ways to Improve Listening Comprehension in Spanish

group conversation

If there’s one area I wish I could go back in time and work on more it would be listening comprehension. I would place a bigger emphasis on listening comprehension. It’s easy to learn new words if you practice and study enough, it’s easy to learn to read and write if you practice enough, but understanding the spoken word is more difficult. You do not have as much control over what is being said or how it’s pronounced. Native speakers of any language take short cuts to speak faster.  They slur words or partially pronounce them. We do the same in English. With all that being said there are many different ways to invest your time to improve your ear’s ability to pick up spoken Spanish. It does not matter what skill or experience level you are, any of these can either help you create a good base of knowledge of pronunciation or assist you in understanding the overall message when someone is speaking. Or if you have spoken Spanish for years this list can help you continue to improve.  I still do many of these myself to get better or to maintain my skills.  Here are my current top 10.

10. Radio DJs: I’m referring specifically to when there are at least two of them talking to each other between the songs. This is a great way to hear random conversations. Random is good because you cannot predict what will be said, this forces you to rely on your ear.

9.   Radio Talk Shows: when broadcasters or DJs invite a special guest onto their show who in turn answer calls from listeners this is a great way to hear more interactions. You can learn more Spanish vocabulary related to specific topics. This is another simple and easily-accessible way to invest your time into improving your listening comprehension.

8. Spanish Songs with Lyrics: Youtube has a treasure chest full of songs that show the lyrics. Many fans upload the song and create their own slide show presentation. First watch the video and read the words many times until you get familiar with all the words. Then listen to the song over and over without the help of the lyrics. This way you do not rely on reading the words, eliminate the visual aid. Check on reggaeton, Spanish pop, salsa or bachata songs.

7. Radio Commercials: Humorous, serious, jingles, real-life situations and more. Spanish commercials on the radio are fun to listen to and will help you to understand the overall message. Even if you just understand a few words you will probably understand what the product or service is that is being promoted. Just turn on your radio while you are driving, listen to the music and to the commercials in between.

6. TV Commercials: The combination of visual aids and audio provide a complete way of learning new words, phrases and above all another way to force you to try to understand what the message is. You will have a much easier time understanding TV commercials versus radio commercials, but I do recommend both.

5. Children’s TV Shows/ DVDs: The simpler, less deep content is easier to follow and refreshing. Many shows use many visual aids and display words with the intention of teaching Latin children how to learn Spanish. For anyone starting out learning Spanish this would the number one way to improve Spanish listening comprehension. This method also serves as a way to learn new vocabulary and how to construct sentences.

4. Comedy Shows: There’s a slew of them. I admit I haven’t watched any in a long while, but they are another less intense, laid back way to practice. Many jokes will go right over your head, but you will pick up more than you think. It’s a great way to learn a bit about the Latin culture to get a little glimpse on their sense of humor. Just be aware some of the humor is a little over the top.

3. Game Shows: I give an edge to game shows over comedy shows because there is more dialogue and less staged situations. Real life, everyday people participate in the show and share many random comments. The shows typically mix in commercials and sales pitches which adds to the variety of topics appearing on the shows.

2. Science and Nature Shows: I place this second simply as a preference. I enjoy watching them. There is a lot of dialogue which enhances your vocabulary. The game shows and comedy shows are great but they can be so goofy that I can only watch for a little bit. Nature shows on the other hand are more interesting to me and I don’t tend to get distracted like I do with the other types of shows.

1. The News: Local news, international or national news. Hands down the best way that tops this list. These are the best types of shows to improve Spanish listening comprehension, vocabulary and grammar. You get it all, visual aids, dialogue, current events for cultural orientation and many different types of accents. Tune into different channels to mix up the stories and accents. You will find that some accents are easier to understand do to their clarity of speech.

Spanish Vocabulary Memorization: My Flashcard Technique

It’s been a while since I used flashcards because at this point I truly see the same objects and actions in both English and Spanish. To me a table is a “mesa”, a street a “calle”, a cat a “gato”, to eat is “comer” and so on. They’re all the same and you will get there too. I’d bet you’ve already gotten there with some words. Here’s a technique you may like that I used to build Spanish vocabulary fast. I used picture flashcards as much as possible.  I mention in another one of my posts about building vocabulary fast through images instead of translating with the use of picture dictionaries and picture flashcards.  Here  I will show you how I did it.  I am not an artist, but I can draw a little. So I used to draw images of actions and objects on one side of an index card and the Spanish word on the other. Don’t worry if you cannot draw at all I will recommend some other ways to get around it. Try these exercises.

Create Your Own Flashcards with Drawings

I. Create the cards

1. Buy some cheap index cards.

2. Cut them in half to save on cards.

3. Choose a category like your bedroom.

4. Draw various objects on one side of each card until you have a pile of 10-15.

5. Look up the word in a Spanish-English dictionary, phone app or electronic translator.

6. Write the word on the opposite side of the drawing.

II. Memorization Technique

1. Look at all the cards one at a time. DO NOT try to memorize through the first run.

2. Next turn all the cards with the drawings facing up. And one-by-one attempt to say the word on the other side. DO NOT stop just look    at each card one time.

3. Create two piles. Put the cards you don’t know in one pile and the ones you do know in the other.

4. Repeat these steps until you get all the cards correct.

5. The next step is to complete one run without getting any incorrect.

6. The final step is to randomly pull cards out of order to see how well you know them. In your free time randomly repeat this exercise to     increase the likelihood you memorize your new words. Here’s my most important tip though. Upon learning any new word or phrase to       ensure you memorize it for the long term you must use them at least three times within two weeks of learning them.

Tips to Create Flashcards for People that Do Not Draw

1. Search Images on Bing, Yahoo or Google.  Do a search for the category of free printable Spanish flashcards, for example, zoo animals,         colors, vegetables, etc. Just know that it may take several minutes to find exactly what you want.

2. Clip Art and Tables in Microsoft Word.  If you are comfortable working with Word then create tables and fill them with text first then the    images.

Bonus Spanish Flashcard Exercise for the Home and Office

This is the easiest exercise and perhaps most effective. Use index cards to create flashcards with just the words (no English translation please) for the objects in your home and office. Then simply tape them to the objects. Keep them posted up for several weeks. Please take the extra step to actually look at them and say them aloud. You will automatically associate the words and objects together and you won’t have to drill yourself to learn them because you will just casually look at them as you go through your day. Years from now you that image of your microwave with the card “microondas” will be stuck in your head!

Spanish Vocabulary: Days of the Week…and how to memorize them

Learning vocabulary is the foundation of learning any language. Accepting that you need to take it one step at a time and start from the beginning will be vital  to managing your emotions and expectations while you improve your knowledge and skills to speak and understand Spanish.  In the beginning I tried to learn as much vocabulary as possible. I focused on the sets of words and phrases that would come in handy most. Describing time is extremely important. Let’s take a peek at the days of the week first and how to remember them. Then do not forget your free downloadable flashcards.

The week in Spanish starts with Monday. Let’s start there. Days of the week in Spanish are NOT capitalized.

Days of the Week in Spanish

  • lunes /LOO-nace/                            Monday
  • martes /MAR-tace/                        Tuesday
  • miércoles  /MEER-ko-lace/          Wednesday
  • jueves   /HOOAY-vace/                 Thursday
  • viernes  /VEEAIR-nace/                 Friday
  • sábado /SA-ba-do/                         Saturday
  • domingo /do-MIN-go/                  Sunday

Let’s break the week into 3 parts.

The first half of the work week: lunes, martes, miercoles

The second half of the work week: jueves, viernes

And the weekend: sábado, domingo

Focus on each part by repeating the days of that part over and over until you memorize them.

Another way to memorize them is come up with clues to remembering them, sort of like memory joggers.  So let’s try it.

  • Lunes” starts the work week and when that happens you “lose” sleep. The “lu” part of lunes and “lose” have similar vowel sounds. Sounds stupid, but trust me this stuff works.
  • Marti gras”, the holiday, or big party in New Orleans, means Fat Tuesday.  Marti and martes are very similar since both of their roots come from Latin, and both have to do with Tuesday.
  • Once you get to the middle of the week the first half is in the rearview “mirror”. So miércoles is the rearview “mirror”. Miércoles, mirror. Again the first part of the word sounds similar.
  • “Who’s” going to the party tomorrow? Tomorrow is Friday night so you would like to know “who” is going to be there. Who, jueves.
  • Don’t “veer” off now, the weekend is here. “Viernes” is finally here.
  • Saturday and sábado start with the same two letters “sa”. It’s the only day of the week that starts the same both in Spanish and English.
  • Tomorrow you will start making “dough” again. Today is “domingo” but tomorrow begins the work week when you start earning money again.

All of these clues are just ideas on how to help you memorize them. Any vocabulary you learn will eventually become second nature and you will not have to use goofy clues to remember them.

Get your days of the week PDF. Use card stock in your printer to print off sturdy cards and your days of the week reminder exercise.