Previously we looked at the verb SER (to be). Verbs are said to be “in the infinitive” when they appear unchanged (SER), and “conjugated” when we change the infinitive and use subjects: yo soy, tú eres, ella es = (I am, you are, she is).
In Spanish, verbs are categorized into three groups depending on their endings: -ar, -er and -ir. Let’s take a look at an -ar ending verb: tomar = to take (in the infinitive). It has a stem (tom-) and an ending (-ar).
The conjugation pattern for regular verbs deals with the ending, not with the stem:
|tomar: to take||tom-||-ar|
To conjugate the verb, take off -ar ending, and add the appropriate ending:
Tomar: to take
|Subject pronouns||Conjugated verb||Meaning|
|tú||tomas||you take (familiar)|
|Ud.||toma||you take (formal)|
|vosotros||tomáis||you take (familiar; Spain)|
|ellas||toman||they take (feminine)|
Since the verb endings differ from each other for the most part (except the él-ellla-Ud. and ellos-ellas-Uds. endings) the subject pronouns (yo, tú, él, etc.) do not have to be used with the verb because it’s clear from the verb ending who the subject is. In the sentence below:
|Tomo el autobús.||I take the bus.|
The conjugated verb tomo ends in an -o and its subject must be “yo” because no other verb ending correlates to the “yo” form. However, subject pronoun can be used with the conjugated verb:
|Yo tomo el autobús.||I take the bus.|
Using yo with tomo doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence. Spanish speakers use subject pronouns when there is a possibility of confusion, or they want to emphasize differences. With no subject pronouns, the simple sentence:
- Toma muchas clases.
- He is taking lots of classes.
- She is taking lots of classes.
- You are taking lots of classes. (formal: Ud.)
Since the verb ending of toma is the same for all three subjects (he, she, you), the sentence can be ambiguous if the subject pronouns are not used. To clarify the ambiguity, use subject pronouns:
|Él toma muchas clases.||He’s taking…|
|Ella toma muchas clases.||She’s taking…|
|Ud. toma muchas clases.||You’re taking…|
Subject pronouns are also used to emphasize differences between two people:
Yo tomo cuatro clases este semestre pero ella toma solamente dos.
I’m taking four classes this semester but she’s taking only two.
It is important to realize that most verbs in Spanish in the present tense have three possible translations in English. The following sentence:
- Lorena toma sus clases por la noche.
- Lorena takes her classes at night.
- Lorena is taking her classes at night.
- Lorena does take her classes at night.
This is practical to keep in mind because to form questions, one simply conjugates the verb and no “auxiliaries” (is – does in the examples above) are needed. Both the English examples:
- Is Lorena taking her classes at night?
- Does Lorena take her classes at night?
could be translated as:
- ¿Toma Lorena sus clases por la noche?
A final consideration is to see how to negate a sentence, or make it negative. In English to negate the sentence:
- Javier takes the bus.
we insert the auxiliary “does” and the word “not”:
- Javier does not take the bus.
In Spanish, the word “no” is simply used before the verb:
- Javier no toma el autobús.