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Spanish verb types

Presente of a Spanish verb is like the Present Simple in English. It describes a habitual situation of the simplest, currently-existing sort. In Spanish, hablo. In English, I talk.

Pretérito describes a single event in the past that is completed.

Pretérito imperfecto describes an event that happened in the past, over a period of time, repeatedly, or habitually.

The imperfecto indicates neither a beginning nor an end to a past action.

• There are only 3 verbs which have irregular conjugations in the imperfecto. These are ir (to go), ser (to be), & ver (to see).

Pretérito perfecto is much like the English "past perfect," using the verb "haber" as we use "to have." He hablado is the same construction as "I have spoken." In this verb form, "haber" in changed according to the grammatical person, and the conjugated verb is used in its participio form.

Futuro is basic, and the same as the English use of future. There are others that correspond to "will have done" and other senses like that — but I'm leaving them for later.

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Condicional describes an event or state that would be, given certain conditions. Sería mejor, "it would be better."

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Subjuntivo describes a hypothetical event. In English, "if I were" is a subjunctive use of the verb "to be." But for almost all English verbs, the subjunctive is used in the same form as the simple tense: "If I walked," for example, or "if I walk." In Spanish, verbs have a full set of subjunctive forms to mirror those in the indicative.*

The subjunctive set of verbs — less common in use than the indicative, and having just as complex a pattern — is difficult to learn. This is true, anyhow, for speakers of English, whose language has lost almost all differentiated conjugations of the subjunctive.


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*"Indicative" (indicativo) means that a verb "indicates" a real situation, as opposed to the hypothetical of the "subjunctive" or the... well, conditional of the "conditional." Most verb usage is in the indicative, because it's the form that talks about real states of action and existence.

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Return to "subjuntivo"...