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Grammar - Conjugating Irregular Verbs

This Spanish Easy Review grammar quiz takes a look at conjugating irregular verbs. At this point in time you should have learned that there are three different kinds of Spanish verbs, ar, er and ir verbs. You should have also learned how to conjugate each type of verb in the present tense. If you have not already done so, please check out the quizzes on conjugating these three types of verbs.

The ar, er and ir verbs follow specific rules when it comes to conjugating them. As you may recall, the endings for ar verbs include o, as, a, amos, áis, an - the er verb endings include o, es, e, emos, éis, en - and the ir present tense verbs end in o, es, e, imos, ís, en.

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These endings are added to the base verb once the ar, er or ir have been dropped. For example, 'hablar' becomes 'habl' plus the corresponding ending dependent upon the pronoun. This type of conjugating works out fine when the base form of the verb remains constant. However, in Spanish, for many verbs, the base verb does not remain constant. In fact, it changes its spelling. When the base verb changes its spelling, it is referred to as an irregular verb. This rather throws a wrench into learning a new language because a great deal of learning that new language is based solely on memorization rather than on any rules. You are, however, not unfamiliar with this concept as English is filled with words that are contrary to any rules.

Let’s look at some interesting English words as follows.

  • comb - How is this word phonetically pronounced? - kōm
  • tomb - How is this word phonetically pronounced? - toom
  • bomb - How is this word phonetically pronounced? - baum

The only constant pronunciation is that the last 'b' sound is silent but in comb the 'o' has a long sound while in tomb the 'o' sounds more like a long u. Finally, in bomb the 'o' has a short sound or like the sound of 'au'. There is no rule to follow that explains why a word that is spelled so very much alike except for the beginning letter should have three different sounds. That means that each of these words simply has to be memorized.

When first learning these crazy words in English it can cause you to pull your hair out but in time, the three different sounds are so natural to you that you don’t even think about them. This too happens in Spanish. You are at the beginning of Spanish so there’ll be some hair pulling but, eventually, with practice, the changing of Spanish verbs (and words) will become so natural to you that you won’t even think about it. For now, however, you will need to start the memorization process.

As you will be in the memorization process, this quiz will only cover four irregular verbs so that you can get comfortable with them. You will learn a few more irregular verbs in a separate quiz, as well as when you get to Spanish Medium Review. For now, the four irregular verbs you will focus on are tener (to have); hacer (to make); ver (to see); and ir (to go).

TENER

When conjugating you learned that you drop the ending er so that the base verb here would be ten. To say 'I have' you would think that the verb would become teno but in this case a 'g' is added to the base verb before the pronoun ending so 'I have' in Spanish is tengo [phonetically pronounced as tān-gō]. Now the 'g' goes away with all of the other pronoun endings but an 'i' is added to the base verb so that 'ten' becomes 'tien' [phonetically pronounced as tān-gō]. Now let’s see how that looks with the pronoun endings: tú tienes, usted tiene, él tiene and ella tiene. Now you would think this continues on but it doesn’t for the pronouns 'we' and 'you' plural, familiar. For those the verb goes back to the base form 'ten' and you then have nosotros/nosotras tenemos and vosotros/vosotras tenéis. For the plural formal 'you' and for 'they' the base goes back to 'tien' so that you then have ustedes tienen and ellos/ellas tienen. Did you get all of that? Let’s look at it this way.

Pronoun Present Tense English Meaning
yo tengo I have
tienes you have (familiar)
usted tiene you have (formal)
él tiene he has
ella tiene she has
nosotros/as tenemos we have (note the masculine and feminine forms)
vosotros/as tenéis you have (plural - familiar)
ustedes tienen you have (plural - formal)
ellos/ellas tienen they have (note the masculine and feminine forms)

HACER

This one is a little easier in that only the present tense with the pronoun 'I' is affected. With this verb the base after dropping the er becomes hac but for the pronoun 'I' the 'c' is changed to a 'g' so that 'I make' in Spanish is hago [phonetically pronounced as ă-gō; - the h is silent]. After that, the regular verb tense endings are used to the base verb so that you have: tú haces, usted hace, él hace, ella hace, nosotros/nosotras hacemos, vosotros/vosotras hacéis and usted/ellos/ellas hacen.

VER

The basic rule when conjugating is to drop the ending er and then add the present tense endings. With this verb, when you drop the er the base verb is simply v. You would then think that 'I see' would be vo. However, rather than just add an 'o' the 'e' is returned so that 'I see' in Spanish is veo [phonetically pronounced as vāy-ō]. The 'e' is then dropped again. There is one other change, however, and that is when you get to the you, plural, familiar verb. Rather than being éis, only eis is added. The accent mark is dropped. Therefore, the conjugation for ver is as follows: tú ves, usted ve, él ve, ella ve, nosotros/nosotras vemos, vosotros/vosotras veis, usted/ellos/ellas ven.

IR

This is an interesting verb because when you drop the ir you have nothing left for a base verb. Because there is nothing left - the entire conjugation of this verb becomes irregular. In addition, the pronoun verb endings then become the endings of an ar verb. Again, this verb will totally have to be memorized. Below is how this irregular verb is then conjugated.

Pronoun Present Tense English Meaning
yo voy I go
vas you go (familiar)
usted va you go (formal)
él va he goes
ella va she goes
nosotros/as vamos we go (note the masculine and feminine forms)
vosotros/as vais you go (plural - familiar) (accent mark is dropped)
ustedes van you go (plural - formal)
ellos/ellas van they go (note the masculine and feminine forms)

Because these irregular verbs will take some time to get used to, spend as much time as you need to read through them, say them, and recognize them with their corresponding pronouns. When you believe you have a good handle on them, move on to the quiz. The quiz contains ten English verbs with a pronoun. From the answers given, locate the Spanish verb and pronoun that will match. Pay close attention to the spelling of the words to make certain you get the right answer.

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  1. we go
    The pronoun of 'we' is given here. It is not known, however, whether 'we' means all boys or all girls or a mixture of both so the rule states that when you do not know, you always choose the masculine form of the pronoun. This means you can eliminate the first and third answers as they both show the feminine form of a pronoun. The third answer shows the incorrect spelling for the verb ending as there is no accent mark used in conjugating the present tense of the verb 'ir'. The Spanish masculine pronoun form for 'we' is 'nosotros' and to say 'we go' is 'vamos'.
  2. you make (girls in cooking class)
    First determine what the correct pronoun form for 'you' is needed here. As the hint is girls in cooking class, this tells you two things. First, that it refers to plural people and, second, that those people are all girls. The Spanish plural formal pronoun form for 'you' is 'ustedes'. This means that the second, third and last answers can now be eliminated. To then say 'you make' in Spanish you would say 'ustedes hacen'.
  3. they go
    Taking a look at the pronoun first, you are looking for the Spanish pronoun for 'they'. 'Nosotros' means 'we' and 'ustedes' means 'you' so you quickly can determine that neither the first nor the third answer is correct. In addition, the conjugated verb in the first answer is not showing the correct verb ending. Both the second and last answers read as 'they go'. The second answer is feminine and the last answer is masculine. As you do not know whether 'they' refers to all boys, all girls or a mixture of both, you always choose the masculine form of the pronoun. Therefore, to say 'they go' in Spanish you would say 'ellos van'.
  4. I see
    Looking at the pronoun of 'I' you know that the Spanish version for that pronoun is 'yo'. Now you can quickly eliminate the first and last answers. The verb 'voy' is Spanish for 'I go' and not for 'I see'. That leaves the second answer which shows the correct pronoun and conjugated verb for 'I see', i.e., 'yo veo'.
  5. you have (sisters)
    The pronoun you are looking at here is 'you' which refers to the sisters. As they are sisters, they are familiar people. Therefore, you will need to use the plural, familiar form of the pronoun for 'you'. In Spanish, the plural, familiar pronoun for 'you' is 'vosotras'. Notice that it is in the feminine form. This means that the first, second and last answers can be eliminated.
  6. you make (relatives)
    Looking at the pronoun 'you', you can see that it refers to relatives who are familiar people. We do not know if the relatives are all boys, all girls or a mixture so you use the masculine, plural form of 'you'. In Spanish, the masculine, plural familiar form of 'you' is 'vosotros'. This means that 'you make' is 'vosotros hacéis' in Spanish.
  7. they have (boy rock band)
    Looking at the pronoun you have 'they' and 'they' refers to an all boy rock band. The masculine Spanish pronoun for 'they' is 'ellos' which means that the first and third answers can be eliminated. The first answer also shows the improper conjugated form for they have. It shows the conjugated form for we have. The last answer does show the proper masculine subject for they, i.e., ellos, but it has misspelled the conjugated verb for they have. The verb in the last answer is missing an 'i'. Therefore, in order to say 'they have' in Spanish you would say 'ellos tienen'.
  8. she sees
    The pronoun here is 'she' and in Spanish that is translated as 'ella'. This means you can eliminate the second and last answers quickly. You then must understand how to conjugate the verb 'ver'. After dropping the 'er' ending and adding the appropriate 'er' present tense verb ending, the Spanish verb for 'she seeks' is 've'. The verb only has one 'e'.
  9. he has
    The first thing to do is determine the correct Spanish pronoun for 'he'. That would then be 'él'. You can now eliminate the first answer as it shows the subject pronoun form for they and not he. The third answer shows the subject pronoun form for she and the last answer shows the subject pronoun form and conjugated verb form for I have. Neither of these are correct. However, the second answer does show the translation for 'he has' as being 'él tiene'.
  10. you go (bus driver)
    The first thing to do is to determine the correct pronoun. Here it is 'you' and 'you' refers to a bus driver which is a singular person. In addition, it is a formal person so you need to use the singular, formal pronoun form for 'you'. In Spanish that is 'usted'. Now you can eliminate the first, second and third answers as the correct Spanish translation is 'usted va'.

Author: Christine G. Broome

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