It’s amazing really just how much hard work the Present Simple Tense is in Spanish. It’s for that reason that I like to tackle a few other tenses and verb forms first which are not only easier, but in many ways more useful. Things like expressing intention – ‘voy a hablar’ and the recent past tense – ‘he hablado’ may crop up more in our day to day communication than simply ‘hablo’ – ‘I speak’.
However, let us not be faint-hearted, especially as we have covered nearly all of the present simple tense in theory, with only our four Irregular Verbs to go. The first one is ‘haber’ which goes like this:
If you can’t remember what this means, it’s because it doesn’t actually mean a great deal on its own. In fact, this is the verb we use in the tense just mentioned, the one that refers to the recent past, for example: ‘He visto la película’ (‘I have seen the film’) and such like.
‘Haber’ is a grammatical type of word that is only used on its own in limited ways and principally helps us to form tenses by combining it with other verbs. Of course we could say that ‘haber’ means ‘to have’, but that can cause confusion with the verb ‘tener’. We need to keep the difference clear:
‘tener’ means ‘to have’ generally in the sense of possession:
‘Tengo un perro’
‘¿Tienes una bolsa?’
Whereas ‘haber’ is the grammatical ‘have’. In the sentence ‘I have seen the film’ there is no sense of possessing the film, only an indication that it was seen some time in the past.
Our second Irregular Verb is ‘ir’ meaning ‘to go’. This one is just weird in every way. Here it is:
As you can see these changes bear no relation whatsoever to its infinitive form. In fact, they look as though they belong to an ‘–ar’ verb, perhaps ‘var’ which unfortunately doesn’t exist, but it would make more sense if it did.
Again, we have come across most, if not all of these forms in our previous articles, particularly in relation to ‘intentions’. If we put the word ‘a’ after each of these we can express the equivalent of the English ‘I’m going to’, ‘you’re going to’ etc. However, this is far from the only use of ‘ir’ which can be used in the straightforward Present Simple Tense as follows:
‘Voy a clases de español’ – (I go to Spanish classes).
Here we added ‘a’ again, but in the meaning of ‘to’.
‘Vamos a la playa los domingos’– (We go to the beach on Sundays) is a similar use.
‘ir’ is a good example of a verb that, although it is irregular, is used so commonly that it becomes second nature very quickly.
Our final two irregular verbs are ‘ser’ and ‘estar’ and clearly I cannot possibly do them justice at the end of this article, so I will devote the whole of next month’s article just to them. I will talk about the uses as well as the irregularities. I can sense the anticipation already – what sad people we are!
Jane Cronin’s “Step by Step Spanish” articles are available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s “Step by Step Internet Spanish” course.