We are still at the early stages of our mission to learn about the Present Simple tense and how it is formed. Remember that verbs in the Present Simple are divided into three categories – standard, root-changing and irregular.

We are looking at standard verbs and last month we saw what happened to them when they belong to the group with an ‘-ar’ ending on the Infinitive. We now need to look at standard verbs that end in ‘-er’.

Our single most important principle remains exactly the same, which is that we must first look at our Infinitive verb and split it into its two component parts – the ending and the root.
The ending only ever has two letters, in this case ‘–er’, so whatever is left is the root, be it one letter or ten.
Let’s take a very well known verb as an example: Comer meaning of course ‘to eat’.
Our ending is ‘–er’ so our root is ‘com’ and this is the part that expresses the idea of eating. The changes we make to the ending are what give us the information about who does the eating and when they do it.
This means that the three letters ‘com’ are repeated for the six versions of the verb when we conjugate in the Present Simple; that is when we change the forms to express 1st, 2nd and 3rd persons singular and plural.

The endings of ‘-er’ verbs are similar to those of the ‘-ar’ verbs, except that wherever there was an ‘a’ before there is now an ‘e’. This gives us:
Como Comemos
Comes Coméis
Come Comen

I am not going to keep repeating the translations of each of these forms because they are difficult to fit onto the page and take away from the clarity of the Spanish. However, if you are unsure, you can refer to last month’s article about ‘–ar’ verbs to see what each change means.

When we are saying these out loud, it is important to get the emphasis in the right place. On the 1st, 2nd and 3rd persons singular and 3rd person plural the beat goes on the root – ‘com’, whereas on the 1st and 2nd persons plural the beat falls on the ending. You should try to get this right straight away as it is an important principle and can affect understanding when we are speaking.

There are many standard ‘–er’ verbs, all of which behave in exactly the same way.
For example:
aprender – to learn
beber – to drink
correr – to run
leer – to read
to name but a few.

Leer usually raises a few eyebrows because English speakers find it odd to accept that if the ending of the verb is ‘-er’ then the root must be ‘le’, with both letters ‘e’ pronounced independently.
This gives us:
Leo Leemos
Lees Leéis
Lee Leen

There are other standard ‘-er’ verbs which make a minor change in the 1st person singular.
Some examples are:
caer – to fall
coger – to pick up
hacer – to make/to do
ver – to see/to match

We will talk about these next month before moving on to ‘-ir’ verbs. Hopefully that’s give you some food for thought for a while.
See you next month!

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.