We are still looking through the various changes that are made to verbs in the Present Tense. We are on ‘standard’ verbs and last month we tackled the ‘-er’ group, with our basic example of the verb ‘comer’ meaning ‘to eat’.

Como Comemos
Comes Coméis
Come Comen

The important thing to remember is that the ‘root’ of the verb remains the same; in this case ‘com’ and the endings follow a strict pattern to indicate the person who eats. These changes are always laid out in a group of six (1st, 2nd and 3rd person singular, 1st 2nd and 3rd person plural) and we call this pattern a ‘conjugation’.

The last thing we commented on was that there are a few of these standard ‘-er’ verbs that make a slight alteration to the first person singular form. This does not mean that they are ‘irregular’, because they obey all the other rules exactly; they just have this one little idiosyncrasy and there is usually a good reason for it as well.

Now we’re going to look at four of these and attempt to explain them. If the explanation doesn’t mean a lot to you, you’ve always got the option of just learning the verb form in the spirit of acceptance “That’s how they say it; just that’s how I have to say it too”. I just prefer to explain the reasons if I can because it might help some people to make sense of them.

The first two verbs are ‘caer’ (to fall) and ‘hacer’ (to do or to make). These are standard verbs and follow the pattern we learnt last month; that is adding endings on to the roots ‘ca’ and ‘hac’. In the first person singular though, they change to caigo (I fall) and hago (I do, I make). Both these changes are to do with ease of speech. ‘cao’ on its own would be hard to get across (especially when you’re falling!) and in the case of ‘hacer’, there is an issue to do with the sound change to the letter ‘c’ before the ending ‘o’. As we go forward we will see that quite a few first person verb changes involve the letter ‘g’ in its harder form and this is an easy sound to make.

Another change is ‘I see’, which, according to our rules, should be ‘vo’, but it isn’t. ‘I see’ is in fact ‘veo’. If you are around Spanish children at all, or English children in Spanish schools, you can play the Spanish version of ‘I spy with my little eye’ with them (it’s a really good game for learning new vocabulary!) The game starts ‘Veo, veo’ ‘¿Qué ves?’ (I see, I see. What do you see?) You can ask them to teach you the rest of the game; it might help you to remember ‘veo’ (I see).

Lastly, we are going to look at a first person singular form that is totally regular in speech, but has to make a spelling adjustment so we can read it correctly. This is the verb ‘coger’ which means ‘to pick up’ which, you will realize, is pronounced with that throaty Scottish ‘ch’ sound. Again we have a pronunciation problem here caused by the letter ‘g’ being followed by an ‘o’ in the first person. If we were to write ‘cogo’ it would then read incorrectly, so to preserve the sound of the word we have to spell it ‘cojo’. Now when we read it, it sounds completely regular, along with the rest of the verb changes.

I hope all of that made sense. If it didn’t, just remember ‘caigo’ (I fall), ‘hago’ (I do, I make), ‘veo’ (I see) and ‘cojo’ (I pick up) and that I told you these minor blips on the landscape of standard ‘-er’ verbs. Stick with it! We’re on to ‘-ir’ verbs 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.