Spanish Verbs That End in -er

All Spanish verbs end in either -er, -ar, or -ir. Each category of these verbs has specific rules governing how they change to express layers of crucial information about the situation. The category of verbs that ends in -er has the most irregular verbs (72% are irregular), which means that most of the verbs you encounter will unfortunately not follow the regular conjugation scheme. Luckily, the conjugations for -er verbs are very similar to -ir verbs in the present tense, with only the vosotros and nosotros forms differing – think of it as a two-for-one deal!

How Verbs Change

The form of a verb changes to show who perpetrated the action (person) and when it occurred (tense). Spanish uses one extra person category that corresponds to addressing “you all / you guys” in English.

Though native speakers may not notice it, English verbs also change depending on who performs it and when the action occurs. Most verbs only change in the third person singular (see below) in English, but all verbs change to distinguish when something occurs.

Person (singular) Present tense Past tense
First person I walk I walked
Second person You walk You walked
Third person He/She walks He/She walked

In most cases (aside from irregular verbs), the English past tense is formed by adding -ed to the word. Both English and Spanish have a lot of irregular verbs which simply need to be memorized, but learning the rule for regular verbs makes conjugation much easier.

Being exposed to verbs in context (rather than just in a chart) is also crucial to becoming comfortable using them – not to mention it’s more fun! Use Lingvist’s Spanish Course to see verbs in context, as well as look over grammar tips to clarify concepts explicitly as needed.

To Infinitivo and Beyond

The infinitive (infinitivo) form of a verb is its most basic form. You can spot them easily in Spanish because they retain their original ending of -er, -ir, or -ar. The equivalent meaning in English is the same as “to [verb],” so “beber” translates to “to drink.”

Except when stacking two verbs together (“I [like] [to run]” / “Me [gusta] [correr]”), the infinitive form needs to change to express the who and when. This is where conjugation comes in.

For regular verbs, the infinitive lends its stem to its conjugated forms in a predictable way. The stem, or raíz (literally “root” in Spanish), is the part that occurs before the -er, -ir, or -ar.

Simply put, to conjugate an -er verb, drop the -er and add the appropriate ending according to the person and tense.

For example, in the present tense you add -o, -es, -e, -emos, -éis, or -en to the remaining stem after removing -er. You’ll see an exception to this rule in the simple future, where you only need to add an ending to the intact infinitive.

Conjugation Rules for Regular -er Verbs

Simple Present Tense Endings

To talk about something being done presently, drop the -er and add one of these endings. English often uses the present continuous (example below with beber) instead of the simple present, so you’ll end up using the simple present a lot more often in Spanish than you do in English. In English, the simple present often has an implied regularity or habitual connotation to it. This is not the case with the Spanish simple present.

I am drinking (pres. cont.) / I drink (simple present) = Yo bebo (simple present).

Person Present ending
yo -o
-es
él/ella/Ud. -e
nosotros -emos
vosotros -éis
ellos/ellas/Uds. -en

Ex: Deber –> Deb -er (to have to / should)

yo debo nosotros debemos
debes vosotros debéis
él, ella, Ud. debe ellos, ellas, Uds. deben

Imperfect Endings

Use the imperfect (pretérito imperfecto) to talk about actions that were habitual in the past or without a defined “ending.” For example: Podía ir a correr todos los días, hasta que me lesioné el pie.

Person Imperfect ending
yo -ía
-ías
él/ella/Ud. -ía
nosotros -íamos
vosotros -ías
ellos/ellas/Uds. -ían

Ex: Deber –> Deb -er (to have to / should)

yo debía nosotros debíamos
tú debías vosotros debías
él, ella, Ud. debía ellos, ellas, Uds. debían

Preterite Tense Endings

The preterite refers to an action that has been completed in the past. In English this is what we generally think of when we think of past tense, as in the sentence “I opened the box.” For more on how to use the Spanish preterite, see this guide.

Person Preterite ending
yo
-iste
él/ella/Ud. -ió
nosotros -imos
vosotros -isteis
ellos/ellas/Uds. -ieron

Ex: Deber –> Deb -er (to have to/ should)

yo debí nosotros debimos
debiste vosotros debisteis
él, ella, Ud. deb ellos, ellas, Uds. debieron

Simple Future Tense Endings

For the future tense, you simply add the ending to the full infinitive (Note that these endings are the same for all three categories of verbs).

yo
-ás
él/ella/Ud.
nosotros -emos
vosotros -éis
ellos/ellas/Uds. -án

Ex: Deber –> Deb -er (to have to / should)

yo deberé nosotros debremos
deberás vosotros deberéis
él, ella, Ud. deberá ellos, ellas, Uds. deberán

Common Irregular -er Verbs

Many of the most common -er verbs are irregular. These conjugations do not follow the patterns listed above, though there are some patterns in the ways that they differ. Be aware that the above conjugations won’t apply to these verbs. A few examples of common irregular verbs in Spanish are:

  1. Ser (to be – essential/permanent quality)
  2. Haber (to have – auxiliary verb / to do something)
  3. Tener (to have)
  4. Hacer (to do/make)
  5. Poder (to be able to)

For a list of the most common -er verbs and their conjugations, click here. Irregular verbs are highlighted in red in this list. For an example of how an irregular verb can differ, see the conjugation chart for the verb ser below.

States of “Being” in Spanish: Ser vs. Estar

One of the most common verbs in Spanish, ser, means “to be.” Spanish has two verbs that correlate to the translation “to be” in English: ser and estar. Estar is used to talk about temporary states of being, such as health or locations. Ser is used to describe more permanent attributes, such as characteristics of a person (tall/short), occupations, or where someone is from.

Ser examples:

  1. eres alto (You are tall).
  2. Yo soy jardinera (I am a gardener).
  3. Él es de Perú (He is from Peru).

Estar examples:

  1. Yo estoy feliz (I am happy).
  2. El perro está en la playa (The dog is at the beach).
  3. Las chicas están ocupadas (The girls are busy).

Being able to judge which verb is appropriate will come with more exposure to these verbs in context, which is why it’s important to expose yourself to full sentences or longer texts in Spanish whenever possible. See this page for how to use ser and estar in descriptions, and this guide on specific uses.

Simple present tense is irregular in all forms:

yo soy nosotros somos
eres vosotros sois
él, ella, Ud. es ellos, ellas, Uds. son

Simple past tense / imperfect tense is irregular in all forms:

yo era nosotros éramos
eras vosotros erais
él, ella, Ud. era ellos, ellas, Uds. eran

Past preterite tense introduces a new stem (fu-) and is irregular in all forms:

yo fui nosotros fuimos
fuiste vosotros fuisteis
él, ella, Ud. fue ellos, ellas, Uds. fueron

Simple future tense is not irregular:

yo seré nosotros seremos
serás vosotros seréis
él, ella, Ud. será ellos, ellas, Uds. serán

Irregular -er Patterns

As mentioned above, irregular -er verbs are more common than any other verb category. Though irregular verbs do not follow the usual conjugation patterns, there are a few verbs which are irregular in the same ways. See our guide to Spanish irregular verbs to see a few patterns within the irregularities of these verbs.

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