Understanding Spanish Verb Tenses and Modes

Introduction

The Spanish language uses multiple tenses and those tenses are divided into 4 main categories or modes. The four modes are indicative (indicativo), subjunctive (subjuntivo), conditional (condicional) and imperative (imperativo). These modes will be explored more throughly below, and we will have seperate tutorials dedicated to each tense posted elsewhere.

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Indicativo Mode

The indicative mode is used for expressing reality. This mode is made up of the present, past and future tenses.

Presente

To express anything happening at the present, the presente tense is used. For example:

He eats now.
Él come ahora.

The present tense can used to describe events that happen frequently, future events and orders.

Pretérito imperfecto

The first past tense in the indicativo mode is pretérito imperfecto, and the purpose of this verb tense is to describe past events that either have not yet been concluded or the conclusion is not known. For example:

Juan read many books when he was younger.
Juan leía muchos libros cuando era más joven.

This tense is used to describe regular actions in the past, and also is used to describe details such as time, date, location and feelings.

Pretérito indefinido

The préterito indefinido or pretérito perfecto simple tense is used to for describing finished and completed actions in the past. Example:

What did you eat?
¿Que comiste?

Futuro

Futuro is the future tense in the indicativo mode. This tense is used to describe the future, and this tense does not require certainty surrounding the events being described. For example:

I will drive there tomorrow.
Manejaré allí mañana.

Subjuntivo Mode

The Subjunctive mode is used for expressing concepts that are not factual. This mode is used for expressing the opposite of the indicativo mode.
This mode is also used for describing feeling towards something.

Presente

The present tense in subjunctive mode is used in expressions beginning with a form of to be (ser) + adjective. Example:

It is good that you work a lot.
Es bueno quetrabajes mucho.

Pretérito imperfecto

A tense used when the meaning of the statement depends on a condition.

It would have appreciated me that the sun would shine.
Me había alegrado de que hiciera sol.

Futuro

A very rarely used tense. There will be a tutorial written on this tense later.

Condicional Mode

The conditional mode can be considered a mode and a tense. It is used to express conditional sentences relying on conditions being met.

If I exercised more, I would be more healthy.
Si me ejercitara más, estaría más sano.

Imperativo Mode

This mode is used to express an order, request or prohibition. The two types of imperativo are afirmativo and negativo.

Afirmativo

An order to do something.

Sing!

¡Canta!

Negativo

An order not to do something.

Don’t sing!

¡Nocantes!

Conclusion

The Spanish language verb conjugations are made up of four main modes, and those four modes contain their respective tenses. Please take a look at our collection of free online Spanish resources here to learn more!


SpanishClassesCanada is an online collection of Spanish lessons and outside resources, as well as a provider of Spanish classes in Mississauga, Oakville, Brampton and surrounding cities.