In How to Learn a Second Language, Spanish Lessons, Tips and Tricks

Spanish for Beginners

Many people start a Spanish for beginners model but fail to make good progress.  There is, unfortunately, no fail-proof formula to learn Spanish in 5 minutes, no matter what other online programs may tell. But, you can reach conversational fluency faster by focusing on the most effective things to learn.

We’ve put together a short Spanish for beginners guide to the most efficient way to make fast progress with your Spanish.  You may feel in a rush to learn as much as possible, but don’t give in to the impulse.  Master these fundamentals first, and then use them, as this will move you to Spanish fluency faster than checking off test questions and moving up the level ladder.

1.  Learn the most commonly used words

When you learn Spanish vocabulary, most lessons have you start by memorizing words in easy-to-form groups like animals, furniture, or parts of the body etc. But it turns out these aren’t always the most useful.  Other words that are more difficult to represent in groups but are used more often.  For example, think about words like like something (algo) or thing(cosa), maybe (quizá), or after (despues).

Take the time to memorize these words before remember more generic grouped words.   We’ve provided a list of the most commonly used words in Spanish in a previous post.  As an example, here are the first 10:

por (12)
con (13)
como (16)
todo (22)
pero (23)
más (24)
este (29)
otro (31)
ese (32)
ya (36)

2. Learn the 10 most important verbs in the present tense

There are a small number of verbs in Spanish that are so prevalent, they are essential to gaining fluency. Learn them by heart,without any hesitation, to be able to quickly  recall them when you need them. You will be able to use them as fast substitutes when you’re looking for a word you don’t know.

Common verbs conjugated in the present tense

Ser – to be
Estar – to be
Tener – to have
Hacer – to do / to make
Poder – to be able to / can

Decir – to say
Saber – to saber
Querer – to want
Necesitar – to need
Ir – to go

Ser Estar Tener Hacer Poder Decir
yo soy estoy tengo hago puedo digo
eres estás tienes haces puedes dices
él/ella/ud es está tiene hace puede dice
nosotros somos estamos tenemos hacemos podemos decimos
vosotros sois estáis tenéis hacéis podéis decís
ellos/ellas/uds son están tienen hacen pueden dicen
Decir Ir Saber Querer Necesitar
digo voy quiero necesito
dices vas sabes quieres necesitas
dice va sabe quiere necesita
decimos vamos sabemos queremos necesitamos
decís vais sabéis queréis necesitáis
dicen van saben quieren necesitan

Refreshers From the Course: 
Spanish conjugation (Spanish Spanish – free signup!)
Regular present tense verbs (free!)
Irregular present tense verbs

3. Learn verbs in the infinitive to use with starter verbs

There is an important and useful rule in Spanish regarding infinitive verbs (truth be told it’s the same in English but most native speakers don’t notice)

The rule is this:
verbs that follow conjugated verbs are expressed in the infinitive

The infinitive is the non-conjugated form of the verb. In English, the infinitive form generally includes the word ‘to’, as in ‘to walk’ or ‘to eat’. In Spanish, the infinitive form is the verb form with the original ar, er and ir endings. So in Spanish, caminar (to walk) is in the infinitive form, as is comer (to eat).

For example:

I want to walk to the supermarket
Quiero caminar al supermercado

I need to buy a car
Necesito comprar un coche

I can count to ten
Puedo contar hasta diez

The Starter Verbs

There are a few verbs that very often precede the infinitive.  They are also very useful for basic conversation, so learn them well.  The beauty is, you can memorize these conjugations and then substitute any infinitive verb into the sentence.  Notice that the start of the previous phrases: I want …, I need …, I can …

So for example:

I need …
necesito ir al hospital
necesito comer
necesitamos salir

I want …
quiero ir
quiero pagar
quieren salir

I can …
Puedo pagar
Puedes venir
Pueden conducir

I like … (*)
me gusta comer
me gusta viajar

Also in question form and negation
¿Puedes ayudarme?
¿Quieres comer?
No quiero comer
No me gusta bailar

(*)The verb gustar is unique in its construction, but also follows the basic infinitive rule.
Refreshers from the Course:
Infinitives – Lesson 13

Learn The Infinitives

The following is a example list of more than 35 common verbs in the infinitive to be used with starter phrases.  Eventually you will learn their conjugations, but first thing’s first …

abrir – to open
– to dance
beber – to drink
caminar – to walk
cantar – to sing
cerrar – to close
cocinar – to cook
comer – to eat
comprar – to buy
conducir – to drive
conocer – to meet
correr – to run

creer – to believe
dejar – to leave / to quit
disfrutar – to enjoy
dormir – to sleep
empezar – to begin / to start
encontrar – to find
escribir – to write
esperar – to wait / to hope
hablar – to speak
jugar – to play
llamar – to call
mirar – to watch/look

morir – to die
pagar – to pay
pensar – to think
poner – to put
salir – to leave / to go out
seguir – to follow
sentir – to feel
tomar – to take
trabajar – to work
vender – to sell
venir – to come
vivir – to live
volver – to return

Another Important Starter verb for the Future


As you learned above, the verb ir means ‘to go’.  We can use the verb ir to express the future tense by conjugating it in the present tense, followed by an infinitive verb.  The verb ir is always followed by a prepositional ‘a’.

For example:

Voy a ir = I am going to go
Voy a comer = I am going to eat
Voy a pensar = I am going to think
Vas a cocinar = You are going to cook
Va a jugar = She is going to play

Cheater's Guide Beginner Spanish

Download a PDF of the Cheater’s Guide to Beginner Spanish with additional exercises

Now You Can Speak in the Present and Future

By just concentrating on these 4 areas, you have a range of expression that allows you to speak in the present and the future. So there is no excuse for not starting conversations in Spanish as a beginner, albeit they may still be short shallow ones for a while. So go ¡habla!


If you found this post useful, consider sharing it or let us know in the comments! ¡Muchas gracias!

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