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Spanish Verbs and Subject-Verb Agreement

Introduction
  • Subject-verb agreement is a very prominent feature of Spanish grammar.  When conjugated, Spanish verb forms, by their spelling and sound, show agreement with their subjects to a far greater extent than do their English counterparts.
  • Subject and verb agree in person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) and number (singular or plural).
  • Subjects and the verbs they go with are arranged in conjugations of six forms:  1st, 2nd, and 3rd person, each used in singular and plural.  (See below).
SUBJECT VERB AGREEMENT IN ENGLISH
In English, a regular verb (EG:  talk) has only two forms in the present tense; talk and talks
    Singular Plural  
  1st person I talk we / you and I talk  
  2nd person you (singular) talk you (plural) talk  
  3rd person he, she, John, Lisa, the boy talks they / John and Mary / the girls talk  
  • Only the verb to be has more than two forms in the present tense (am, is, are).
  • In the past tense, it is the only verb with more than one form (was, were). All other English verbs, regular and irregular, use just one form (talked, read, saw, etc.) for all persons.
  • In the future tense, English verbs show no subject-verb agreement whatsoever: I, you, he, we, they will do, speak, go, etc.
SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT IN SPANISH
  In Spanish, by contrast, every verb form shows agreement with its subject. First, here are the Spanish subject pronouns:  
    Singular Plural  
  1st person yo =  I
  • nosotros = we  (masculine)2
  • nosotras = we  (feminine)2
 
  2nd person   you1 (informal, singular)
  • vosotros3 = you1 (informal, plural, masculine)2
  • vosotras = you (informal, plural, feminine)2
 
  3rd person
  • él  =  he
  • ella = she
  • usted  (Ud.) = you1 (formal, singular)
  • ellos  =  they (masculine)2
  • ellas = they (feminine)2
  • ustedes  (Uds.) = you1 (formal, plural)
 
   
  1. Second-person you pronouns use their own unique verb forms; third-person you pronouns share verb forms with third-person pronouns; see below for examples.
  2. -os pronouns refer to a pair/group that is all male or mixed; -as pronouns to pair/group that is all female.
  3. vosotros is used only in Spain.
  PRESENT TENSE CONJUGATION OF A REGULAR SPANISH VERB (hablar, to speak)  
 
  • Verb parts:
    • The infinitive of a Spanish verb is the form listed in dictionaries and glossaries. It shows no person or number, and generally corresponds to English to speak, to do, etc.
    • The infinitives of all Spanish verbs end in -ar, -er, or -ir.
    • All conjugated (personal) verb forms consist of a stem (the infinitive minus -ar, -er, or -ir) and an ending.
 
    Singular Plural  
  1st person yo hablo1 nosotros(as) hablamos4  
  2nd person hablas2 vosotros(as) habláis5  
  3rd person él/ella/Ud. habla3 ellos(as)/Uds. hablan6  
         
 
  1. I speak
  2. you (singular, informal) speak
  3. he/she/it speaks; you (singular, formal) speak
  4. we speak
  5. you (informal, plural) speak
  6. they speak; you (plural, formal) speak
 
     
  OMISSION OF SUBJECT PRONOUNS (More→)  
 
  • Since the verb forms themselves usually signal what the subject is, subject pronouns are very often omitted in Spanish:
    • (Yo) soy Tomás.  (Yo) soy de España.  (Yo) hablo español.
  • However, they are often used for emphasis or, in the case of 3rd-person forms, for clarity:
    • Yo soy de México, pero eres de Venezuela.
    • Ella habla español, pero él habla francés.
 
  SUBJECT NOUNS AND COMPOUND SUBJECTS  
  Common and proper nouns are used as subjects, either singly or in combination with other nouns or with pronouns.  They follow the same agreement principles as subject pronouns; an illustration:  
    Singular Plural  
  1st person
--
Juan y yo / tú y yo hablamos  
  2nd person
--
tú y ella / tu y tu padre habláis  
  3rd person Juan / el chico, etc. habla Los chicos / mi papá y mi tío / Juan y él, etc. hablan  
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