Verb Conjugation

Verb conjugation is the process of taking a verb and adding different endings for words like I, you, he, she, it, we, and they (pronouns).

In English we say:

I talk, you talk, we talk and they talk.But we say:

  • he talkS.
  • she talkS.
  • it talkS.
We add an 's' to the end of the verb.

This business of changing the endings for some pronouns is called conjugating a verb, or conjugation of verbs.

Verb conjugation in English is relatively easy compared to most European languages. If we put the above conjugations in a table this is how it looks in a "standard" format. The verb table below is one of the most commonly used layouts that language textbooks use when teaching verbs.

I talk we talk
you talk you (all) talk
he talks they talk

Note we have included the word 'you (all)' because many languages, including many European languages like Spanish, German, French, Italian all have a unique conjugation for this pronoun, which is 'you' when there is more than one of you.

This is the pattern that most conjugation tables or charts use in most language texts or verb texts.

Rows in the Verb Conjugation Tables

Let's look more closely at the tables of conjugated verbs.

Notice in ROW 1 we have I and WE. If we have a group and start counting from ourselves, I would be number 'one'. So 'I' is referred to as the first person.

Likewise if we had a few groups of people, and we were to count the groups, starting with our own group, we would be the first group. So like 'I', 'we' is also considered to be the first person or 'in the first person' is common terminology with conjugation.

So the first person is ROW 1.

Continuing our counting, you and you all are considered the second person... and ...

... he, she, it and they are considered to be the third person. Simililarly we often refer to 'third parties' meaning - not me, not you, but some other person, a third party.

Columns in the Conjugated Verb Tables

On the left side, in the first column notice that all the pronouns refer to one person, so they are considered singular.

The second column, we, you all, they refer to more than one person, so they are plural.

So if we add these names to the verb conjugation tables, this will show it more clearly.

Singular Plural
First Person I talk we talk
Second Person you talk you (all) talk
Third Person he talks they talk

Conjugation is a matter of changing the verb endings for each pronoun

So to now conjugate a verb, it is a matter of taking the infinitive of the verb (its pure form) and changing the endings.

For example the infinitive in English of the verb 'talk' is 'to talk'. The infinitive of 'talk' is 'to talk'.

In Spanish the infinitive of to talk is HABLAR.

So to conjugate the verb, we drop the last two letters 'AR' and are left with a stem - HABL-

We then just add the following endings to the verb stem.

HABL- Singular Plural
First Person -o -amos
Second Person -as -áis
Third Person -a -an

So this is how the verb table for the verb hablar would look.

hablo hablamos
hablas habláis
habla hablan

French Verb Conjugation

In French the infinitive of to talk is parler.

The French drop the ending, the last two letters '-ER', to have a stem of PARL- and add endings as follows.

PARL- Singular Plural
First Person -e -ons
Second Person -es -ez
Third Person -e -ent

So this is how the verb table for the French verb parler would look.

parle parlons
parles parlez
parle parlent

Then this process continues with all the other verb tenses and moods.

The trick to conjugating verbs

The main thing to learn about conjugating verbs is to learn the different patterns, starting with the regular patterns, that occur most frequently. Soon you'll know the conjugation patterns for the various verb tenses,and when you learn a new verb, you'll be able to simply add the verb endings to conjugate any new verb.

The exceltra team has a verb learning course with cartoon Memory Triggers to help you remember these patterns, each tense and pattern being given, in true-exceltra 200 Words a Day! style, a CARTOON CHARACTER to help you remember your verb conjugation patterns. Each character is called a TENSE CHARACTER!.

Learning ALL the Verb Conjugations in ALL the tenses

We recommend that when you learning verbs in a foreign language, that you are best to do it in a verb table that covers ALL the conjugations, present, past, future, conditional, subjunctive, simple and compound. We have hundreds of such examples:

Using these verb tables you should read and recite the verb going:

  • ACROSS the ROWS first, then
Learning these tables in their families will make it easier too. By this we mean the following:
  1. Regular verbs in French, Italian and Spanish fall into 3 categories, each named according to their endings
  2. Start with the most common verb family and learn groups of verbs with the same endings. This will make it easier for you to learn the endings of that group. Each time you learn one verb in a family, you reinforce the knowledge of the patterns of the endings for the whole family.
  3. We make this easy for you with our daily verb lessons (links above) as we cover one or two verb families each month. So for example for Spanish verbs in the month of MARCH, each day our daily Spanish lesson features a verb table and memory trigger cartoon of an ER verb. April covers IR verbs. May covers AR verbs and so on, with a new verb featuring each day.

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