Common Verbs and Their Uses

There are only three types of verbs in Spanish: -ar verbs, -er verbs, and -ir verbs. In Spanish, each time the subject changes, the verb ending must change to reflect the subject in the verb itself. Below is a chart for all regular -ar, -er, and -ir verbs in the present tense. If a verb is regular in Spanish, it will follow one of the three patterns below, depending on whether it is an -ar verb, -er verb, or -ir verb. Following the verb charts, are some of the regional uses and idiomatic expressions that employ common Spanish verbs.

Regular -ar, -er, and -ir Verbs in the Present Tense
Subject Hablar - to speak comer - to eat escribir - to write
yo - I hablo como escribo
tú - you (sing. informal) hablas comes escribes
ella, él - she, he, it habla come escribe
usted - you (sing. formal) habla come escribe
nosotros - we hablamos comemos escribimos
ellas, ellos - they (fem. and masc.) hablan comen escriben
ustedes - you (plural) hablan comen escriben

I did not include the vosotros form, because it is only used in Spain to any great extent. In Latin America and Mexico, the distinction between formal and informal when addressing someone as you is only observed in the singular. In the plural, ustedes is used for you in both formal and informal settings.

Some Interesting Regional Uses for Common Verbs

The verbs listed below - dar, poner, hacer, and tener are all considered to be irregular verbs, meaning that they do not follow the standard pattern shown in the chart above in the present tense. In the case of dar, poner, and hacer, there is a spelling change in the yo or I form of the verb that makes these verbs irregular. Otherwise, they follow the standard pattern above. In the case of dar, a y is added to the end of the yo form - doy. In the case of both poner and hacer, a g is added before the o ending in the yo form - pongo and hago. The verb tener also takes a g in the yo form - tengo - I have. In addition, the verb tener has a stem change in all the other forms except the we or nosotros form. The letter i is added to the stem - tienes (you have), tiene (she, he, it has), tiene (formal you have), tenemos (we have - no spelling change), and tienen (they, you plural have)

The forms of dar, poner, and hacer in the present tense
Subject dar poner hacer
yo - I doy pongo hago
tú - you (informal, singular) das pones haces
ella, él - she, he, it da pone hace
usted - you (formal, singular) da pone hace
nosotros, nosotras - we damos ponemos hacemos
ellas, ellos - they (fem. and masc.) dan ponen hacen
ustedes - you (plural - form. and inf.) dan ponen hacen

Dar - to Give

The verb dar is conjugated like the verb hablar in the present tense, except in the yo or I form, where it takes an extra letter - doy. The verb dar is defined by most standard dictionaries as to give. While that is a pretty good starting definition, there are many uses of this verb in Mexico and Latin America that are not commonly associated with the English equivalent, to give.

no darle la gana
This expression is used to indicate that someone doesn't feel like doing something and is similar to the English expression 'I don't feel like...' Example - ¿Por qué no quieres ir al cine conmigo esta noche? Porque no me da la gana. Prefiero quedarme en casa viendo la televisíon. (Why don't you want to go with me to the movies tonight? I don't feel like it. I'd rather stay home and watch television.) A related expression or notion, Me da flojera is also used to indicate (usually in an insolent manner) that someone doesn't feel like doing something or cannot be bothered.

darle en la torre a alguien
The expression means to offend, hurt, or beat, both physically and in the figurative sense. Example - A los Cowboys, les dieron en la torre en el partido de anoche. (They creamed the Cowboys in the game last night. A more vulgar variation of this expression is sometimes heard and is quite common - darle en la madre a alguien

darse cuenta de algo
This expression means to realize something in the sense of becoming aware of something previously unknown. While this expression is not limited to Mexico, it is a useful expression to know and is used throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Example - María se dio cuenta de que ellos le estaban hablando a ella. (María realized that they were talking to her.)

dar por
Used with the preposition por the verb dar is used in this expression to mean to consider. Example - Doy por terminado este asunto doloroso. (I consider this painful subject to be over.)

dar una mano (manita)
This expression means to give a helping hand. Example - ¿Me das una mano con esto? (Will you give me a hand with this?
dar un aventón
This expression means to give someone a ride. Example - ¿Me das un aventón a la escuela? Se me descompuso mi carro. (Will you give me a ride to school? My car broke down.)

dar de comer
This expression means to feed. Example - Alberto, ¿diste de comer a los perros? (Alberto, did you feed the dogs?)
dar chicharrón
This expression means to kill. Example - Los narcotraficantes le dieron chicharrón a un periodista la semana pasada. (The narcos killed a journalist last week.)
dar a luz
This expression means to give birth
dar lata
This means to bother. Example - Hermanito, no me estés dando lata. Tengo mucho que hacer. (Little brother, don't be bothering me. I have a lot to do.)
dar en el clavo, dar al clavo
This expression means to hit the nail on the head or to get something exactly right. Example - Diste en el clavo con eso. (You hit the nail on the head with that observation.)
The verb dar can also be used to mean to hit, both in a figurative and literal sense. Example - Al abrir la puerta, le dio en la cara el agrio olor a humo. (Upon opening the door, he was struck in the face with the bitter smell of smoke. from Las horas violentas by Luis Spota.)
dar carilla
This expression means to bother or harass. Example - Ella le estaba dando carilla a su hija para que hiciera su tarea en la escuela. (She was pestering her daughter so she would do her homework in school.)
darse por vencido
This expression means to give up or to admit defeat before a difficult task or situation. Example - Jorge se dio por vencido y abandonó la carrera. (Jorge admitted defeat and quit the race.)

Hacer - to do or to make

The verb hacer means to do or to make, but is used in numerous idiomatic expressions and contexts in which English speakers would use a verb other than to do or to make. Below are some of the more common uses of the verb hacer which are not ordinarily found in a standard Spanish textbook.

No le hace
This expression translates more or less as it doesn't matter. Example - Ella se va a enojar si le dices la verdad. No le hace. (She's going to get mad if you tell her the truth. It doesn't matter.)

hacer caso
Hacer caso means to pay attention to. Example - Los alumnos en esa escuela nunca les hacen caso a sus maestros. (The students in that school never pay attention to their teachers.)

Se me hace que...
This expression translates as it seems to me that... Used in this manner, the phrase is more or less synonymous with the verb parecer. Example - Se me hace que vamos a tener que esperar un poquito más. (It seems to me that we're going to have to wait a little bit longer.)
hace + period of time + que + verb in present tense
This construction is used to indicate how long someone has been doing something that he or she is still doing in the present. Example - Hace diez años que vivo en esta ciudad. (I have been living in this city for ten years. Literally - It makes ten years that I live in this city.) If the second verb or the verb that appears after que is in the past or preterit, the phrase can be used to refer to something someone did in the past that he or she is no longer doing in the present. In this sense, it is similar to using the English word ago to indicate how long ago someone did something. Example - Hace tres años que fuimos a Nevada. (We went to Nevada three years ago. Literally - It makes three years that we went to Nevada.)
hacer falta
This phrase translates as to need. Example - Me hace falta un buen descanso de mi trabajo. (I need a good break from my job.) A él, no le hace falta nada. (He doesn't need anything.)

hacerse bolas
Means to to get confused. Example - El taxista se hizo bolas y nos llevó al hotel equivocado (The taxi driver got confused and took us to the wrong hotel.)
hacerse tonto (pendejo)
This expression means to play dumb. Example - No te hagas pendejo. Sabes que siempre te he querido. (Don't act dumb. You know I've always loved you.) Sometimes the expression No te hagas is used all by itself to mean come off of it when a person is being difficult or acting like he or she is ignorant of something.
hacerse de la vista gorda
means to (intentionally) overlook something. Example - La maestra se hizo de la vista gorda y los estudiantes siguieron compartiendo sus repuestas en el examen. (The teacher pretended not to notice and the students continued sharing their answers on the exam.)
hacer trampa
means to cheat. Example - Ellos hicieron trampa en el partido de ayer. (They cheated in yesterday's game.)

poner - to put or to place

The verb poner means to put or to place. There are, however, many idiomatic expressions that make use of this verb. Below is just a small sample of some common expressions that make use of this verb:

ponerle a uno al corriente
means to bring someone up to date on something. Example - Ellos me pusieron al corriente de lo que había pasado. (They brought me up to date on what had happened.) There is another expression that is also used in this manner - ponerle a uno al día. Ella me puso al día. (She brought me up to date.)
ponerle a uno un cuatro
This expression means to set a trap (for someone). Example - Le pusieron un cuatro a mi hijo pero él es inocente. (They set a trap for my son but he is innocent)

The verb ponerse is also used reflexively to mean to become usually with regard to an emotional state. Example - Ella se puso triste al recordar el incidente. (She became sad on remembering the incident.)
poner en ridículo
To make someone look bad. Example - Ellos trataron de ponerme en ridículo pero su plan no funcionó. (They tried to make me look bad but their plan did not work.)
poner(se) abusado(a) - poner(se) buzo(a)
To be alert to something. Example: Ponte buzo porque el patrón va a llegar de un momento a otro. (Be alert because the boss is going to arrive at any moment.)
poner el dedo en la llaga
to bring up a touchy or painful subject. Example: Pusiste el dedo en la llaga al hablar de eso. (You hit on a touchy subject in speaking about that.)

tener - to have

The verb tener means to have. However, it is used in many ways that the verb have is not used in English. Below is a list of uses of this verb. It is often used with a noun in constructions that in English would be constructed with the verb is, are, am plus an adjective. Example: In English it is common to say I am hungry or They are hungry. In Spanish, however, it is more common to use the verb tener with the noun hunger. Tengo mucha hambre (I have much hunger.) This type of construction is very common in Spanish. For that reason, I have included some of these expressions, even though they are not limited to Mexico alongside others that are limited to Mexico.

tener calor; tener frío
to be hot, to be cold. Example: Tengo mucho calor. (I am very hot.)
tener x años
to be x years old. Example: Laura tiene 21 años. (Laura is 21 years old.)
tener(le) miedo a
to have a fear of or to be afraid of (something). Example: (Le) tengo miedo a las arañas. (I'm afraid of spiders.)
tener hambre
to be hungry or to have hunger. Example: Ya son las dos de la tarde y yo no pruebo bocado desde el desayuno. Tengo mucha hambre. (It's already 2:00 in the afternoon and I haven't eaten a thing since breakfast. I'm very hungry.)
tener sed
to be thirsty or to have thirst. Example: Trabajamos mucho y ahora tenemos sed. (We worked a lot and now we are thirsty.)
tener en cuenta
to bear in mind. Example: Hay que tener en cuenta que él no trabaja los fines de semana. (It must be kept in mind that he doesn't work on weekends.)
no tener caso
to have no point or to be no point. Example: No tiene caso hablar con Ana. Ella ya tomó una decisión al respecto. (There's no point in talking to Ana. She's already made a decision in that regard.)
no tener chiste
to be no fun or to be of no interest. Example: Esa novela no tiene chiste. (That novel is a bore. It's not an interesting read.)
tener(le) tirria a
to loathe or to have a grudge against. Example: Ana le tiene tirria a Teresa por lo que dijo en su fiesta de cumpleaños. (Ana loathes Teresa for what she said at her birthday party.)