Learning Spanish Verb Conjugations (Crazy Version)
By Russell Sabo
If you’re learning Spanish and are having problems memorizing all the verb conjugations, as I was, then here is one solution that is guaranteed to work. I have to warn you though. You’re not going to like it. In fact, you’ll think it’s crazy. I would go so far as to say not to use this strategy unless you: have lots of time and/or are totally committed to learning the Spanish conjugations and have tried everything else with no luck.
Obviously, this article isn’t for everyone.
Still here? Poor you. Okay, you know of those Spanish verb books? I’m talking about the books of 500 to 600 Spanish verbs with all the conjugations for each verb. Most of these books also have lists of 50 to 100 of the most popular Spanish verbs. You will need one of these books as well as an instructional book that covers every verb tense. You will also need a pencil, pencil sharpener, an eraser and lots of paper.
I know that you know where I’m going with this now. You may even be shaking your head in denial. You may be asking yourself if I really want you to do this; it’s crazy! The answer is no, I don’t want you to do this. But if you’ve exhausted all other possibilities, this may be your best strategy. So here we go!
I rushed through two of my verb tense books and only half-memorized everything, only to forget it soon after. So when I got to the Complete Spanish Grammar book of the Practice Makes Perfect series, I knew what I had to do. I used that book in conjunction with The Big Red Book of Spanish Verbs, which contains 555 Spanish Verbs and all of their conjugations, plus a list of the 50 most popular Spanish verbs.
As I complete a chapter or section of the Complete Spanish Grammar book, such as the section about the Preterit Tense (Past Tense), I will then open up The Big Red Book of Spanish Verbs and conjugate every single verb in that book. In doing this, I may not memorize every verb, but I will definitely know the form of the Preterit Tense for the rest of my life. And I simply do that with every Spanish tense until I’m done.
For example: ducharse (to take a shower): me duché, te duchaste, se duchó, nos duchamos, os duchasteis, se ducharon
There are 18 different tenses listed for each word with six conjugations for each tense (yo, tú, nosotros, etc.) and 555 Spanish verbs in the book. Which, if you multiply them all together, you’ll end up with 18 x 6 x 555 = 59,940 words altogether. Complete and utter insanity! For me, it takes about 3 weeks to complete a chapter from the Complete Book of Spanish Grammar and then conjugate every verb from the verb book. This is at a half hour a day on work days during my breaks. At that rate it would take me 54 weeks (3 weeks x 18 tenses) to complete the book, or just 2 weeks over a full year. Even more complete and utter insanity!
But there are a few shortcuts. There aren’t many but the ones that I use are rewards also. The shortcuts come into play with the Perfect forms of the verbs. Because the Perfect forms are easy to memorize, conjugate ONLY the verbs that you DON’T KNOW. As you go through the book, you’ll notice that you’re learning more verbs and the writing time for each Perfect tense is getting shorter and shorter.
My Strategy for Learning Verb Conjugations
- The Present Tense – Conjugate each verb in the book in the present tense.
- The Preterit Tense – Conjugate each verb in the book in the preterit tense.
- The Imperfect Tense – Conjugate each verb in the book in the preterit tense.
- The Future Tense – Conjugate each verb in the book in the future tense.
- The Conditional Tense – Conjugate each verb in the book in the conditional tense.
- The Progressive Tense – Go to the list of the 50-100 most popular Spanish Verbs and conjugate them. You don’t have to stick with only the present tense, use the imperfect, past, future and conditional tenses also.
- The Present Perfect Tense – Go to the list of the 50-100 most popular Spanish Verbs and conjugate them. If you’re using this strategy as a last resort, you already know this conjugation by sight.
- The Pluperfect Tense – Pay attention here! Conjugate each verb in the book that YOU DON’T KNOW in the pluperfect tense. Be very honest with yourself. If you cheat, the only person you’re hurting is yourself. For me, if I paused even a moment while figuring out the meaning of the word, I would go ahead and conjugate it.
- Preterit Perfect – Go to the list of the 50-100 most popular Spanish Verbs and conjugate them.
- Future Perfect – Conjugate each verb in the book that YOU DON’T KNOW in the future perfect tense. You should know a few more verbs by now.
- Conditional Perfect – Conjugate each verb in the book that YOU DON’T KNOW in the conditional perfect tense.
- Present Subjunctive – Conjugate each verb in the book in the present subjuntive mood. If you’re like me, you have problems with the subjunctive. Conjugate them all.
- Present Perfect Subjunctive – Conjugate each verb in the book that YOU DON’T KNOW in the present perfect subjunctive mood.
- The Imperfect Subjunctive (-ra) – Conjugate each verb in the book in the imperfect subjunctive mood using the -ra form.
- The Imperfect Subjunctive (-se) – Go to the list of the 50-100 most popular Spanish Verbs and conjugate them using the -se form. The -se ending is rarely used and it should be enough that you’re able to recognize it and have a good idea of how to form it.
- The Pluperfect or Past Perfect Subjunctive (-ra) – Conjugate each verb in the book that YOU DON’T KNOW in the pluperfect subjunctive (past perfect subjunctive).
- The Pluperfect or Past Perfect Subjuntive (-se) – Once again, go to the list of the 50-100 most popular Spanish Verbs and conjugate them using the -se form. The -se ending is rarely used and it should be enough that you’re able to recognize it and have a good idea of how to form it.
- Imperative Tense (Commands) – Conjugate each verb in the book in the imperative tense. By this time, you’ll want to as the imperative tense is the last tense listed in this strategy.
And there you go! If you’ve done this strategy to the letter, it may have only taken you 9 months with a half hour of study every work day. Or much less if you devoted more time. Can you feel how deeply inbedded the verb tenses are inside your head now? Sometimes crazy works.
Oh, by the way! If you did use and complete this strategy, congratulations! You’ve earned it, not to mention being ahead of most college graduates who have taken 4 years of Spanish classes!
How to Avoid Using This Strategy
As I make my journey through my Spanish-learning experience, I come across books and tips that I think may have made things easier for me. So I’ll list them in this section as I find them.
|Spanish Verb Drills
I used this book after I had completed the Crazy Version of Learning Verb Conjugations as a test of everything I had learned. In hindsight, I think this would have been a perfect book to use before resorting to the Crazy Version of Learning Verb Conjugation because if you're having troubles with the subjunctive moods, this book sets you straight. After using this book, I have a much easier time knowing WHEN to use the subjunctive, simply through all of the exercises (and there are A LOT of exercises!).
This book doesn't cover the command forms, so you would have to do some independent study on that, or you could use the Crazy Version to learn that (believe me, it WORKS!)
My advice: Use this book before you plow into the Crazy Version of Learning Verb Conjugations and you may find you don't have to go through months and months of conjugating verbs on your work breaks like I did.
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