10 Essential verbs to learn in Spanish to get you speaking like a local

We know there’s a lot more to learning Spanish than knowing 10 verbs. Having said that, there are some verbs that are more important than others. So we’ve rounded up 10 verbs for you to put them into action in your everyday life.

In this article, we want to focus on verbs that have many different uses and meanings. For this reason, we’ve chosen verbs that are used a lot in expressions. So this means that with only 10 verbs, you have 100+ expressions.

Expressions are the basis of any language, and what’s more, they are what locals use in everyday life. If you want to speak like a local in Spanish, keep reading!

Tener

The basic meaning of tener is “to have”. For example: Tengo una casa en el campo. I have a house in the country.

But, this humble Spanish verb meaning “to have”, is a lot more useful that you might think. Here are 15 ways to use tener in a sentence or idiomatic expression:

  • Tener X años - I am X years old
    • Tengo 30 años. I’m 30 years old.
  • Tener hambre / sed - to be hungry / thirsty
    • For example, ¿Tengo hambre y sed, ya podemos irnos? I’m hungry and thirsty, can we go now?
  • Tener sueño - to be sleepy
    • Tengo sueño, voy a dormir la siesta. I’m sleepy, I’m going for a siesta.
  • Tener dolor de - to be sore/ hurt something
    • Tengo dolor de cabeza / estómago. I have a headache / stomach ache.
  • Tener prisa - to be in a hurry
    • Tengo mucha prisa! I’m in a big hurry!
  • Tener miedo a / de - to be afraid of something
    • Tengo miedo a las cucarachas.
  • Tener ganas de - to feel like something
    • Tengo muchas ganas de ir de vacaciones. I really feel like going on holiday.
  • Tener éxito - to be successful
    • Hemos tenido mucho éxito con la empresa. We’ve had a lot of success with the company.
  • Tener en cuenta - to take into account
    • Lo tendremos en cuenta. We will take it into account/ consider it.
  • Tengo que - to have to do something
    • Tengo que levantarme temprano mañana. I have to get up early tomorrow.
  • Tener suerte - to be lucky
    • Cuanto más duro trabajo, más suerte tengo. The harder I work, the luckier I get.
  • Tener la culpa - to be guilty / to be at fault / to be to blame
    • Yo no voy a tener la culpa por ello. I’m not going to take the blame for it.
  • Tener razón - to be right / correct
    • Siempre tengo razón. I’m always right!
  • Tener cuidado - to be careful
    • Hay que tener cuidado con el cuchillo. You have to be careful with the knife.
    • ¡Ten cuidado! Be careful!
  • Tener vergüenza - to be ashamed
    • No debemos tener vergüenza. We shouldn’t be ashamed.

Did you notice that a lot of the meanings of the phrases are “to be” and not “to have”? This is why it’s so important not to directly translate sentences, especially when you are learning Spanish as a native English speaker.

Learn how to conjugate Tener in our conjugation library. Watch out, tener is an irregular verb!

Poner / Ponerse

Next on our list is Poner, “to put or place something”, and ponerse, “to put oneself”. These translations just scratch the surface for what this verb can be used for. See our 12 expressions and examples below:

  • Ponerse en lo peor - to expect the worst
  • Siempre me pongo en lo peor. I always expect the worst.
  • Ponerse de pie - to stand up (literally)
  • Ponte de pie! Stand up!
  • ¡No tengo nada que ponerme! ¿Qué me pongo? I have nothing to put on! What should I wear?
  • ¿Qué le pongo? Ponme una cerveza, por favor. What can I get you? Give me a beer please.
  • Ponerse nervioso/a - to get nervous
  • Me pone nervioso hablar en público. It makes me nervous to speak in public.
  • Me pone de mal/ buen humor. It puts me in a bad / good mood.
  • Se puso a llover. It started to rain.
  • No te pongas así. Don’t be like that (getting angry/annoyed)
  • ¿Te importa si pongo la televisión? Do you mind if I put on the television?
  • Poner la mesa - to set the table
  • ¿Me ayudas a poner la mesa? Will you help me to set the table?
  • Ponerse los pelos de punta - to make your hair stand up / give you the shivers
  • Las cucarachas me ponen los pelos de punta. Cockroaches make my hairs stand up / give me the shivers.
  • Ir a poner feo/fea o estar poniendo feo/a - It’s about to get ugly/ messy
  • La situación se va a poner fea. The situation is going to get ugly.
  • La situación se está poniendo fea. The situation is getting messy.

You may notice that the reflexive version “ponerse” is used more frequently and has more varied uses than “poner”.

Learn how to conjugate Poner in our conjugation library. Watch out, poner is an irregular verb!

Haber

Haber is the Spanish verb meaning “to have”. Unlike Tener, which also means “to have”, Haber is an auxiliary verb. An auxiliary verb means that it adds functional or grammatical meaning to a sentence or a clause. In Spanish, you will notice that haber is the basis of all the compound tenses. For example: He estado (I have been), hemos comido (we have eaten).

As well as being used as an auxiliary verb, you will notice that there are a lot of expressions and ways that haber can be used. Another common way is as an impersonal verb. See our 10 expressions and examples below:

  • Hay - There is, There are (impersonal)
  • Hay mucha gente aquí en la oficina hoy. There are a lot of people in the office today.
  • Hay que - To be necessary
  • Hay que tener cuidado con la computadora o va a caer. You have to be careful with the computer or it will fall.
  • Hay que hacer 10 clases de conducir antes de hacer el examen.
  • Hay de todo - there’s a bit of everything
  • En la cafetería hay de todo. There's a bit of everything in the cafeteria.
  • Aquí hay tomato - Something is fishy here / Something is going on here.
  • A buen hambre no hay pan duro - Beggars can’t be choosers.
  • Es lo que hay - That 's all there is.
  • ¿Qué hay de nuevo? - What's new?
  • No hay tal cosa como un almuerzo gratis - There is no such thing as a free lunch.
  • Hay mucho para hacer - There 's a lot to do.
  • ¡Haberlo dicho! - You should have said that!

Learn how to conjugate Haber in our conjugation library. Watch out, haber is an irregular verb!

Quedar / Quedarse

Quedar and Quedarse are both valuable verbs to know in Spanish. Quedar, typically means to “be left” and quedarse typically means “to remain” or “to stay”. However, we’ve compiled 10 more meanings, examples and expressions for this verb!

  • Eso queda muy lejos. That’s very far away
  • ¡Quédate un poco más! - Stay a little longer!
  • Por no quedar malo - In order to do the right thing
  • Por quedar bien - In order to make a good impression
  • Quedar con alguien - To make a date / plans with someone
    • Quedamos a las 8 en el parque?
  • Quedar de pie - To stay standing
  • Quedar mal - To look bad / Make a bad impression
  • Llegué tarde. ¿Piensas que quedé mal? I arrived late. Do you think I made a bad impression?
  • ¿Me queda bien esta falda? Does this skirt suit me?
  • Quedan dos huevos. There are two eggs left.
  • Hemos quedado - we decided/agreed to meet
  • Hemos quedado a cenar a las 9. We made plans to have dinner at 9pm.
  • ‘¿Quieres hacer algo el martes por la tarde?’ ‘No puedo, ya he quedado’. ‘Would you like to do something on Tuesday evening?’ ‘I can’t, I’ve already made plans.’

Learn how to conjugate Quedar in our conjugation library.

Hacer

Hacer, the Spanish verb meaning “to do / make”. At its most basic, you can say things like “hago los deberes” / “I do my homework”. However, it is extremely versatile and one common use of Hacer is to express the weather or time. Here are 10 useful expressions to use Hacer in everyday life in Spanish.

  • Hace sol / frío / calor / buen tiempo / mal tiempo - It’s sunny / cold/ hot/ nice weather / bad weather
  • Hizo mal tiempo esta época el año pasado. This time last year we had some bad weather.
  • Hace mucho tiempo que - It’s been a long time
  • Hace mucho tiempo que no nos vimos - It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other
  • Hacer caso de - to pay attention / to notice
  • No debes hacer caso de comentarios malintencionados. You shouldn’t pay attention to malicious comments.
  • Hace poco - a little while ago / recently
  • Nos casamos hace poco. We got married recently.
  • Hacer cola - to line up/ to queue
  • Voy a hacer cola y comprar las entradas. I’m going to queue and buy the tickets.
  • Hacer daño - to harm/ hurt
  • ¡Lo siento! ¿Te hago daño? I’m sorry! Am I hurting you?
  • Hacer de nuevo - to do it again
  • Tendré que hacerlo de nuevo. I will have to do it again.
  • Hacer burla de - to make fun of / tease
  • ¡No me hagas burla! Don’t make fun of me!
  • Los alumnos hacen burla al profesor. The students make fun of the teacher.
  • Hacer un favor - to do a favour
  • ¿Me haces un favor? Will you do me a favour?
  • Hacer una pregunta - to ask a question
  • ¿Puedo hacer una pregunta? Can I ask a question?

Learn how to conjugate Hacer in our conjugation library. Watch out, hacer is an irregular verb!

Llevar / Llevarse

Llevar, the Spanish verb meaning “to carry, to take”. In its simplest form, this verb can be used to talk about carrying objects and to wear clothes. The RAE names over 25 uses for llevar.

  • Llevar tiempo - to express time spent
  • Llevo seis meses en España. I’ve been in Spain for 6 months.
  • Llevo tres días sin dormir. I’ve gone 3 days without sleeping.
  • Los estudiantes llevan preparando el examen un mes. The students have been preparing for the exam for a month
  • Lleva mucho tiempo - it takes a lot of time
  • Lleva mucho tiempo hacer una tortilla de maíz casera.
  • Para llevar - To go / takeaway (food)
  • Quisiera dos hamburguesas para llevar - I’d like 2 burgers to go.
  • ¿Qué dirección llevaban? What direction were they going in?
  • No es necesario llevar el sombrero - It’s not necessary to wear a hat.
  • A mi madre le gusta todo lo que lleva chocolate - My mother likes anything with chocolate in it.
  • Llevar el coche - To drive the car
  • Si quieres, puedes beber una cerveza, después yo llevo el coche - If you want you can have a beer, then I’ll drive the car
  • No puedo llevar nada más. I can't carry anything else.
  • Llevar a cenar - to take out to dinner
  • Entonces, me llevas a cenar? So, are you taking me out to dinner?
  • Llevar bien con alguien - To get on well with someone
  • Nos llevamos bien. We get along well together.

Learn how to conjugate Llevar in our conjugation library.

Tomar / Tomarse

Tomar is another versatile verb with lots of uses and meanings. You’ll notice that Tomar also has a reflexive version, “tomarse”. But truthfully the meanings of both are quite similar. Tomarse is more so used to put more emphasis on the sentence.

  • ¿Quieres tomar una copa de vino o un café? Do you want to grab a glass of wine or coffee?
  • Había muchas pero tomé el azul. There were a lot of options, but I chose the blue.
  • Tomemos un taxi. Let’s take a taxi.
  • Es necesario que tomes medicina para combatir la infección. It’s necessary that you take medicine to fight the infection
  • Tomar por loco - to think someone is crazy.
  • Me tomaron por loco. They thought I was crazy
  • Tomar apuntes - to take notes
  • Tomar el control - to take control.
  • Tomar fotos - to take photos
  • Tomar el sol - to sunbathe.
  • Tomar responsabilidad - to take responsibility.

Learn how to conjugate Tomar in our conjugation library.

Pasar

  • ¿Qué pasa? - What’s going on?
  • Pásalo bien el finde - Have a great time this weekend.
  • Pasó todo el día con la familia - I spent all day with my family
  • No pasa el tren por la ciudad - The train doesn’t go through the city
  • ¡Bienvenida! ¡Pasa! - Welcome! Come in!
  • Pásame la leche, por favor - Pass the milk, please.
  • No pasé el examen en mayo - I didn’t pass the exam in May.
  • No puedes pasar sin Internet - I can't get by without the Internet.
  • Siga derecho y pase 5 semáforos - Go straight ahead and pass five traffic lights.
  • Pasamos la frontera - We crossed the border

Learn how to conjugate Pasar in our conjugation library.

Dejar

  • Déjalo aquí - leave it here
  • Dejar de fumar - to stop smoking
  • ¡Déjame en paz! Leave me alone!
  • ¿Me dejas ir a la fiesta? Will you let me go to the party?
  • ¡Déjate llevar! Let yourself go! - Be in the moment
  • Dejar a alguien - to leave someone
  • Dejar al lado - to put aside
  • Dejar de hablar - to stop talking
  • El partido me dejó rota la rodilla - My knee got broken during the game.
  • Dejo que las cosas se sucedan naturalmente - I'm waiting until things happen naturally.

Learn how to conjugate Dejar in our conjugation library.

Dar / Darse

  • ¿Que más te da? - What does it matter to you?
  • Me da igual - It’s all the same to me or I don’t mind
  • Darse cuenta de que / No me di cuenta - to realise / I didn’t realise
  • Dar un beso / abrazo - to give a kiss / hug
  • Darse la mano - to shake hands
  • Dar por sentado - to take for granted
  • Dar la luz - to give birth
  • Lo mismo da - It makes no difference

Learn how to conjugate Dar in our conjugation library.

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Great program that has and is helping me immensely. Four years [studying Spanish] and after just a couple of days with this app I finally am 'getting' the verb thing into my head. After the first couple of lessons I finally feel comfortable conversing with the natives here in Panama. I still have a long way to go but this application was the key for me. Thank you!

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