Most likely, if you are going to study another language you will have to conjugate verbs. This means that the verb will have to agree with the subject, the number, and perhaps several other pieces of information. We will start with the infinitives, the participles and continue with the number, gender and verb tense. Grab a pen, paper, and dictionary and go to step 1 below to get started.
Part 1 of 3: Get Started
Step 1. Choose a language
Verb conjugation changes dramatically in each language. If the language uses the masculine, feminine and plural subjects regularly, the conjugation could be more detailed. It also varies with tense and other motives, depending on the structure of the language.
It is relatively easy to conjugate a verb in English, since the second person (tú or you in English) is the same for the singular and plural subject, also the verb does not change according to gender. However, English has a large number of irregular verbs. All languages are different
Step 2. Choose a verb (or several)
Try a verb you use regularly to start conjugating it from memory, if possible. We also recommend choosing a verb from all families and irregular verbs from each of them. For example, in Spanish, verb families are made up of verbs ending in –ar, -er and –ir, in addition to the irregular verb like “ser”.
Often the most common verbs are irregular ones. For example, in English, the most common verbs are: be (to be), have (to have) and do (to do). All three follow their own distinctive patterns, because common verbs retain their nuances through frequent use. The patterns are well established and are reluctant to change over time
Step 3. Identify the verb tenses you want to conjugate
A verb must be conjugated according to its verb tense separately (at least in a language that uses a lot of verb tenses). There are many different tenses, for example: present, past, future, present continuous, past continuous, past perfect continuous, present perfect, past perfect, future perfect and present perfect continuous. And that's just the tip of the iceberg! What else do you need to do?
To start at a very basic level, choose the present simple, past simple, and future simple. That way, you can talk about things in the past, present and future
Step 4. If you are not sure about the use of a verb, look it up in a dictionary
It will give you an example of how it is used in a sentence to help you get started. Online resources are very helpful and provide you with ready-made and complete tables.
But try to guess! The more you depend on your brain, the stronger the connections in the future. Only turn to the dictionary or the Internet when absolutely necessary
Part 2 of 3: Explore the person, number, verb tense, etc
Step 1. To start the table, write “infinitive,” “present participle,” and “past participle” on the first three lines
In some circles, they are known as verbs 1, 2, and 3. Put a colon (:) next to each one. Then you will write the correct conjugation next to each term.
- Write the infinitive form at the top. This verb form is preceded by the word to. In English, it is also the part of the verb that is used with the future tense and with auxiliary verbs, for example: with the verb to search, the infinitive is search.
- Make a list of the present participle. This is the verb form used with the present continuous, for example: I am searching.
- Make a list of the past participle. This is the verb form used with the past perfect, present perfect and future perfect, for example: I had searched, I have searched and I will have searched.
Step 2. Make a list of all the types of person that you will have to conjugate in the following lines
These are the most frequent pronouns, for example: I, you, he, she, it, we, you, they (I, you, he, she, that, we, you, they). Make a list of the first person, second person and third person, singular and plural.
- The pronouns you conjugate will change depending on the language. Clarify which conjugations you are asked to include before starting your work.
- When you have to do conjugations in English, you can group he, she, it in the same group. You can also choose to remove the second person plural (you, or you), because the verb does not change according to the number of people, that is, you search (singular, you) is equal to you (all) search (plural, you).
Step 3. Consider gender or another variable
While the person and number may suffice in some languages (Romance languages, for example), in others the same will not be the case. If your language needs to consider gender, mode, voice (the full list is in the last section), this is the time.
We still recommend using a few verbs. How many “verbal families” are there in your language? Make sure you have each one, including irregular verbs
Step 4. Complete the table of verb conjugations
Write the verb form used for each person in each tense you work with, next to the pronoun. Make separate tables of the same format, but different for the past, present, and future.
For example, to conjugate the verb to search in the present simple, you should write: I search, you search, he / she / it searches, we search, they seach (I search, you search, he / she / it seeks, we we seek, they seek). When you conjugate the verb in the past tense, the table will be similar, but not the same
Step 5. Make tables for all the verbs
To summarize, your table should:
- Set the infinitive, the present participle and the past participle
- Have columns for person and number, for example: I (me), they (they), etc.
If necessary, have columns for gender, etc.
You should have multiple tables for multiple verbs (of different structure) in various tenses. For example, conjugate to search in the present simple, past simple, and future simple. Then do the same for the verb to be, since it is irregular
Part 3 of 3: Understand the patterns
Step 1. Learn what conjugation is
Most of us only have an intrinsic knowledge of our mother tongue, that is, we are not aware of everything we know. It is only when you analyze your own language that you realize that we conjugate verbs every day according to the patterns we learned many years ago. You say "I go on Tuesdays" and "She goes on Tuesdays, too" without even thinking about it. For what is this?
- When you change to "va", you indicate that you are talking about someone else or something else. You also indicate that that person or thing you are talking about is only one. What's more, you use the simple present tense, which indicates habit or repeated actions. If someone barely hears you or only picks up “it goes on Tuesdays”, they will know that someone or something is in a certain place every Tuesday or at least most (not the other days). Very useful information!
- If you want to be more visual, the conjugation is the part that changes in a word. If you add another ending, you will be adding information. If you take it out, you will also be adding information. If the language you study modifies the verbs a lot, you could have a whole sentence in a word just by modifying it correctly.
Step 2. Know what conjugation you can do
Certain languages have lost their nuances over the centuries (while others have adopted new ones). Perhaps your language only indicates person or number, but there are others whose verb conjugations can practically fill a book. Here we will present the usual possibilities that a conjugated verb can indicate:
- Person. In English, you must include the subject. It is not possible to just say Is beautiful (it is beautiful). For example, in Spanish, you can say “I'm pretty” without including the subject. The verb "I am" is conjugated with the first person, that is, you.
- Number. How many people carry out the action? In French, you would say Je marche (I walk), but if you walk with a few friends, you would say Nous marchons (we walk).
- Gender. Languages like Hebrew also indicate gender in their verbs. If a woman (or something that is considered feminine) does something, the verb is added the ending / et / or / a / (that is the phonemic pronunciation). If it is a man? Nothing is added to it.
- Verbal tense. Many languages use the verb to indicate when the action is performed. In English, you would say I went to the store last Tuesday, not I go to the store last Tuesday.
Appearance. It is similar to the tense, but a little different. Verb tense refers to when an action is completed; appearance refers to how it is completed. For example, in French, the tenses passé simple (past simple) and oddfait (imperfect) are past tenses, but they are used in different situations.
You can look without tense, if not take a look at Mandarin Chinese
- Voice. The voice converts the sentence from active to passive. In English, for example: The boy kicked the ball or The ball was kicked by the boy.
- Mode. The mode indicates if a statement is a fact, a wish, an order, if it is based on reality, etc. An example is the subjunctive tense "If I were hungry", which clearly says that you are not hungry at the time.
Step 3. Know how it changes depending on the language
All languages are different. Conjugating verbs in one, while it can be a very useful practice, does not guarantee that doing it in another language will be easier. Others even conjugate following patterns that we haven't even mentioned before! When doing conjugations on your own, be sure to cover the essentials.
- For example, Korean has seven levels of speech. Depending on the formality of the situation, you will have to conjugate the verbs differently!
- Japanese has different conjugations depending on the relationships between the speaker and the interlocutor. It is known as "honorary speech." The conjugation you choose will indicate how high or low your rank is compared to the person you are talking to.
Step 4. Keep in mind that some languages also use declension
This complex term refers to the modification of nouns and adjectives. It is a very similar process and indicates many of the same issues that we have covered, only it has a different name. If the language you study also declines, you can make tables for those cases.
It will be very important especially in languages that have cases and those that do not have a specific order of words. There are some languages in which you can say (literally translated): “boy kicks girl” and “girl kicks boy” and they will still have the same meaning if the nouns are properly inflected
Step 5. Keep in mind that in some languages you do not have to do any conjugation
It is very likely that the language you are going to study does not have many verb conjugations. For example, in Vietnamese, to indicate something you have already done, you will have to use a past marker as a separate word (đã) and not modify the verb at all. While it sounds easy, it often gets complex in other ways!
- For more help with conjugations, go to a specialized site to see examples.
- You can separate the singular and plural forms of the verb into different columns, if you wish.