The most basic form of a verb is called an infinitive in English or infinitivo in Spanish. While both languages have similar names for the infinitive, they do not create the infinitive form of the verb the same way. In English, the word “to” must be placed in front of a verb to create an infinitive. For example, the sentence you just read includes the infinitive “to create.” In Spanish, an infinitive is only one word. Hablar is the Spanish equivalent to the English infinitive “to speak,” beber is “to drink,” and escribir is “to write.” You will be able to recognize the infinitive form of verbs in Spanish because they always end in one of three ways: – ar, – er, or – ir. The above examples of infinitives include one of each type. Because hablar ends in – ar, it is called an – ar verb. Beber is an –er verb and escribir is an –ir verb. The type of infinitive the verb has ( –ar, –er, or –ir) will determine the conjugation patterns of the verb in different tenses.
The main reason you need to know about infinitives is because the verbs you learn will be written in their infinitive form. It is helpful to learn the list of simple verbs in Table 1.
The specific verbs that you learn will depend on your purpose for learning Spanish. Some of the most useful verbs are included in Appendix .
When you look for a verb in the dictionary, you will find the infinitive form listed. To avoid a rather lengthy “T” section in the English side of your dictionary, the verb is listed without the word “to” since all infinitives start with the word “to” in English. You will notice, however, that if you look for the word “write” in the Spanish side of your dictionary, you will find the infinitive escribir. In the Spanish side of the dictionary, the verb will always be listed as an infinitive. If you see a verb in a Spanish sentence that you want to look up, first you will have to determine the infinitive form. For example, vive is not in the dictionary because it is a form of the verbvivir. Since all verbs must end in –ar, –er, or –ir you can usually find the correct infinitive in the dictionary without much difficulty.