Maestro Spanish

Master Spanish verbs in just 5 minutes a day!

Spanish Formal Imperative

The imperative mood in Spanish is used quite often, although it is often the last form to be learned. Fortunately, though, it is fairly simple, especially if you've already learned present subjunctive.

In this article we'll talk about how to conjugate the formal form of imperative commands and when to use them.

Conjugating formal commands

I said it was easy, and I wasn't kidding. One thing that makes the imperative mood simpler is that you can only give a command directly to other people, so that limits it to the , Usted, vosotros, and Ustedes pronouns. In this article we'll just cover the formal pronouns: Usted and Ustedes.

First, how do you conjugate these forms? Here are the steps:

  • Take the yo form of the present tense.
  • Drop the -o ending.
  • Add one of the following: -e / -en for -ar verbs, or -a / -an for -er and -ir verbs.

That's it!


Escuche Ud. las instrucciones. → Listen to the instructions.

¡Venga Usted! → Come!

Hablen Ustedes con el professor. → Speak with the professor.

To make it a negative command, just add no before:

No abra Ud. el libro todavía. → Don't open the book yet.

Don't forget to keep an


Let's Talk About the Future

The future is uncertain, and we often express this uncertainty in how we talk about the future. The same goes for Spanish!

In this article, I will lay out the ways a Spanish speaker can talk about the future, and the different situations in which you might use each.

On one extreme end of the spectrum, we have things that are absolutely certain, or as close as possible. Well, in this case, just like in English, we use the present tense in Spanish.

La clase empieza a las 7:10. → The class starts at 7:30.
Llego la semana que viene. → I arrive next week.
La lluvia termina en febrero. → The rain ends in February.

Notice how in each of these the action is actually in the future, yet we use the present tense, just like English.

In contrast to English, however, when we are committing to doing something in Spanish, we also use the present tense rather than the future:

Estoy en tu casa a las siete. → She will be at your house at seven.
No se lo decimos a nadie. → We won't tell anyone.
Te doy las llaves. → I will give you the keys.

One thing to take care with is that the interpretation of these can be context dependent. Obviously I know you're not giving me the keys now! It's a promise.

Speaking of making plans to do something, you will often see and hear the ir + a + construction:


Talking About the Negative

Even the most optimistic of us sometimes need to talk about things in the negative. In English, we have a whole collection of words for this, so as you might imagine, Spanish does too. In this article we'll explore those words.

To get us started is the Spanish word no. In addition to meaning "no" (the English word), no can mean "not", as well as serving the purpose of an auxiliary word, or an "extra" word attached to other negatives. Before we get too far, let's look at these other words:

Spanish English
nada nothing
nadie nobody
nunca never
ningúno,-a not a single one
ni not even
ni.... ni neither... nor
tampoco not either

Unless one of these words begins a sentence, it will also have an auxiliary no near it:

Spanish English
¿Qué sabes? What do you know?
Nada. No sé nada. Nothing. I know nothing.

See how the extra no is there?

Spanish English

Slightly Tricky Spanish Verbs

Learning Spanish verbs can be grouped into four groups: regular, homophones (sound the same), the straight-up irregular verbs that you'll need to memorize, and then groups with just slight stem changes. It is this last group that we'll talk about today.

First things first, these verbs are mostly only irregular in three tenses: present, subjunctive, and imperative, with a few exceptions we'll see later. Within these, it's only for the yo, , él / ella / usted, and ellos / ellas / ustedes forms. That's it!

These verb groups are characterized by having a particular vowel accented (as in the emphasis is on that syllable), and you then change that vowel somehow. This is way too abstract, so let's just list them.

Accented vowel Changed to Sample verb
e ie comenzar
o ue acordar
o (ir verbs) ue / u dormir
e (ir verbs) ie / i sentir
e (ir verbs) i pedir

So these are straight-forward, except the last two. It's the same rule! Unfortunately, sometimes verbs with a stressed e that end in -ir


Gerund vs. Infinitive

In English, we use the verb form ending in -ing quite often without distinguishing between the use cases. This makes it difficult when we switch to Spanish, since we now must make that distinction.

In Spanish, we have to distinguish between using el gerundio and el infinitive, the gerund and the infinitive forms. Fortunately, there are a few simple tricks I will show you to determine if you are dealing with the infinitive, and if not, then use the gerund.


The gerund has three uses:

  • Progressive. Use the gerund with the verb estar to denote a continuing action, such as estoy leyendo, or "I am reading." Note that Spanish-learners tend to over-use the progressive tense (as in, they use it more than a native would). You really want to reserve this for when it is important that the action is in progress (or was in progress if using the past continuous tenses).

  • Adverb. Is your word, e.g., "walking", "talking", "laughing", describing how an action is being done? If so, then its an adverb, and you use the gerund. Pasamos el día riendo. "We spend the day laughing." How did we spend the day? Laughing. Adverb.

  • Continuous action. Similar to the first case, here we use the gerund with one of a few particular verbs, andar, ir, seguir, and v


Spanish Verb Freebies

While students learn Spanish verbs, many get overwhelmed by the number of irregular verbs out there. THat is part of the reason this site exists, to turn this large group into manageable chunks with quizzing spread out.

Apart from these improvements, did you know there are several Spanish freebie verbs? What do I mean? I mean verbs that technically are considered irregular because the spelling changes, but are pronounced as if the conjugation was regular. We call these homophones, which basically means "same sound".

These verbs can be broken into two groups:

Group one

This first group of verb groups is only irregular in present, present subjunctive, and imperative, and only has two verb groups in it.

  • Ends in -uar. Verbs like continuar, extenuar, and actuar. Here, the 'u' must have an accent in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person singular, and 3rd person plurar, such as continúo, or extenúan.

  • Ends in -iar. Verbs like fotografiar, enviar, liar, and confiar. Exactly the same as the previous verb group, but instead of a ú, we use an accented i, í, like fotografías or líe.

Group one

This collection of verb groups is irregular in preterite, prsent subju


All About the Weather

In English, it is very common to casually fill time in conversation by talking about the weather. This is fairly universal at this point, so it pays to learn how to talk about the weather in Spanish as well.

First off, the word for weather is el tiempo, which is the same as the word for time. You may also see el clima, which is easy to remember as it looks like the English word climate.

Second, the verb most associated with weather is hacer, which literally means "to do" or "to make". So we don't talk about how the weather is, but rather what the weather does.

For example, a very common question you may hear is, "How is the weather?" In Spanish, this would look like:

¿Qué tiempo hace?

Literally, this is "what weather do?" Just like you might say you feel cold using tener instead of estar, the weather will use hacer instead of estar to express cold:

Hace frío. → "It's cold."

There are a variety of words that can follow hacer. Here are a few of them:

Spanish English
frío cold
calor calor
viento wind
sol sunny
buen tiempo good weather

Most Useful Spanish Verbs: Tener

There is an unfortunate situation with Spanish verbs that discourages beginners: the most commonly used verbs are also the most irregular and difficult to learn. However, if you push through, and use Maestro Spanish regularly, you will be blitzing through them in no time!

In addition to the conjugations, you need to learn how to use these verbs in context. Today we will talk about one of these verbs that you will literally use all the time: tener.

Tener shows up in many useful Spanish expressions. They are only difficult because they contrast with how you would say things in English, so there's no real shortcut besides familiarizing yourself with them so that you can have them in your arsenal.

We're going to break these down into seven categories for easier digestion.


We won't spend much time on this one, as its the easiest use of tener that everyone learns initially. Tener literally means to have, so it can be used to indicate posession of something:

Tengo la bolsa. → "I have the bag."

¿Tienes las direciones? → "Do you have the directions?"


Another one learned almost immediately after is that tener is used to indicate age:

¿Él tiene veinte y dos años? → "Is he 22 years old?"

Something you m


Why Use Maestro Spanish?

One of the special things about the Spanish verb game here at Maestro Spanish is that verbs are grouped based on conjugations. This significantly reduces the number of verbs you have to learn.

For example, verbs ending in -uir, like construir and incluir have identical conjugations. Why should we bother learning them separately? It is much more efficient to group them, and randomly show one or the other during practice. Even better, you start to learn the pattern, so then when you see a less common verb like diluir, you know what to do.

This is one of the key advantages we have over flashcards. While there are only 30ish groups, that suggests you could make flashcards for each group.

Well, first off, that would require tens of thousands of flashcards; I don't know anyone who wants to do that much. Second, you lose the ability to randomly test different verbs that follow the same pattern, as discussed a moment ago.

What are the other advantages to playing? Here are a few:

  • Different input choices. Sometimes while you're on the go, you can't easily type conjugations on your mobile. With Maestro, you can use the "multiple choice" option and tap your answer.

  • Quiz specific tenses. Did you know there is a tense mode? Rather than using spaced repetition, you can quiz a specific


Know Your Meat: Spanish Names

Not for vegetarians Mmmm. There's nothing like succulent meat, especially if it's on fresh tortillas. But if you want it, you gotta know the names of what you want.

In this article, we cover the different types of la carne that might show up in a restaurant (including some you aren't likely to see in Latin America).

Warning: Do not read on an empty stomach!

  • Beef. You are most likely to see beef written as la res, or, if it's a steak, el bistec, or maybe even el filete. Less common is la carne de vaca, but who knows (vaca is cow).

  • Pork. While puerco is pig, there is a different name for the meat, just like in English. Pork is el cerdo. My two favorite types are carnitas, the moist little bits of pork shoulder, and al pastor, which is marinated and sliced pork slow-cooked on a spit, often with a hunk of pineapple on top. Talk about delicious!

  • Chicken. You probably know this one. El pollo! But do you know whether you prefer carne oscura or carne blanca? Dark meat is either el muslo (el contramuslo in Spain) for the thigh, la pierna (el muslo in Spain) for the leg, or la ala for the wing


The Easiest Spanish Verb Tenses

When learning and practicing Spanish, beginning students start to feel frustrated early on, and understandably so!

The present tense has its share of irregular verbs, but then you get to preterite, which has just as many. It feels like it will never end.

There is finally a little glimmer of hope when you see imperfect and its handful of irregulars, but then you realize that you have to figure out when to use the irregular versus when to use the preterite! Gaaaah!

But then you get to my favorite tenses. They are my favorite because they are so easy, and they come at the perfect time to give you faith that you can do this.

They are, of course, the future tense, and the future conditional tense. Why are they so easy? Because there are only twelve irregular verbs, they are the same for both tenses, and the endings don't change at all, only the stem!

Here is the list of verbs and the new stem for each. Remember, the stem, or root, is what you add the conjugation endings onto:

Verb Stem
caber cabr-
poner pondr-
decir dir-
haber habr-
salir saldr-
hacer har-
poder podr-
tener tendr-

Accelerate Your Listening Skills With This TV Series

About three years ago I returned from an excellent trip to Guatemala that really kickstarted my Spanish abilities. The problem was, how do I build on this momentum to keep progressing?

I started an italki routine that was a huge boost, as well as used other Spanish resources to keep my progress going.

During this time, I was looking for TV shows and movies that would develop my listening skills and comprehension. Unfortunately, most of what's out there has problems for beginners or barely intermediate speakers:

  • Too fast. The Spanish is so fast, that it's almost impossible to parse.

  • Too much slang. Any "real" Spanish movie may be full of slang and street talk. Good for the authenticity of the movie, bad for learning.

  • Bad subtitles. Too often, the subtitles are not made directly from the Spanish track, but from a translation of the Spanish track. This means, that while the meaning is similar, the actual expressions and words used are often changed. This makes it even harder to follow along.

  • Too long. Two hour movies and one hour shows are great, but sometimes you need more bite-size chunks, and pausing after 15 minutes of a movie can really break the flow.

  • Dialogue heavy. You want to hear Spanish, but with dram


Unforgettable Trick to Remembering How to Say Support in Spanish

The hardest things to learn in Spanish are grammatical constructions that have no equivalent in English, and English words that can be expressed by multiple words in Spanish (like por / para, or ser / estar).

One word on that list is the English verb "to support". We don't think about it in English, but in Spanish there are three different words that can be used to express yourself, and they are not interchangeable; you must know the correct one to use.

Luckily, there are tricks to remembering which to use. These tricks use mnemonic devices by connecting the Spanish word to a very similar word in English, which you can arrive at based on your intent when you say "support".

Let's go!


The first we'll cover is mantener. What English word does this look like?

Maintain, right? And what does it mean to maintain something? It involves routine care, or upkeep. For example, to maintain my car, I need to regular change the oil, check the brakes, etc.

In fact, when figuring out how much a house will cost, in addition to mortgage payments, insurance, and taxes, people include maintenance, and what they mean is an average monthly expense for keeping it in working order. So really, maintenance is an expense, or payment.

Well, mantener, in Spanish, means something similar. It means "to support" in a financial way. So for example, you support


30 Useful Spanish Expressions

We can't always be practicing Spanish verbs; it's useful to work on other parts of Spanish.

Besides vocabulary, I found it very helpful to learn common expressions. These can be standalone phrases, or often "connector" phrases that can be used to logically combine two sentences.

There are a ton of these, but these are a few of my favorites. Keep in mind that for many of these, there may be multiple ways to say it:

English expression Spanish translation
a little while ago hace poco
about, concerning acerca de
again de nuevo
all of a sudden de repente
anyway, in any case, at any rate de todos modos
around here, this way por aquí
as for me, as far as I am concerned por mi parte
as long as, seeing that…, since ya que
at first al principio
at last, finally por fin
at least al menos, por lo menos
at times, sometimes a veces
frequently, often a menudo
from now on de aquí en adelante
I am coming! ¡Ya voy!
I don't think so / I

YouTube Resources for Learning Spanish

This is a fantastic time to be learning a foreign language! The resources available at your fingertips is truly amazing, with many of them free, like Maestro Spanish and Anki.

Today I want to share with you some free resources on YouTube to aid your language learning. YouTube is a great resource for learning Spanish because you can find content that is more accessible for beginners, and the additional context that video provides prepares you well for listening in real-life conversations.

  • Extr@ Spanish

    Extr@ is a mini telenovela geared towards beginners. It follows two roommates as a third roommate, Sam, arrives and turns their world around. They assist Sam as he goes shopping, finds a job, and goes on vacation.

    This is a perfect resource for the beginner who has ~20 minute chunks of time (the length of each episode). There are 13 episodes in total.

    I like this better than Destinos, the telenovela often used in schools.

  • Minuto de la Tierra

    Minuto is a collection of short segments (around 2-3 minutes) talking about some topic in natural science, like lightning strikes, or why leaves are green, with animation to go along with it.

    The Spanish is faster than E


How to Learn Spanish with iTalki

Disclosure: The iTalki links below are referral links. Should you sign up and purchase credits through this link, I will receive a small amount of credit to use toward my lessons, at no additional cost to you.

iTalki sessions have been an important part of my routine for some time now; I try to do them 1-2x a week. Nothing can replace direct conversation experience with someone listening patiently and gently correcting your mistakes. Once you get to know your tutor, it doesn't even feel like practice!

In this article I walk you through the steps of setting up and continuing with an iTalki schedule. To start out, though, let's discuss the types of lessons available on iTalki.

Lesson Types

iTalki has three types of lessons available:

  • Professional lessons. These are lessons taught by a certified teacher. iTalki requires the instructor to upload credentials. These instructors typically have lesson plans and even lesson materials already prepared. Furthermore, they are used to teaching and understand grammar more thoroughly. For example, even though you speak English, you may not know all the parts of speech well. A teacher should know these.

    Recommended for absolute beginners or those who need more structure.

  • Informal tutoring. Th


Habits for Learning Spanish

Every year we make the same promise to ourselves, that this year will be the one we finally learn Spanish.

This initial motivation often carries us for a few weeks, but as the daily grind wears us down and our motivation falters, our daily Spanish practice is the first to go.


Having motivation is great, and that first spurt we feel is a fantastic tool for really kick-starting our language-learning. But we cannot rely on it to carry us all the way to our language-learning goals; it just will not last that long.

That's the bad news. The good news is that as you begin to learn and make progress, you will be rewarded will little jolts of energy in the form of motivation from getting noticeably better at Spanish.

Anyone who is used to setting and accomplishing larger goals knows these feelings. They learn to recognize and appreciate them when they occur, but to not be fooled by them; they are temporary, and the real progress to be made is through setting up a system designed for success, not waiting around for motivation to strike, or the muse to visit, or whatever else you choose to call it.

Learning System

What does a language-learning system look like? How do I set one up?

The cornerstone of this system is the learning habits you develop. Fortunately, habits are pretty well-studied. They take the following form:

  • The cue: The "trigger" that instigates a habit, good or bad.

How to Play Maestro Spanish

Did you know that in just 3 months you can master conjugating all Spanish verbs in all tenses?

How, you ask? By practicing Spanish verbs with Maestro Spanish!

You already knew that, didn't you? This article takes it a step further and tells you how to best use the game to achieve your learning goals.


The number one thing required to really take your Spanish to the next level is consistent action. Fortunately, Maestro Spanish makes that easy. All guesswork about studying is removed for you.

For best results, dedicate just five minutes a day to playing the game. It will be a mix of reviewing old verbs and practicing new ones, and with spaced repetition, you avoid practicing those verbs you already have nailed down.

Since this is the only mobile-friendly way to practice Spanish verbs, there is no reason you can't practice on the go! Try it out in line at the grocery store, while waiting for appointments, even in the bathroom if you dare!

Input options

Maestro Spanish gives you three options for giving answers: you can type the answer in, you can click on one of four multiple choice buttons, or you can click on a button to show you the multiple choice options after you've had a moment to think about it.

The absolute best way to really sink the conj


The Importance of Spaced Repetition

What is the capital of Sudan?

Don't know it? I'll tell you the answer is Khartoum.

Now imagine I ask you again tomorrow. Unless you were already familiar with the city, you probably wouldn't remember it. That's ok, I'll ask again the next day.

After a few days you will no doubt start remembering the answer. After one month it will be so drilled into your head that you will be begging me to stop asking every. single. day.

But no harm was done, at least you will then know the capital of Sudan.

But what if you were trying to learn the capitals of all 54 countries in Africa? Asking all 54 every day would quickly go from a cute, albeit annoying, exercise to downright tedious.

Could there be a more effective use of time than quizzing all 54 every day?

Enter Spaced Repetition

This is the motivation for the concept of Spaced Repetition. Even though I can tell you about Khartoum today, you will probably forget about it one day from now. But if I tell you about for a week, then you will probably remember it and not need a review the very next day.

The idea of spaced repetition is that there is an optimal time to review a fact you wish to learn: the moment you are about to forget it. This is combined with the idea that each time you review the fact, it is cemented a little deeper into your brain.

These two ideas together give a method for learning new things. Review the little


Areas to Practice Spanish

I created Maestro Spanish to fill a specific need in learning Spanish, a fun and time efficient way to learn Spanish verbs conjugations. But what are the other pillars of Spanish study?

  • Conversation. This is probably the most important area of practice, but unfortunately the most neglected. All the other forms of studying are just preparation for actually talking to people! If you just did this one alone, you could eventually become fluent, although the other areas of practice will significantly accelerate progress. A few hours a week here for consistent progress. If you can swing an hour (or more!) a day, you will progress rapidly.

  • Vocabulary. For your first thousand words or so, it can be very helpful to do some straight-up memorization. A few minutes a day will compound and pay off over time.

  • Listening. Part of conversation, but very useful to practice independently. 30 minutes a day is an excellent goal, although it also depends on how much conversation you are doing (less conversation, add more listening).

  • Grammar. I put this last as you will pick it up in conversation, but I found it very helpful to have a resource for quickly understanding what I am hearing in conversation.

Notice I don't include reading. For a beginner, I don't find reading particularly helpful. As you progress to intermediate / advanced, thoug