11 Basic Spanish Words Proven to Help You Speak Spanish Better

“Where are more….” 🤔 I asked when looking for a folder. “What?” my friend asked. I had totally forgotten the word for folder. Learning basic Spanish words can help you if you’re in this kind of situation someday when talking with a Spanish-speaker.

After my friend asked me what I was asking about, I said, “You know, the yellowish things that go in the filing cabinet.” After she laughed at me for a minute, she asked “Folders?” Yup. That was the word I needed. #mombrain

When learning a new language, there are going to be times you don’t know a word, but you do know words that can describe what you want. Read on to learn about the essential eleven verbs in Spanish that you need to know to be able to communicate well in Spanish.

11 Basic Spanish words that everyone needs to know

Once you know these verbs, you will be able to communicate (at least basically) with Spanish-speakers because you can get your meaning across by describing your message with words you know. Like I did with the folders.

For another example, when my oldest Alex was little and didn’t know the words for cream cheese, he asked me to put “bagel butter” on his bagel. He used the words he knew (bagel and butter) and put them together to get his message across.

My Spanish-speaking friend forgot the word for veterinarian, so she said, “animal doctor.” Again, she used the words she knows (animal and doctor) to get her message across. You can do the same thing with these verbs.

These 11 verbs are in the top 50 of the most frequently used words in the Spanish language based on the book A Frequency Dictionary of Spanish by Mark Davies. I use this dictionary to create my lessons to make sure you and your kids learn the most important words to be able to talk to and understand Spanish speakers.

All the verbs but querer (to want) are the top 10 verbs in the list. I added querer to the list and call it the essential 11 because you have to be able to say and understand “want.”

How to Learn Spanish

A myth I hear often about learning language is if you learn the grammar rules and practice speaking, then you’ll be able to speak Spanish. Sorry to get a little nerdy here, but if you look at language acquisition research it shows that people need to hear and read a language to acquire it. Not learn the grammar or be forced to speak it.

We all learn language the same way according to Dr. Stephen Krashen, a leading language acquisition researcher. And if you think about how we teach our kids their first language, we don’t give them a bunch of grammar rules and make them speak the language. We talk to them, and we read books to them. Check out this post on how to learn Spanish.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Spanish?

A common question that I get is how long does it take to learn Spanish? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it takes lots of time. There aren’t short cuts regardless of people claiming to be fluent in one month (unless they literally studied Spanish every waking hour for that month).

To acquire Spanish so you can talk to and listen to Spanish-speakers takes time and comprehensible input (which means that you understand what you’re reading and listening to).

I have created my lessons and activities to give you and your kids comprehensible input. The time will happen as you complete the lessons and activities. Check out my post for more detailed info on how long it takes to learn Spanish.

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Eleven Essential Verbs (Basic Spanish Words) to Communicate in Spanish

Below are the essential eleven Spanish verbs. I have them grouped based on my lessons, not on the they’re order in the dictionary. Each post has activities to learn the verbs and includes a vocabulary list with the verbs already conjugated.

Ser, Hay, Tener

The first three verbs are ser (to be), hay (there is/there are) and tener (to have). I split the lessons for these verbs into two posts. This is the first post. This lesson has a story that I created with one of my Spanish 1 classes years ago. They were hands-down the worst behaved class I’ve ever had, but they were also the most fun to create stories with! (I liked the kids individually, but when they were put together, they’re class personality was the worst!)

I recorded the story for listening practice and to help with pronunciation if you don’t know Spanish yet. I am not a video or expert (or even good at making videos), so please don’t judge me! The videos are the easiest way to provide free listening resources.

Estar, Querer, and Ir

The next three verbs in the list are estar (to be – yup, Spanish has two verbs for this), querer (to want), and ir (to go). Ser and estar are used in specific ways, but you’ll get a feel for how you use them the more you hear and read them. This has an activity called Movie Talk with a fun video about a girl and her cat to practice all the vocabulary so far. And it has another fun story from my worst (but most creative) class!

Poder and Decir

The next two verbs are poder (to be able to) and decir (to say or to tell). This post has a coloring booklet with different vocabulary from Spanish-speaking countries to practice decir. I made a video of me reading the booklet for pronunciation. The video is a little better – you can see my face in it!


The next verb is hacer (to do or to make). This post also includes the we and they forms of ir. All of my lessons have at least one game included, and the game in this lesson is one of my students’ favorites! It’s a listening game that can get very competitive. I made a video of the phrases so kids can still play it even if you’re not sure about the pronunciation.

Dar and Ver

The next two verbs are dar (to give) and ver (to see). This lesson has another game that is popular with my students, and it has my favorite story that Aidan and I made together. The story is about a Venus Flytrap and is super silly but fun! I have a video of the story to listen to along with a printable for reading.

As you go through the lessons, you’ll learn nouns too. But if you haven’t learned them yet, you can easily look them up when speaking with someone because nouns are a lot easier to look up in a dictionary or translator than verbs.

If you want to become fluent in Spanish and be able to speak with people, you have to learn these verbs which are basic Spanish words! Download the vocabulary list from the first lesson and watch the video with the story so you can hear how Spanish is pronounced. Then check out the lesson with reading activities! Repeat that step with the rest of the verbs, and you’ll be speaking Spanish in no time!

And if you know anyone who wants to start learning basic Spanish words with their kids, please share with the buttons on the left!

P.S. Are you looking for a quick and fun way to help your kids start learning Spanish? If so, check out my free Spanish for Kids Starter Guide! You can immediately use any of the 9 simple tips to introduce your kids to Spanish. Know what the best part is? You don’t have to know Spanish to use it!

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