This is rather embarrassing, but I lived in Spain for five years from the age 9 to 14, and I also went through their education system, but I still do not know when to use which of los tiempos verbales.

I am not asking for a list of them, but rather when I should use el presente simple, as an example. I already know them from memory as my teacher made me rote learn them in Spain, just like I also know about the words which form the categories Agudas, Llanas y Esdrújulas.

After this, I would also like to learn the rules for the rarely used verb tenses, despite their being ways to bypass the need to learn them.

What I want: Is there perhaps a cheat sheet, or something that roughly teaches me when I should use a tiempos verbales even if it is not perfectly accurate.

I am sure you can imagine school and speaking Spanish has been a living Hell for me, as I never truly understood when to pick which verb tense. I do know formal vs informal, and which person is speaking such as: yo, tu, el/usted, nosotros, vosotros, and ellos.

I can also completely understand what people are saying, even on the news when they are speaking quickly. I just skipped the verb tenses somehow, and ended up always using them incorrectly, or just using the infinite of a verb as a placeholder for the correct one which also caused lots of confusion.

I hope this shows my level and explains my question.


I own a cheatsheet like this in German: Zeiten auf einen Blick Spanisch by the German publisher PONS (ISBN 978-3-12-562829-8). It is the size of three A4 sheets folded together and laminated, so you get 6 A4 pages in total. The first page explains the use of use of the present tense (and the gerund, e.g. estoy hablando); the next page and a half explains past tenses (pretérito perfecto simple, imperfecto, pretérito anterior); the next page and a half covers the futuro, the condicional and the imperative; the one but last page cover the subjuntivo, and the back the dividing lines between past, present and future and where the various tenses belong. Since these sheets are laminated, you can check them during breakfast without worrying about spilling fruit juice over them ;-)

If you need something in English, you can check Barron's Spanish Verb Conjugation Cards by Christopher and Theodore Kendris (2004), which is also six pages long.


Sort of answering my own question here.

Unless someone else posts, for the time being here is the best website I have found. It should be noted that I asked for a cheat sheet, whereas what I was looking for was a summary. The problem is I had rote learnt every single one of the tiempos verbales, even the irregular ones, but I never understood where or when to use them.

The article An Overview of Spanish Tenses: What They Mean and When to Use Them by Suzie Kelsey is great, and it is recommended that you click any links for brief detours as you go along.

If anyone else posts anything better I will of course mark their response as answered instead of mine.

  • It was not obvious from your question that you were looking for an online resource. – Tsundoku Jan 18 at 12:31
  • @Tsundoku If you gave me an offline one I would have just found the PDF, so what difference does it make? What I want: Is there perhaps a cheat sheet, or something that roughly teaches me when I should use a tiempos verbales even if it is not perfectly accurate. – securityauditor Jan 18 at 12:32
  • Some resources are simply not available in a digital format. – Tsundoku Jan 18 at 13:30
  • @Tsundoku Then I would pay for it. – securityauditor Jan 18 at 13:43

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