Common Spanish Verbs & Words You Need to Know

Common Spanish Verbs & Words You Need to Know

Inside: Common Spanish verbs every Spanish learner needs to know, and a guide for parents teaching Spanish.  

The Spanish language has a lot of words. It’s impossible to calculate exactly how many, but the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (DRAE) contains about 93,000. Don’t worry, though! There’s good news for Spanish learners: only a tiny percentage of those words make their way into daily conversation.

I’m going to give a brief intro explaining why high-frequency is a better way of thinking than by “difficulty” or only themed lists. If you are here to see my lists of high-frequency Spanish verbs and words, click here to jump directly to them. 

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Today’s post is for any Spanish language learner, but I’m actually writing fro parents. Many parents tell me they want to learn Spanish with their kids (or teach it to them), but they’ve forgotten their high school Spanish or never studied it. If that’s you, this post was written with you in mind!

The secret to effective, communicative language lessons is focusing on high-frequency structures. One problem with mainstream textbooks and programs is that they teach by themes, and introduce by “difficulty.” This means you could go half a year in Spanish before learning how to express I have or I like. Many of you probably took classes like this. You might have “learned” the word scarf before you could express liking or having something.


Themes aren’t all bad. The problem is when you try to learn every word in a theme–like stepsister and great-grandfather— even if they are sort of obscure. You’ll probably just forget them!

Here’s the solution: zero in on the core of the language: common Spanish verbs and phrases. Learn just mom, dad, sister, brother, as a beginner. You’ll pick up more specific, less frequent terms later. 

And — when you learn high-frequency phrases– you’ll more quickly have access to authentic Spanish books, songs, and materials. Why? Because they’re more likely to show up, of course!

So instead of thinking in terms moving through a sequence of “difficulty” and boxed “themes,” think in terms of frequency: starting at the core, and slowing expanding outward to absorb less-common words. Begin with the words you need to be understood, as a beginner, and eventually you’ll be expressing yourself more precisely. 




If you are trying to self-educate a bit, here are some helpful links. None are as ideal and having a teacher, but you can use these resources at home, for free. 

Teach Yourself Spanish, with Free Online Resources

Load Up Podcasts in Spanish

Make a playlist of Songs that use High-Frequency Phrases

Order learner books like these examplesl(novels that use high-frequency words– made for teens, but fun reads!):




Now, let’s get started with our high-frequency lists! You can download all of them as a PDF by clicking below:

Spanish High Frequency Phrases and Verbs PDF

Spanish High Frequency Phrases and Verbs PNGs

Common Spanish Verbs

Spanish verbs are very complicated, especially if you set out to memorize all the endings and mathematical-like rules. You might be able to get them into your short-term memory that way, but here we are focusing on daily communication.

Instead, focus on what you want to say.Ser” (to be) is a messy verb. As you start out though, all you *really* need to know is how to express core phrases like is, I am, you are, etc. It’s how 2-year-olds begin, and reach fluency without knowing how to conjugate!

Here I’ve gathered 11 high-frequency verbs in Spanish, plus gustar (it’s essential when teaching kids.) I only included the he/she/it forms, along with I and you underneath. Eventually, you’ll acquire the forms for we, they, and you all, but these are the basics. When you are ready, the past tense forms are included as well. 

I made a Quizlet sets so you can access the pronunciation on each word:

Present Tense Verbs


Common Spanish Words

Here are some of the top Spanish words you’ll need to know as you get startedEspecially with words like these, memorizing them out of context is probably the slowest path to acquiring them. They are most memorable when read and heard in context.

But if you’re trying to work Spanish into your daily life, you’ll need to use these! First, you can see a list of core questions phrases. If you are teaching and reading books in Spanish with your kids, it’s very helpful to know how ask. Work them into daily life as you point out things during the day. 

For pronunciation help and clarification of use, here’s are Quizlet sets I’ve made:

Phrases for Parent and Families

Common Words / Question Words

This Quizlet set also uses most of the phrases I’ve shared



Common Spanish Phrases for Parents


If you would like to work some Spanish into daily routines and family life, here are some core phrases that you can post and begin to use right away. If you use phrases in context and attached to an action (Come here!), you’ll be amazed how much they stick!


More Lists


If you want more phrases, here are some more! I’m also sharing some Spanish-only lists, if that’s more helpful to you. 


Spanish Parts of the Body Songs for Kids

Spanish Parts of the Body Songs for Kids

Inside: Spanish parts of the body songs: a list for kids on YouTube.


Here are my favorite songs for learning the parts of the body in Spanish. There are lots of games that work well with this theme, too, like Simón dice. Once your classes know the basic parts of the body, brain breaks are super easy to do! Give commands like “tócate la cabeza” or “cierra los ojos,” and stay in the target language more easily. 


Spanish Parts of the Body Songs


1. A mi burro


This authentic song in Spanish includes some body parts (cabeza, cuello, corazón) . It also repeats “le duele” a lot, if you’re teaching how to express that something hurts. 



2. Cabeza, hombros, rodillas y pies


Most kids already know this one in English, and it’s a fun one to teach as the pace gets faster and faster. 



3. Saco una manito


To learn about hands, this is a sweet classic. It’s nice to use right before story time or circle time when we want everyone sitting with hands in their own space!



4. Todo mi cuerpo


These lyrics are similar to “cabeza, hombros, rodillas, pies,” but with more high frequency parts. As always with Calico Spanish, the song is easy to understand. 



5. Baila la cumbia


Get in some culture with this fun mix of cumbia and body parts!


spanish body parts songs

The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Spanish: Activities and Resources

The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Spanish: Activities and Resources

Inside: Resources and ideas for teaching The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Spanish. 


The Very Hungry Caterpillar has to be one of the most endearing picture books out there. Lucky for us, almost all of Eric Carle’s iconic works are available in Spanish as well! My own kids truly never seem to tire of his books, and our copy of La oruga muy hambrienta is beyond well-worn. 

In this post I’m gathering resources for teaching Spanish through La oruga muy hambrienta. It’s the perfect book for covering numbers, colors, fruits, some foods, days of the week, and high-frequency words like come, es, tiene hambre, grande, pequeño, etc. 

There are two directions you can with a book like this, and Spanish learners. You can teach them every single phrase so they understand the original language, or you can teach the words they need to understand the story. I usually choose the second option, focusing on the essential, high-frequency needed to narrate the story. 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Spanish


Los números


La oruga hambrienta focuses on numbers 1-5. Here is a great list of numbers songs in Spanish to get started. 

The song Cinco monitos is a perfect tie-in as well. You can check out my freebies and post on activities for los Cinco monitos.

One of my favorite games for practicing any vocabulary is musical cards. For that one, pass out cards with 1-5 written on them. Play music, and have the students walk or dance around while holding their cards. When the music stops, call out a number. All the kids with that number sit down, and see which students stay in until the end. 


Las frutas


I like to focus on the fruits in the book, since several of the other foods are not so high frequency. Besides using real fruit or play food to talk about them (how many? what color?), I like to do a graph of favorites. If you are working with a small group, you can have the students ask their family members or friends (¿Cuál fruta te gusta más?) and color in a graph. 

Here is a video for learning the fruits:


Los colores


The colors aren’t directly part of the story, but they’re an easy tie-in with each fruit being a different color. You can see my lesson and activities for colors in Spanish, or keep it simple with the same game described above for numbers. 

Here’s a freebie from my Orugas y Mariposas unit, too! You can work on both numbers and colors to add circles to the caterpillar (try using a bottle cap as a stamp for paint). 

Los días de la semana


Of course, you can’t teach this book without the days of the week! The days can be an abstract concept for very young kids, so keep that in mind. If you are working with K-2 students it will be a bit easier. I recommend starting with a días de la semana song. You can also display a calendar with the days of the week, and discuss what your students do on which day. 

Once you have read the actual story, you can do some sequencing activities to show what the caterpillar ate on which day.



Ciclo de vida de la mariposa


Once you have read the story (or before), it’s fun to learn about the life cycle of butterflies. Here are two free PPTs I made to learn about caterpillars and butterflies (the life cycle PPT is part of the unit on TpT). 




Once you’ve worked on caterpillar and butterfly facts, it’s fun to do a simple wheel or craft to show each stage in the life cycle. There are sooo many ideas on Pinterest for this!


Related videos for The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Spanish





Want to See My Unit?


I’ve made picture cards, games, mini-books, printables, displays, stories, and PPTs all about Orugas and Mariposas. Teaching this unit will set your students up with the essential vocabulary they need to understand La oruga hambrienta. 

Latin American Movies on Netflix: What to Watch

Latin American Movies on Netflix: What to Watch

 Inside: The best Latin American movies on Netflix


It can be overwhelming to sit down for a night of Netflix, especially when you’re trying to sift through lesser-known films. I’ve spent the last month marathon-ing my way through Spanish-language movies and shows, and this post focuses on titles related to Latin America. 



Latin American Movies on Netflix

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support!



There are quite a few titles available, so it’s probably easier to jump over to my post on the Best Argentinian Movies on Netflix


There are lots of Mexican movies as well, so I’ve got a post on Mexican movies on Netflix coming your way as well. I will link to it as soon as it’s live!





An indigenous Guatemalan family arranges a marriage for their 17-year-old daughter, Maria, to the foreman of the plantation. Maria, however, is in love with another worker and wants to escape with him. What follows is a clash of modern-day and traditional life: beautiful, sad, and compelling, both cinematographically and story-wise. The movie was filmed in Kaqchikel, which all of the actors natively speak. 

Info: Drama | Kaqchikel Audio, Spanish Subtitles | 2015




Four friends leave the U.S. and plan to live on $1 per day in Guatemala. Although this film can reinforce the storyline of interpreting poverty and Latin America only through the eyes of foreigners, it’s an interesting watch. 

Info: PG | English Audio | 53min





Sin filtro

Pía is surrounded by people who take her for granted and take advantage of the fact that she doesn’t speak up for herself. One day she can’t take it anymore, and sees an alternative Chinese doctor. He administers a dubious treatment that turns out to be extremely effective: now Pía can only say exactly what’s on here mind. 

(Heads up– there’s a somewhat explicit sexual scene near the end that I found a little disturbing. It’s meant to be uncomfortable, but just letting you know.)

Info: Comedy | Spanish Audio, Spanish/English Subtitles | 2016





To Be a Miss 

A look into the famous beauty pageant industry and process in Venezuela, through the eyes of three women. 

Info: Documentary | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2016




(Beyond movies, there are also some great shows set in Colombia. You may want to check out La niña, and Pablo Escobar: Patron del malo.) 


Entre nos

An indigenous Guatemalan family arranges a marriage for their 17-year-old daughter, Maria, to the foreman of the plantation. Maria, however, is in love with another worker and wants to escape with him. What follows is a clash of modern-day and traditional life: beautiful, sad, and compelling, both cinematographically and story-wise. The movie was filmed in Kaqchikel, which all of the actors natively speak. 

Info: Drama | Kaqchikel Audio, Spanish Subtitles | 2017



Carteristas (Pickpockets)


A group of teens in Bogotá are mentored in the art of stealing by an expert thief, in a gritty, coming-of-age sort of story. 

Info: Crime, Drama | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2018



Colombia magia salvaje (Colombia: Wild Magic)


A group of teens in Bogotá are mentored in the art of stealing by an expert thief, in a gritty, coming-of-age sort of story. 

Info: Crime, Drama | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2018





Cuba and the Cameraman

A look into Cuban life and changes, over several decades, through the eyes of three different families. 

Info: Documentary | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2017



El Che

Mexican writer Paco Ignacio Taibo II retraces the life and journeys of Che Guevara. (It was difficult to find the trailer, so below is a section of the documentary itself.)

Info: Documentary | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2016





Peru, Tesoro Escondido (Peru, Hidden Treasure)

A group of teens in Bogotá are mentored in the art of stealing by an expert thief, in a gritty, coming-of-age sort of story. 

Info: Documentary | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2017


Asu Mare 2

Machin, who comes from humble origins, is now dating the girl of his dreams– who happens to be in a wealthy family. Machin

Info: Comedy | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2017



Discover the mysteries and marvels of Machu Pichu in this doucmentary from PBS. 

Info: PG | English Audio | 53min




Of course, there are many Latin American movies that aren’t available on Netflix. Here are some famous titles:



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Latin American Movies on Netflix

Spanish Romantic Movies on Netflix

Spanish Romantic Movies on Netflix

Inside: A list of Spanish romantic movies on Netflix. 


Spanish is one of the most romantic languages out there. So as I made my way through Spanish-language movies on Netflix, I obviously needed a list of romantic comedies and dramas!


Spanish Romantic Movies


Remember that Netflix regularly adds and pulls shows– just let me know if you catch something I should update!

This list was NOT made with students in mind! I’ve included ratings and links on each titles to help you decide what to watch. See my Spanish movies and shows page for tons more suggestions for Spanish-language titles, and of course let me know if I missed one of your favorites. 




León finds a lost cell phone, and calls the owner, Ivana. When they chat, there’s an instant connection, so he asks her out. There’s just one detail she doesn’t know: he’s only 4.4 feet tall. The rest of the movie explores whether or not they can make it: is their mutual attraction enough to overcome shallow societal expectations?

Info: Comedy, Romance | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2017 | NR  | Argentina





A light-hearted comedy about two Spaniards who move to Berlin in hopes of finding work, only to end up with humble jobs in a café. They navigate cultural differences, confront their new economic reality, and meet new people, all while hiding their actual circumstances from family back in Spain. Things get complicated when one of them falls for another Spanish girl living in the new city.

Info: Romantic Comedy | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2015  |   |  Spain



3. Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate)


A luscious, sensual tale of food and passion in the tradition of magical realism this iconic work by Mexican author Laura Esquivel was adapted to screen by Esquivel herself. A young woman, Tita, falls in love with Pedro but isn’t allowed to marry him. He ends up married to her sister, and Tita directs all of her emotion into the food she prepares. 

Info: Drama Romance | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 1992 | R | Mexico



4. Estar o No Estar (To Be or Not to Be)


Augusto, a single man in his 40’s, moves back to his hometown– a small Mexican town. He meets two women: a friendly neighbor, Ludivinia, and a local Russian waitress with whom he falls madly in love, Nástenska. 

Info:  Drama, Comedy  |  Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles  | 2016  |  NR  Mexico



5. Órbita 9 (Orbiter 9)


A young woman has lived her entire life in a space pod, orbiting towards a distant planet and faces staying there, alone, for another 20 years. When an engineer visits to make a repair, she quickly falls for him and he can’t shake the their interaction either. When he makes the bold decision to go back, she begins to learn her life is not what she thought.

Info:  Romance, Sci-Fi  |  Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles  |  2016  |   |  Spain





Different from the usual rom-com storyline, this romantic “dramady” follows a couple who meet in a coffeeshop and decide to maintain an out-the-box-friendship: no exchange of personal information, and no romance. Things go beautifully until their personal lives intersect with fantasy, and they must confront reality.

Info:  Romance, Comedy  |  Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles  |  2016  |   |  Spain





“Cuando el sur y el norte chocan, el conflicto alcanza proporciones épicas.” Spanish culture collides when a Sevillian falls for a woman from Basque– even though he’s never before left his hometown. The sequel (which I thought was better) is also on Netflix!

Info: Romance, Comedy |  Spanish Audio  |  2014  |   |  Spain




8. Elvira, te daría mi vida pero lo estoy usando


Elvira’s husband leaves one night to buy something at the drug store, and doesn’t come back. Reeling from shock, confusion, and fear, she takes matters into her own hands and launches a search to find him and figure out what happened. This movie kept surprising me, right until the end. It’s not your classic rom-com at all, but a good watch. 

Info: Comedy, Romance | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2017  |   |  Mexico






A Spanish woman travels to Africa in hoping to unearth old family secrets, after finding a letter her dying father left behind. The story moves between her search and forbidden love in the time of colonialism. 

(Trigger warning– there is a lot of violence, including a rape scene.)

Info:  Drama  |  Spanish Audio, Subtitles in English/Spanish  |  2015  | NR  |  Spain


10. ¿Qué culpa tiene el niño? (Don’t Blame the Kid)


The plot here has been done before: a one-stand results in a pregnancy, this time between a successful professional and an irresponsible young man. 

Info: Comedy, Romance | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 1992 | R | Mexico


11. Spanish-language movies on Netflix


An epileptic man and a woman caring for her suicidal mother meet and begin an intense affair– the way many romances begin. As real life sets in, they have to decide if they will give each other a real chance to fall in love. 

Info: Drama, Romance | Spanish Audio, Spanish/English Subtitles | 2015 | NR | Mexico



What other Spanish romantic movies did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!


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The Best Argentinian Movies on Netflix

The Best Argentinian Movies on Netflix


Inside: A list of the best Argentinian movies on Netflix. 


I’ll be honest: Argentinian films don’t feel immediately accessible to me. When I made my list of Netflix titles, and settled in to watch, I didn’t know what to expect. After having kids, especially, after a long day I often turn on Netflix looking for something easy and happy.

“Easy and happy” doesn’t seem to be the best description for Argentinian cinema. 

If these movies are representative of the larger film industry, then I think it helps to approach them like this: the story is perhaps being told to make you think or feel; not to tie up all the loose ends and live happily ever. Endings may be unsettling or unsatisfactory. 

I’ve been going through different Spanish-speaking countries, and the Spain movies were fairly easy– lots of Rom-Coms. When it came to Argentina, I learned to watch quietly, glass of red wine in hand. 




Remember that Netflix regularly adds and pulls shows– just let me know if you catch something I should update! There aren’t really any family-friendly titles here, so please be sure to click on the title and check ratings. See my Spanish movies and shows page for tons more suggestions for Spanish-language titles, and of course let me know if I missed one of your favorites. 


1. Corazón de Leon (Heart of a Lion)


A woman (Ivana) loses her cell phone, the man who finds it (León) calls her, and when they chat, there’s an instant connection. He asks her on a date. Though she’s shocked to discover he’s only 4.4 feet tall, she really does like him and the connection is real. The rest of the movie explores whether or not they can make it: it their mutual attraction is enough to overcome shallow societal expectations, or not.

(This is the only true Argentine Romantic Comedy I was able to find on Netflix at the moment. It’s good!!)

Info: Comedy, Romance | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2017



2. El Ciudadano Ilustre (The Distinguished Citizen)


Anyone who grew up in a small town, and left, will relate to much of this dark comedy. A Nobel-prize -winning author travels from Spain to his hometown in Argentina to accept an award, and the story begins predictably enough: used to fame a recognition, a lauded celebrity comes homes to those who knew him before, where daily life continues. However, the story takes darker turns as we learn more of his past and why he went home. Well-done movie with a twist ending.

Info: Comedy, Drama | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2017



3. Vaquero (Cowboy)


Julian is a struggling actor who wants more out his life and career. The film moves in and out of his head, where we hear his bitter thoughts about those around him, and see life on and off-stage. When he hears that a U.S. Western will be shot in Argentina, he is consumed with getting the part. The build-up of everything seems to end in cruel irony, which we might feel he deserves– or not. 

Info: Drama | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2011



4. El Clan


A true story of a notorious family who kidnapped and murdered wealthy young people, while maintaining the appearance of a normal and happy family. (Currently still on my to-watch list– I wasn’t sure I could take the violence.)

Info: Biography, Crime, Drama | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2017



5. Nazi Gold in Argentina


A look into Argentinian history during World War II, political alliances with the Nazis, and business deals between the elite in Argentina and Germany. I was not well-versed in Argentinian history going into this post, and watching this documentary helped make sense of other films that take place in the 20th century (like Eva No Duerme and Gato Negro). 

Info: Mystery, Thriller | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2017



6. Eva No Duerme (Eva Doesn’t Sleep)


The story of famous Eva Peron’s corpse– told over several decades, across continents, and from different perspectives, based on the real journey her body took before her final burial in Argentina. This one was difficult to follow and understand, especially if you’re not familiar with 20th-century Argentine history, but definitely fascinating.

Info: Drama | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2017



7. Gato Negro


The life of Tito Pereyra, from his humble beginnings in a small town, to powerful businessman. We follow his turbulent life story across the 20th century: a man who was both good and bad, and made terrible sacrifices to rise out of poverty into wealth. 

Info: Crime, Drama | Spanish/English Audio, Spanish Subtitles | 2014



8. El Rey de Once (The Tenth Man)


Ariel, an Argentine with Jewish roots, returns to Buenos Aires to connect with his father, a well-known founder of a Jewish charity in Buenos Aires. Instead of meeting up directly, his father stalls and gives him errands and tasks to do over the phone. Along the way Ariel meets Eva, who is struggling in her own way and helps him face his personal history and relationship with his father. 

Info: Comedy, Drama | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2016



9. Nieve Negra (Black Snow)


Years ago, a teenage boy was accused of killing his younger brother in a hunting accident– or was it an accident? Now living as a recluse, he’s visited by his other brother, with his pregnant wife. They come looking for a signature to sell family land after his father’s death.The camera moves back and forth between the past and present, as the family’s sordid past is confronted, events turn awry, and dark decisions are made. 

**Spoiler alert**

Sexual abuse of sorts is discovered in the family’s past. Be aware, in case this is a trigger you’d rather avoid.

Info: Mystery, Thriller | Spanish/English Audio, Subtitles | 2017



10. Todo Sobre el Asado


Exactly what the title says: this is a documentary ALL about el asado in Argentina: the process, history, traditions, interviews, and more. 

Info: Documentary | Spanish Audio, Subtitles | 2016





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