As we know, language is changing with time. Could anyone explain it in the historic point?

  1. Why the verbs in Spanish only end in "ar, er, ir"?

  2. Do "-ar, -er, -ir" have special meaning? That is, for example, why a verb ends in "-ar" but not "-er, -ir"?

1 Answer 1


From a historic point of view, the Spanish language comes from the Latin language. In Latin there were three possible terminations for verbs: -are, -ere, -ire. These terminations have reached our days, in some cases unchanged as is the case of the Italian language. In Spanish the last e was simply dropped.

Now, where did the Latin verbs come from? I don't know, but in the theoretical common language Proto-Indo-European the verbs were formed by adding a suffix to a root to form the verb, and then adding an ending to form the word. If those suffixes were a reduced set, it would set the origin for every language with common terminations for verbs.

It's not uncommon to have a common termination for every verb in a language. Take the Japanese language, for instance. In that language, every verb ends with a -u syllable (-u, -ku, -su, ...). The English way seems to be more flexible as you can render any word into a verb. To do the same, we have to verbalise the word (as the invented word "googlear", meaning "to search something in Google".

Another example is the German language, a language I consider somewhat close to English, where every verb ends with -n. Thus, "to have" in German is haben. In fact, in Middle English this was the termination for every verb, so "to sing" comes from Middle English singen, and verbs were conjugated (singe, singest, singeþ, singen, singen, singen). Modern English just dropped the termination from the infinitive (but added the initial to) and simplified the conjugation, and the only thing that remains is the -s from the third person singular.

About your second question, the endings -ar, -er, -ir do not have a special meaning, and didn't have it even in Latin. One could think that the ending could depend on the last consonant or consonants of the stem, but in Spanish you have abrir and labrar, with very similar stems (abr- and labr-) but different terminations. You can even have different terminations for the same stem: morar and morir, and you get two completely different verbs.

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    @solojoker you're quite welcome! What I was trying to say is that the fact that verbs end in Spanish in given terminations is not a unique characteristic of our language, as there are others with that same characteristic. I tried to give an example of a language far apart from Spanish. Italian, French, Portuguese and other languages that come from Latin also have it. I didn't mean that this characteristic is common in the majority of languages, but only that there are others.
    – Charlie
    Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 7:49
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    Vladimir, The Romans spoke Latin. Many Romance languages are derived, in part, from Latin. The big five are Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and Romanian. Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 10:49
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    @VladimirNu Roman isn't a language. The Romans, in the Roman Empire, spoke Latin. Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 13:17
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    It is interesting to see how (I think) we tend to create new verbs from sustantives mainly using -ar. I guess nobody would think on saying Googler o Goolgleir. We immediately go for Googlear.
    – DGaleano
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 15:37
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    Technical point: Latin actually had 4 verb conjugations: -āre (e.g. parāre ‘to prepare’), -ĕre (e.g. sūmĕre ‘to take’), -ēre (e.g. habēre ‘to have’) and -īre (e.g. audīre ‘to hear’). In Ibero-Romance, -ĕre and -ēre merged. Further, although most -ĕre/-ēre verbs became -er in Spanish, and most -īre became -ir, some went vice versa (e.g. erigere > erguir; tussīre > toser) staff.ncl.ac.uk/i.e.mackenzie/hisverb.htm
    – jacobo
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 20:08

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