Talk about your favorite (and least favorite) sounds with the Spanish verb ‘oír.’ In this lesson, you’ll learn its conjugation in the present tense and the present subjunctive through plenty of real life examples.
What Do You Hear?
You’re probably hearing lots of different sounds right now, but if you’re paying attention to what you’re reading, you might not be aware of them. You might be hearing the traffic, a car horn or someone talking on the radio or TV, or if you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by nature, you might be hearing the birds singing or even the sound of a fountain or a river. In Spanish, we use the verb oír (pronounced: oh-EER), which means ‘to hear,’ to refer to the sounds we hear or perceive, as opposed to what we listen to.
Let’s look at out how to conjugate this verb in the present tense and the present subjunctive and how to use it adequately in context. Daniela and her friend Ana will help us with lots of examples.
Translation: To hear the river
Present Indicative of Oír
With the present indicative (usually called ‘present tense’) we can talk about our habits or routines, or we can simply mention facts. So with the present of oír you might say that you can hear the TV playing in the background while you cook, or that you can hear the river from your house.
Oír is an irregular verb, so pay attention to the spelling in every form. Notice that the i from the stem becomes y in some of the forms. This is to avoid having three vowels together.
Indicative Pronunciation Translation
yo oigo (OY-goh) I hear
tú oyes (OH-yays) you hear
usted oye (OH-yay) he/she hears –
you (formal) hear
nosotras oímos (oh-EE-mohs) we hear
vosotras oís (oh-EES) you all hear
ustedes oyen (OH-yayn) they hear
you all hear
Note: Only Spaniards use the form vosotros/as when addressing more than one person in informal situations. In the rest of the Spanish-speaking countries, everyone uses ustedes.
Examples of Oír in the Present Indicative
Daniela lives in Madrid, the capital city of Spain. Although she likes her city, she says it can be quite stressful sometimes.
Oímos el tráfico y las sirenas con frecuencia. (We often hear the traffic and the sirens.)
Desde mi casa oigo los trenes llegando a la estación. (From my house, I hear the trains arriving at the station.)
That’s why she loves going to the countryside and visiting her grandparents. Because she can get away from the city and enjoy the pleasant sounds of nature.
Mis abuelos oyen el canto de los pájaros cuando se despiertan. (My grandparents hear the birds singing when they wake up.)
Me encanta pasar tiempo allí. (I love spending time there.) Cuando oigo el río y los sonidos de la naturaleza me siento muy relajada. (When I hear the river and the nature sounds I feel very relaxed.)
But Daniela has a light sleep and she wakes up quite easily during the night:
Hay tanto silencio que me despierto desde que oigo un ruido. (There’s so much silence that I wake up as soon as I hear a noise.)
Sin embargo, mi abuelo dice que no oye nada en toda la noche. (However, my grandfather says he doesn’t hear anything all night.)
Translation: I hear the birds singing.
Now it’s your turn. What sounds are you perceiving right now? Try and answer these questions in Spanish:
¿Qué sonidos oyes? (What sounds do you hear?)
¿Qué oyen tu familia y tú desde casa? (What do your family and you hear from your house?)
Present Subjunctive of Oír
The subjunctive is a set of verbal forms we use in order to express information that is not factual or certain, but subjective, like wishes, doubts and possibilities. You can use the present subjunctive of oír to tell a friend that you hope she hears her alarm clock in the morning or that you might hear the radio later.
The good news is that the conjugation of oír in the present subjunctive is a bit easier now, since we’ll use the same stem for all subject pronouns. Take the stem from the first person in the present tense (oig-) and add the endings below:
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