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Keep Those Verbs Straight! Observation about Spanish Verbs Beginning with "Ll"

written by: Eric W. Vogt•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 7/21/2011

Students often confuse the Spanish verbs that begin with the digraph LL. This article addresses the problems with a few tips on how to resolve them.

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    If LL- Verbs Are Confusing...

    ... then the remedy is to learn meaningful sentences using them. The good news is that, except for the last verb in the list, all these verbs are regular: llamar(se), llegar, llenar, llevar and llover.

    Step one is to write them on a piece of paper with their English meanings to their side, and refer to them several times a day, treating them as you would other vocabulary items. This may be the only step you need -- but it is likely to be of short duration, unless accompanied by meaningful sentences that unmistakably distinguish their usage. Llamar, of course, is "to call" but llamarse is to call oneself. It is one of the first verbs most students of Spanish learn. Too often it is taught only partially -- that is, the whole truth is not told and students end up with the horribly mistaken idea that Me llamo Juan really means My name is John and then produce the grammatical monster Me llamo es Juan. Oh no. It should be illegal to even write what I just did. Llamarse means, very precisely and literally to call oneself and so, Me llamo Juan means, literally, I call myself John, or better yet Myself I call John.

    Llegar means to arrive; llenar means to fill, llevar means to carry or to wear (clothing) and llover means to rain. This last verb is defective, which simply refers to the fact that it is only used in the third-person singular: llueve: it rains or it's raining.

    I've invented a short mneumonic sentence for student to memorize, in which all these verbs are used in alphabetical order and which is easy to remember because it is very visual. It means: My name is John. I arrive at the store; I fill my bag; I carry it to the car and it starts to rain. Here is the Spanish sentence to memorize: Me llamo Juan. Llego a la tienda; lleno la bolsa; la llevo al carro y empieza a llover.

    Along with charts that are easy to visualize, most students find short mneumonics a good way to recall lexical or grammatical information -- because in addition to their brevity, they too can be very visual.