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Trabajar Conjugation: Preterite, Subjunctive & Present Progressive

Instructor: Elena Sacramento Lechado

Elena has a PhD in linguistics from University of La Laguna (Spain). Currently, she teaches Spanish as a foreign language and creates teaching resources.

The Spanish verb 'trabajar' means 'to work.' In this lesson, we learn how to use it in the preterite, the subjunctive and the present progressive. You'll be able to talk about past actions, possibilities and requests, and say what you're working on now.

Time To Work!

We spend most of our time working - at school, at the office, at the store or at home. And we share our experiences with our relatives and friends. If you are a worker or a student, you can use the verb trabajar (pronounced: trah-bah-HAHR) in Spanish to say that you worked last weekend at the café or that you were working on a school project.

In this lesson, we go over the conjugation of trabajar in three different tenses - the preterite, the present subjunctive and the present progressive. Learn about the multiple situations in which you can use trabajar by learning these tenses.

Translation: To work.
bakery

Preterite of Trabajar

We use the preterite to talk about finished actions in the past. So, with the preterite of trabajar, you could say that you worked over the weekend or that you worked on a project with your friend last week.

Since trabajar is regular, you only need to add the right endings to its stem (trabaj-).

Note: Pay attention to the forms that require an accent mark (´). Don't forget to add it or they'll be confused with other tenses.

VERB: trabajar (trah-bah-HAHR) - to work

Subject
Pronoun
Preterite
Conjugation
Pronunciation Translation
yo trabajé (trah-bah-HEH) I worked
trabajaste (trah-bah-HAHS-teh) you worked
él/ella
usted
trabajó (trah-bah-HOH) he/she worked
you (formal) worked
nosotros/
nosotras
trabajamos (trah-bah-HAH-mohs) we worked
vosotros/
vosotras
trabajasteis (trah-bah-HAHS-tays) you all worked
ellos/ellas
ustedes
trabajaron (trah-bah-HAH-rohn) they worked
you all worked

Note: You'll only hear the form vosotros/as in Spain, when addressing more than one person in an informal situation. In the rest of the Spanish-speaking countries, native speakers use the form ustedes in all settings.

Example Conversation

María and Isabel talk about what they did last weekend.

Isabel: ¿Trabajaste el fin de semana? (Did you work on the weekend?)

María: Sí, trabajé en el restaurante el sábado hasta las cuatro. (Yes, I worked in the restaurant on Saturday until four.)

Y por la tarde, Nuria y yo trabajamos en el proyecto de clase. (And in the evening, Nuria and I worked on the class project.)

Isabel: ¿Trabajaron mucho? (Did you (both) work a lot?)

María: Sí, avanzamos mucho. (Yes, we made a lot of progress.) Además, Nuria no trabajó en la tienda por la mañana, así que tuvo más tiempo para terminar su parte. (Also, Nuria didn't work in the store in the morning, so she had more time to finish her part.)

Translation: I worked in the restaurant yesterday.
restaurant

Subjunctive of Trabajar

The subjunctive is a set of verbal forms we use to express wishes or indirect requests, to talk about possibilities or to give negative commands.

To form the present subjunctive of trabajar, take its regular stem again (trabaj-), and add the endings below.

VERB: trabajar (trah-bah-HAHR) - to work

Subject
Pronoun
Present
Subjunctive
Pronunciation Translation
yo trabaje (trah-BAH-heh) I work
trabajes (trah-BAH-hehs) you work
él/ella
usted
trabaje (trah-BAH-heh) he/she works
you (formal) work
nosotros/
nosotras
trabajemos (trah-bah-HEH-mohs) we work
vosotros/
vosotras
trabajéis (trah-bah-HAYS) you all work
ellos/ellas
ustedes
trabajen (trah-BAH-hehn) they work
you all work

Uses & Examples of Trabajar in the Subjunctive

Let's take a look at its possible uses now.

Giving Indirect Requests

To give indirect requests, start your sentences with:

  • Espero que (I hope that)
  • Quiero que (I want that)

Isabel's teacher has assigned the students a science project. She says:

  • Espero que trabajen en el proyecto esta semana. (I hope you (all) work on the project this week.)

They can do the project in pairs, so she's working with her classmate Mateo. She tells him:

  • Quiero que trabajemos esta tarde para terminar antes del fin de semana. (I want us to work this evening to finish before the weekend.)

Talking about Possibilities

Use these introductory expressions to talk about possibilities:

  • Posiblemente (Possibly)
  • Probablemente (Probably)
  • Es posible que (It's possible that)
  • Es probable que (It's probable that)

Isabel normally helps her parents at the bookstore on weekends. She tells Mateo about her possible plans for the weekend.

  • Probablemente trabaje en la librería este sábado. (I'll probably work at the bookstore this Saturday.)
  • Es probable que María no trabaje en el restaurante el domingo, así que puede que hagamos algo juntas. (María won't probably work at the restaurant on Sunday, so we might do something together.)

Translation: I will probably work at the bookstore this weekend.
store

Giving Negative Commands

To give negative orders or commands in Spanish, we just use No + subjunctive.

In the meanwhile, María's boss tells her to take Sunday off.

  • No trabajes el domingo. (Don't work on Sunday.) Puedes tomarte el día libre. (You can take the day off.)

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