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Spanish Irregular Verbs (Part II): Stem-changing verbs.

There is a group of irregular Spanish verbs, called "stem-changing verbs". (See Spanish Irregular Verbs (Part I)).

Before leaning how stem-changing verbs are conjugated, let's briefly review some important points about verbs, so that it is easier for you to understand them.

  • All Spanish infinitive verbs belong to one of the following categories:
    Verbs ending in -AR (Hablar), Verbs ending in -ER (Beber) and Verbs ending in -IR (Vivir).

  • The stem of a verb is the remaining part, after having removed -AR, -ER or -IR endings.

    Hablar (Stem: Habl- ) (Ending: -ar)
    Beber (Stem: Beb- ) (Ending: -er)
    Vivir (Stem: Viv- ) (Ending: -ir)

When we conjugate Stem-changing verbs in the present tense, they keep the same endings as for regular verbs, but they root (stem) spelling changes. Concretely, the vowel in the stem can change either from a single vowel to a double vowel or from one vowel to another one. The only "rule" is that there is not stem-changing in the "nosotros" and "vosotros" forms.

There are three types of stem-changing patterns:

  1. o changes to ue
  2. e changes to ie
  3. e changes to i

  1. 'o' changes to 'ue'
    Letter o in the stem changes to ue (present tense) except for "nosotros" and "vosotros" forms.

    VOLAR (To fly)

    Yo vuelo
    Tu vuelas
    El / Ella / Usted vuela

    Nosotros volamos
    Vosotros voláis
    Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes vuelan

    Here we have a list of some o --> ue stem-changing verbs:

    Contar (To tell, to count)
    Costar (To cost)
    Dormir (To sleep)
    Encontrar (To find)
    Morir (To die)
    Mover (To move )
    Recordar (To remember)
    Soñar (To dream)
    Volver (To return from… )

  2. 'e' changes to 'ie'
    Letter e in the stem changes to ie (present tense) except for "nosotros" and "vosotros" forms.

    SENTIR (To feel or To regret)

    Yo siento
    Tu sientes
    El / Ella / Usted siente

    Nosotros sentimos
    Vosotros sentís
    Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes sienten

    Some e --> ie common verbs::

    Cerrar (To close)
    Comenzar (To begin)
    Despertarse (To wake up)
    Entender (To understand)
    Mentir (To lie)
    Pensar (To think)
    Sentarse (To sit down)
    Sentir (To feel)

  3. 'e' changes to 'i'
    Letter e in the stem changes to i (present tense) except for "nosotros" and "vosotros" forms.

    PEDIR (To ask for)

    Yo pido
    Tu pides
    El / Ella / Usted pide

    Nosotros pedimos
    Vosotros pedís
    Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes piden

    And here we have some examples of e --> i verbs::

    Conseguir (To get)
    Decir (To say)
    Elegir (To choose)
    Medir (To measure)
    Pedir (To ask for)
    Reir (To laugh)
    Repetir (To repeat)
    Sonreir (To smile)

You'll find a new Grammar Poll here:

Stem-changing Verbs Poll

For any doubt or comment regarding these lessons feel free to e-mail or post a message at the Spanish Language Forum.

Have a nice day!
(¡Que tenga un buen día!)

Angeles F.

VOCABULARY IN THIS LESSON (alphabetical order):

Beber = To drink
Cerrar = To close
Comezar = To begin
Conseguir = To get
Contar = To tell, to count
Costar = To cost
Decir = To say
Despertarse = To wake up
Dormir = To sleep
Elegir = To chose
Encontrar = To find
Entender = To understand
Hablar = To talk
Medir = To measure
Mentir = To lie
Morir = To die
Mover = To move -something-
Pedir = To ask for
Pensar = To think
Recordar = To remember
Reir = To laugh
Repetir = To repeat
Sentarse = To sit down
Sentir = To feel, to regret
Soñar = To dream
Sonreir = To smile
Vivir = To live
Volar = To fly
Volver = To return from -place-

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I write monthly articles for "Think Spanish" ("Piensa en español") since 2002. All "Think Spanish" articles are written in Spanish, and they include a Spanish/English glossary. You'll also have the option to buy this magazine including a CD. Nice way to learn about Spanish language and customs!
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