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The Simple Present of Stem-Changing Spanish Verbs

The Simple Present of Stem-Changing Spanish Verbs

The simple present is a verb form in Spanish that refers to verbs in the present tense, simple aspect, indicative mood, and active voice. Unlike the simple present form of regular Spanish verbs, stem-changing verbs experience a vowel change in the first person singular, second person singular, third person singular, and third person plural forms of the simple present. However, the endings of stem-changing verbs are identical to the present tense endings of regular verbs. The following sections explain the formation of the simple present of stem-changing Spanish verbs.

Spanish Stem-Changing Verbs e:i

The first category of present tense stem-changing verbs that Spanish students must learn are the e:i verbs. When an e:i stem-changing verb is conjugated into the simple present, the e vowel in the stem changes to an i. For example, the conjugation of the stem-changing verb pedir (e:i) “to ask for, to order” is as follows:

  • first person singular – stem + stem-change + o – pido
  • second person singular – stem + stem-change + es – pides
  • third person singular – stem + stem-change + e – pide
  • first person plural – stem + imos – pedimos
  • second person plural – stem + ís – pedís
  • third person plural – stem + stem-change + en – piden

Note that only -ir verbs experience the e:i stem change.

Spanish Stem-Changing Verbs e:ie

The second category of present tense stem-changing verbs that Spanish students must learn are the e:ie verbs. When an e:ie stem-changing verb is conjugated into the simple present, the e vowel in the stem changes to an ie. For example, the conjugation of the stem-changing verb pensar (e:ie) “to think about, to think” is as follows:

  • first person singular – stem + stem-change + o – pienso
  • second person singular – stem + stem-change + as – piensas
  • third person singular – stem + stem-change + a – piensa
  • first person plural – stem + amos – pensamos
  • second person plural – stem + áis – pensáis
  • third person plural – stem + stem-change + an – piensan

As another example, the conjugation of the stem-changing verb entender (e:ie) “to understand” is as follows:

  • first person singular – stem + stem-change + o – entiendo
  • second person singular – stem + stem-change + es – entiendes
  • third person singular – stem + stem-change + e – entiende
  • first person plural – stem + emos – entendemos
  • second person plural – stem + eís – entendeís
  • third person plural – stem + stem-change + en – entienden

As a third and final example, the conjugation of the stem-changing verb preferir (e:ie) “to prefer” is as follows:

  • first person singular – stem + stem-change + o – prefiero
  • second person singular – stem + stem-change + es – prefieres
  • third person singular – stem + stem-change + e – prefiere
  • first person plural – stem + imos – preferimos
  • second person plural – stem + ís – preferís
  • third person plural – stem + stem-change + en – prefieren

Note that all three verb types (-ar, -er, and -ir) experience the e:ie stem change.

Spanish Stem-Changing Verbs o:ue

The third category of present tense stem-changing verbs that Spanish students must learn are the o:ue verbs. When an o:ue stem-changing verb is conjugated into the simple present, the o vowel in the stem changes to an ue. For example, the conjugation of the stem-changing verb almorzar (o:ue) “to eat lunch” is as follows:

  • first person singular – stem + stem-change + o – almuerzo
  • second person singular – stem + stem-change + as – almuerzas
  • third person singular – stem + stem-change + a – almuerza
  • first person plural – stem + amos – almorzamos
  • second person plural – stem + áis – almorzáis
  • third person plural – stem + stem-change + an – almuerzan

Another example is the conjugation of the stem-changing verb volver (o:ue) “to return”:

  • first person singular – stem + stem-change + o – vuelvo
  • second person singular – stem + stem-change + es – vuelves
  • third person singular – stem + stem-change + e – vuelve
  • first person plural – stem + emos – volvemos
  • second person plural – stem + éis – volvéis
  • third person plural – stem + stem-change + en – vuelven

A final example is the conjugation of the stem-changing verb dormir (o:ue) “to sleep”:

  • first person singular – stem + stem-change + o – duermo
  • second person singular – stem + stem-change + es – duermes
  • third person singular – stem + stem-change + e – duerme
  • first person plural – stem + imos – dormimos
  • second person plural – stem + ís – dormís
  • third person plural – stem + stem-change + en – duermen

Note that all three verb types (-ar, -er, and -ir) also experience the e:ie stem change.

Spanish Stem-Changing Verbs u:ue

The fourth category of present tense stem-changing verbs that Spanish students must learn are the u:ue verbs. When a u:ue stem-changing verb is conjugated into the simple present, the u vowel in the stem changes to an ue. The only u:ue verb is Spanish is jugar “to play”:

  • first person singular – stem + stem-change + o – juego
  • second person singular – stem + stem-change + as – juegas
  • third person singular – stem + stem-change + a – juega
  • first person plural – stem + amos – jugamos
  • second person plural – stem + áis – jugáis
  • third person plural – stem + stem-change + an – juegan

Stem-changing verbs are verbs that experience a vowel change in the first person singular, second person singular, third person singular, or third person plural forms in the simple present. Spanish language learners must learn to form the simple present forms of stem-changing Spanish verbs in order to fully use and understand verbs the Spanish language.

For the conjugation patterns for regular and irregular Spanish verbs, please read The Simple Present of Regular Spanish Verbs and The Simple Present of Irregular Spanish Verbs.

Note: I have studied Spanish as a foreign language. Please feel free to correct any mistakes that I have made in my Spanish.

References

Ramboz, Ina. 2008. Spanish verbs & essentials of grammar (Verbs and Essentials of Grammar Series), 2nd edn. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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