Stem-Changing Verbs

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As you probably know, there are many verbs in Spanish that have a “stem change” in all their present tense conjugations except the ones for nosotros/as and vosotros/as. There are two types of “stem changes”:

1. ‘E’ becomes ‘ie’
2. ‘O’ becomes ‘ue’

Here are the most common verbs that have them:

‘E’ becomes ‘ie’

Here is a model:

PENSAR (to think)
Pienso
Piensas
Piensa
Pensamos
(Pensáis)
Piensan

And here are some common ‘e to ie’ verbs:

Cerrar – to close
Divertirse – to have fun
Empezar* – to start/to begin
Entender – to understand
Mentir – to lie
Pensar – to think
Perder – to lose
Preferir – to prefer
Querer – to want/to love
Recomendar – to recommend
Sentarse – to sit down
Sentirse – to feel

* Note: the stem change always happens in the strong syllable: empiezo, entiendo, prefiero.

‘O’ becomes ‘ue’

Here is a model:

SOÑAR (to dream)
Sueño
Sueñas
Sueña
Soñamos
(Soñáis)
Sueñan

And here are some common ‘o to ue’ verbs:

Acostarse – to go to bed/to lie down
Almorzar – to have lunch
Contar – to tell/to count
Costar – to cost
Devolver – to return (an item)
Dormir – to sleep
Dormirse – to fall asleep
Encontrar – to find
Mover – to move  (an item)
Morir – to die
Poder – to be able to
Recordar – to remember
Sonar – to sound
Soñar – to dream
Volar – to fly
Volver – to return

Workers_eat_lunch_against_PBY_wing_panels_at_Consolidated_Vultee_aircraft_plant
Los trabajadores de la planta aeronáutica Consolidated Vultee se sientan y almuerzan.

Practice – Memorize all the conjugations

At regular conversation speed, you won’t have time to “deduct” the conjugation based on the rules. We recommend that you memorize all the conjugations for these verbs as if they were all irregular. In order to do that, grab a piece of paper and, slowly, write down, one by one, the present tense conjugations for all of them. Once you are done, put it away and try to conjugate all of them from memory. Do that for three or four days and you’ll see how you become much better at using them!

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