Spanish Stem Changing Verbs: In the Present Tense

What is a Stem Change?

Remember the two ways in which the verbs venir and tener were irregular? First, their yo form had a ‘g’ before the ‘o,’ and second, they had a stem change in the tú, Ud., and Uds. forms.

This notion of a stem change will become quite familiar to you over time, as many Spanish verbs are stem changing in every form exept nosotros/as and vosotros/as..

Let’s go back and review what a stem is. The stem of a verb is the part of the verb that is left once you take away the –ar, -er, or –ir ending. In regular verbs, the stem does not change no matter what ending you add on to it..

However, in stem changing verbs, the stem will change in every form but two. There are three common types of stem changing verbs: ‘e’ to ‘ie’, ‘e’ to ‘i’, and ‘o’ to ‘ue.’.

Review the following examples:

 
e to ie Comenzar
e to i MEDIR
o to ue DORMIR
 
to begin
to measure
to sleep
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Yo
comienzo
mido
duermo
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comienzas
mides
duermes
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Ud., él, ella
comienza
mide
duerme
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Nosotros/as
comenzamos
medimos
dormimos
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Vosotros/as
comenzáis
medéis
dormís
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Uds., ellos, ellas
comienzan
miden
duermen

Por ejemplo:

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Mis primos duermen mucho.
My cousins sleep a lot.
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Mido mi altura todas las semanas.
I measure my height every week.
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Nosotros comenzamos el juego.
We start the game.

A Rare Stem Change: i to ie

The stem change patterns above are the most common, but you will find a few verbs that make a different stem change: from i to ie.

 
ADQUIRIR
INQUIRIR
 
to acquire
to inquire
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yo
adquiero
inquiero
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adquieres
inquieres
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Ud., él, ella
adquiere
inquiere
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nosotros/as
adquirimos
inquirimos
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vosotros/as
adquirís
inquirís
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Uds., ellos, ellas
adquieren
inquieren

Por ejemplo:

1. Hoy tus padres adquieren una casa nueva.
- Today your parents acquire a new house.

2. Mi hermano inquiere sobre su equipo de fútbol.
- My brother inquires about his football team.

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Hoy tus padres adquieren una casa nueva.
Today your parents acquire a new house.
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Mi hermano inquiere sobre su equipo de fútbol.
My brother inquires about his football team.

Another Rare Stem Change: u to ue

A verb that you will use often in Spanish is jugar (to play). Jugar is a stem-changing verb with a u to ue stem change.

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Yo
juego
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juegas
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Ud., él, ella
juega
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Nosotros/as
jugamos
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Vosotros/as
jugáis
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Uds., ellos, ellas
juegan

Por ejemplo:

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Los niños juegan en el parque.
The kids play in the park.
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Jugamos con ellos.
We play with them.

Please note that jugar does not include the sense of playing music or an instrument. If you want to say that you play the guitar, you will use the verb tocar, as in, “Toco la guitarra.”

The Last and Strangest Stem Change: o to hue

Last of all, you should note that the verb oler (to smell) is also irregular. You’ll need to memorize this stem change if you want to talk of smelling the roses.

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Yo
huelo
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hueles
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Ud., él, ella
huele
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Nosotros/as
olemos
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Vosotros/as
oléis
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Uds., ellos, ellas
huelen

Por ejemplo:

In the next section we’ll work on more Spanish Irregular Verbs: Spanish Irregular Verbs in the "Yo" form.

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Huelo el aire del mar.
I smell the air from the sea.

In the next section we’ll work on more Spanish Irregular Verbs: Spanish Irregular Verbs in the "Yo" form.

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