Language Guide
Verbs
Stem-Changing Verbs

Stem-Changing Verbs

Quick Answer

Stem-changing verbs in the present tense use the same endings as regular -ar, -er, and -ir verbs when conjugated, but undergo a vowel change in the last syllable of the stem.

In this article, we'll take a look at the following present tense stem changes:

  • e > ie changes
  • o > ue changes
  • e > i changes
  • i > ie changes
  • u > ue changes

Looking for an introduction to the present tense in Spanish? Check out our article on Spanish present tense forms.

1. e > ie Changes

This type of stem change affects the largest number of verbs. For verbs in this group, the e in the last syllable of the stem changes to ie. Check out an example of this in the conjugation table for the verb querer  (to want).

Keep in mind that "the last syllable of the stem" refers to the only syllable in the stem in verbs like cerrar and pensar.

Present Simple Conjugation Table for Querer

quiero
 
queremos
 
quieres
 
queréis
 
quiere
 
quieren
 

The Boot

Present tense stem changes do not apply to nosotros and vosotros forms. These two forms maintain the form of the infinitive stem. If you think of the way many traditional verb tables are presented (see the conjugation table of querer above), you'll notice that the four verb conjugations that do undergo a stem change make the form of a rudimentary boot (or an "L"). This is a neat way to remember which verbs undergo a stem change.

Common Verbs with e > ie Changes

SpanishEnglishSpanishEnglish
acertar
 
to guess
atender
 
to attend to
atravesar
 
to cross
calentar
 
to warm
cerrar
 
to close
comenzar
 
to begin
confesar
 
to confess
helar
 
to freeze
defender
 
to defend
descender
 
to descend
despertarse
 
to wake up
divertirse
 
to have fun
empezar
 
to begin
encender
 
to light/ignite
encerrar
 
to enclose
entender
 
to understand
fregar
 
to scrub/wash
gobernar
 
to govern
mentir
 
to lie
negar
 
to deny
nevar
 
to snow
pensar
 
to think
perder
 
to lose
preferir
 
to prefer
recomendar
 
to recommend
remendar
 
to mend/patch
sentar(se)
 
to sit down
sentir
 
to feel
sugerir
 
to suggest
tener
 
to have
tropezar
 
to stumble
venir
 
to suggest

The yo forms of venir and tener are irregular. The yo form of venir is vengo  (I come), while the yo form of tener is tengo  (I have).

2. o > ue Changes

For verbs in this group, the o in the last syllable of the stem changes to ue. Check out an example of this in the conjugation table for the verb soñar  (to dream).

Present Simple Conjugation Table for Soñar

sueño
 
soñamos
 
sueñas
 
soñáis
 
sueña
 
sueñan
 

Common Verbs with o > ue Changes

absolver
 
to absolve
acordarse (de)
 
to agree on
almorzar
 
to have lunch
aprobar
 
to approve
cocer
 
to boil/bake
colgar
 
to hang (up)
conmover
 
to move
contar
 
to count
costar
 
to cost
demoler
 
to demolish
demostrar
 
to demonstrate/prove
devolver
 
to return
disolver
 
to dissolve
doler
 
to hurt
dormir
 
to sleep
encontrar
 
to find
envolver
 
to wrap
llover
 
to rain
morder
 
to bite
moler
 
to grind
morir
 
to die
mostrar
 
to show
mover
 
to move
poder
 
to be able to
probar
 
to taste, to prove
promover
 
to promote
recordar
 
to remember
remover
 
to remove
resolver
 
to resolve
retorcer
 
to twist
revolver
 
to mix/shake
rogar
 
to beg
soler
 
to be accustomed to
sonar
 
to sound
soñar
 
to dream
torcer
 
to twist
tronar
 
to thunder
volar
 
to fly

Watch out for oler  (to smell). The letter h is also added to the present tense forms of this verb that undergo a stem change.

Present Simple Conjugation Table for Oler

huelo
 
olemos
 
hueles
 
oléis
 
huele
 
huelen
 

3. e > i Changes

For verbs in this group, the e in the last syllable of the stem changes to i. Check out an example of this in the conjugation table for the verb repetir  (to repeat).

Present Simple Conjugation Table for Repetir

repito
 
repetimos
 
repites
 
repetís
 
repite
 
repiten
 

Common Verbs with e > i Changes

conseguir
 
to get
corregir
 
to correct
decir
 
to say/tell
despedir
 
to fire/to say goodbye
elegir
 
to elect
impedir
 
to impede
medir
 
to measure
pedir
 
to ask for
perseguir
 
to follow
repetir
 
to repeat
reírse
 
to laugh
seguir
 
to follow
servir
 
to serve
sonreírse
 
to smile
vestirse
 
to get dressed

The yo forms of some of the above verbs are irregular.

  • The yo form of decir is digo  (I say).
  • The yo form of conseguir is consigo  (I get).
  • The yo form of elegir is elijo  (I choose).
  • The yo form of seguir is sigo  (I follow).
  • The yo form of reírse is me río  (I laugh). In fact, all present tense forms of reírse have an accent.

4. i > ie Changes

There are only two commonly-used verbs in this group: adquirir  (to acquire) and inquirir  (to inquire). Check out the conjugation table for these two verbs below below.

Present Simple Conjugation Table for Adquirir

adquiero
 
adquirimos
 
adquieres
 
adquirís
 
adquiere
 
adquieren
 

Present Simple Conjugation Table for Inquirir

inquiero
 
inquirimos
 
inquieres
 
inquirís
 
inquiere
 
inquieren
 

5. u > ue Changes

There is only one commonly-used verb in this group: jugar  (to play). Check out the conjugation table for the verb jugar below.

Present Simple Conjugation Table for Jugar

juego
 
jugamos
 
juegas
 
jugáis
 
juega
 
juegan
 

Prefixes Count

Verbs made up of any the above forms plus a prefix also undergo stem changes. Here are just a few examples.

SpanishEnglish
comprobar
 
to check/prove
descontar
 
to deduct/exclude
descolgar
 
to take down

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