Stem-Changing Verbs

In all three conjugations of verbs (-ar, -er, and -ir) there are some verbs whose vowels change within the stem. These stem-changes occur in all persons except nosotros and vosotros. These two persons maintain the regular stem. There are six varieties of stem-changes: e-ie, o-ue, e-i, i-ie, u-ue, o-hue. Each of these is described below with examples.

1. E to IE

This is the most common stem change for Spanish verbs.

Check it out below with querer  (to want):

quiero
 
queremos
 
quieres
 
queréis
 
quiere
 
quieren
 

The Boot!

As you can see, the stem change is only applied in 1st, 2nd, 3rd person singular and 3rd person plural, forming the shape of a boot in the conjugation chart. The "boot" is a good way to remember which persons have the stem change.

Some Common E-IE Verbs

SpanishEnglish
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(se)
 
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 (en)
 
to think (about)
perder
 
to lose
preferir
 
to prefer
querer
 
to want
recomendar
 
to recommend
remendar
 
to mend/patch
sentar(se)
 
to sit down
sentir
 
to feel
sugerir
 
to suggest
tropezar (con)
 
to stumble (into, across)

2. O to UE

This is the second most common stem change after e-ie.

Check it out below with soñar  (to dream):

sueño
 
soñamos
 
sueñas
 
soñáis
 
sueña
 
sueñan
 

Some Common O to UE Verbs

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 (something)
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

3. E to I

Let's check out the change from e-i in repetir  (to repeat):

repito
 
repetimos
 
repites
 
repetís
 
repite
 
repiten
 

Some Common E to I Verbs

conseguir
 
to get
corregir
 
to correct
despedir
 
to fire/to say goodbye
elegir
 
to elect
impedir
 
to impede
medir
 
to measure
perseguir
 
to follow
repetir
 
to repeat
reírse (de)
 
to laugh/make fun of
seguir
 
to follow
servir
 
to serve
sonreírse
 
to smile
vestirse
 
to get dressed

4. I to IE

There are only two commonly used verbs whose stem changes from i-ie:

adquirir
 
(to acquire)
inquirir
 
(to inquire)
adquiero
 
adquirimos
 
inquiero
 
inquirimos
 
adquieres
 
adquirís
 
inquieres
 
inquirís
 
adquiere
 
adquieren
 
inquiere
 
inquieren
 

5. U to UE

There is only one commonly used verb whose stem changes from u-ue, and it is a very common verb: jugar  (to play).

juego
 
jugamos
 
juegas
 
jugáis
 
juega
 
juegan
 

6. O to HUE

There is only one commonly used verb whose stem changes from o-hue: oler  (to smell).

huelo
 
olemos
 
hueles
 
oléis
 
huele
 
huelen
 

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