Grammar 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 come

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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