Spanish Stem Changing Verbs

Being able to identify verbs in Spanish and how to properly change their stem, will help you greatly in order to improve your communication skills. Since you already know what a verb is, let's talk about the different ways in which the verbs can be conjugated by identifying the stem of the verbs and their endings; also known as 'stem change.'

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 (to begin)

Yo comienzo

I begin

Tú comienzas

You begin

Usted comienza

You (formal) begin

Él comienza

He begins

Ella comienza

She begins

Nosotros comenzamos

We (masc.) begin

Nosotras comenzamos

We (fem.) begin

Vosotros comenzáis

You (pl. masc.) begin

Vosotras comenzáis

You (pl. fem.) begin

Ustedes comienzan

You (plural) begin

Ellos comienzan

They (masc.) begin

Ellas comienzan

They (fem.) begin

e to i MEDIR (to measure)

Yo mido

I measure

Tú mides

You measure

Usted mide

You (polite) measure

Él mide

He measures

Ella mide

She measures

Nosotros medimos

We (masc.) measure

Nosotras medimos

We (fem.) measure

Vosotros medís

You (pl. masc.) measure

Vosotras medís

You (pl. fem.) measure

Ustedes miden

You (plural) measure

Ellos miden

They (masc.) measure

Ellas miden

They (fem.) measure

o to ue DORMIR (to sleep)

Yo duermo

I sleep

Tú duermes

You sleep

Usted duerme

You (polite) sleep

Él duerme

He sleeps

Ella duerme

She sleeps

Nosotros dormimos

We (masc.) sleep

Nosotras dormimos

We (fem.) sleep

Vosotros dormís

You (pl. masc.) sleep

Vosotras dormís

You (pl. fem.) sleep

Ustedes duermen

You (polite) sleep

Ellos duermen

They (masc.) sleep

Ellas duermen

They (fem.) sleep

Por ejemplo:

Mis primos duermen mucho.

My cousins sleep a lot.

Mido mi altura todas las semanas.

I measure my height every week.

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 - to acquire.

Yo adquiero

I acquire

Tú adquieres

You acquire

Usted adquiere

You (polite) acquire

Él adquiere

He acquires

Ella adquiere

She acquires

Nosotros adquirimos

We (masc.) acquire

Nosotras adquirimos

We (fem.) acquire

Vosotros adquirís

You (pl. masc.) acquire

Vosotras adquirís

You (pl. fem.) acquire

Ustedes adquieren

You (plural) acquire

Ellos adquieren

They (masc.) acquire

Ellas adquieren

They (fem.) acquire

Inquirir - to inquire or to investigate

Yo inquiero

I inquire

Tú inquieres

You inquire

Usted inquiere

You (polite) inquire

Él inquiere

He inquires

Ella inquiere

She inquires

Nosotros inquirimos

We (masc.) inquire

Nosotras inquirimos

We (fem.) inquire

Vosotros inquirís

You (pl. masc.) inquire

Vosotras inquirís

You (pl. fem.) inquire

Ustedes inquieren

You (plural) inquire

Ellos inquieren

They (masc.) inquire

Ellas inquieren

They (fem.) inquire

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.

Hoy tus padres adquieren una casa nueva.

Today your parents acquire a new house.

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.

Yo juego

I play

Tú juegas

You play (sing/inf)

Usted juega

You (formal) play

Él juega

He plays

Ella juega

She plays

Nosotros jugamos

We (masc.) play

Nosotras jugamos

We (fem.) play

Vosotros jugáis

You (pl. masc.) play

Vosotras jugáis

You (pl. fem.) play

Ustedes juegan

You (plural) play

Ellos juegan

They (masc.) play

Ellas juegan

They (fem.) play

Por ejemplo:

Los niños juegan en el parque.

The kids play in the park.

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.

Yo huelo

I smell

Tú hueles

You smell (sing/inf)

Usted huele

You (formal) smell

Él huele

He smells

Ella huele

She smells

Nosotros olemos

We (masc.) smell

Nosotras olemos

We (fem.) smell

Vosotros oléis

You (pl. masc.) smell

Vosotras oléis

You (pl. fem.) smell

Ustedes huelen

You (plural) smell

Ellos huelen

They (masc.) smell

Ellas huelen

They (fem.) smell

Por ejemplo:

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

Huelo el aire del mar.

I smell the air from the sea.


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