The present tense and stem-changing verbs

Stem-changing verbs usually take the same endings as regular verbs but have a spelling change in their stem. The spelling change always affects a vowel, but only applies to the following parts of the verb:

  • I
  • you (singular)
  • he/she/you (polite)
  • they/you (polite plural)

There are four groups of stem-changing verbs.

e → iee → io → ueu → ue
querer: (to want)pedir: (to ask for)poder: (to be able/can)jugar: (to play)
(él/ella/usted) quierepidepuedejuega
(nosotros/as) queremospedimospodemosjugamos
(vosotros/as) queréispedíspodéisjugáis
Some people call these '1, 2, 3, 6 verbs' to help them remember that the stem only changes in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th forms of the verb.

Other e → ie stem-changing verbs include:

  • despertarse (to wake up) → me despierto (I wake up)
  • divertirse (to enjoy yourself) → me divierto (I enjoy myself)
  • empezar (to start) → empiezo (I start)
  • preferir (to prefer) → prefiero (I prefer)
  • nevar (to snow) → nieva (it snows)

Other e → i stem-changing verbs include:

  • repetir (to repeat) → repito (I repeat)
  • servir (to serve) → sirvo (I serve)
  • vestirse (to get dressed) → me visto (I get dressed)

Other o → ue stem-changing verbs include:

  • acostarse (to go to bed) → me acuesto (I go to bed)
  • dormir (to sleep) → duermo (I sleep)
  • encontrar (to find) → encuentro (I find)
  • volver (to return) → vuelvo (I return)
  • costar (to cost) → cuesta (it costs)
  • llover (to rain) → llueve (it rains)