The irregular present tense in Spanish: Vowel changes

The irregular present tense in Spanish: The 4 Vowel changes

In a previous article we learnt how to conjugate verbs in the Spanish present tense, (regular verbs). We just needed to change the ending (-ar, -er, -ir) but the stem remained the same. Today, let’s learn The irregular present tense in Spanish: Vowel changes.

These verbs have changes that take place in both the stem and the conjugation ending. Specifically, these verbs suffer a change in a vowel of their stem. This irregularity is repeated in all persons, except nosotros/as and vosotros/as.

We can classify them in four groups:

E<IE, E<I, O<UE, U<UE

1. Vowel change (E<IE)

The first group of stem-changing verbs involves changing the stem’s (e) to (ie) in all forms but nosotros and vosotros. Their endings for conjugation remain regular.

The irregular present tense in Spanish: Vowel changes

Examples

Yo no entiendo al profesor.I don’t understand the teacher.
Nosotros no entendemos al profesor.We don’t understand the teacher.

Other verbs with this vowel change:

QUERER (want, love)

quiero, quieres, quiere, queremos, queréis, quieren

PENSAR (think)

pienso, piensas, piensa, pensamos, pensáis, piensan

CERRAR (close)

cierro, cierras, cierra, cerramos, cerráis, cierran

PREFERIR (prefer)

prefiero, prefieres, prefiere, preferimos, preferís, prefieren

MERENDAR (have tea)

SENTIR ( feel)

Check out this previous post where we learnt the vowel change e<ie with the verb to prefer: How to speak about preferences in Spanish

2. Vowel change (E<I)

The second group of stem-changing verbs involves changing the (e) in the stem to an (i) in all forms (except with nosotros and vosotros). This type is found only in -ir verbs.

Examples

Yo pido un café en el bar.I order a coffee in the bar.
Vosotros pedís un café en el bar.You order a coffee in the bar.

Other verbs with this vowel change:

SEGUIR (follow)

sigo, sigues, sigue, seguimos, seguís, siguen

REPETIR (repeat)

repito, repites, repite, repetimos, repetís, repiten

SERVIR (serve)

sirvo, sirves, sirve, servimos, servís, sirven

CONSEGUIR (get / achieve)

SONREIR (smile)

3. Vowel change (O<UE)

The third group of stem-changing verbs involves changing the stem’s o to ue in all forms but nosotros an vosotros.

The irregular present tense in Spanish: Vowel changes

Examples

Ella duerme unas nueve horas diarias.She sleep about nine hours a day.
Nosotros dormimos unas nueve horas diarias.We sleep about nine hours a day.

Other verbs with this vowel change:

VOLVER (come back, return)

vuelvo, vuelves, vuelve, volvemos, volvéis, vuelven

SOÑAR (dream)

sueño, sueñas, sueña, soñamos, soñáis, sueñan

MOVER (move)

muevo, mueves, mueve, movemos, movéis, mueven

PODER (can)

CONTAR (tell)

ENCONTRAR (find)

4. Vowel change (U<UE)

Good news! Jugar is the only verb with this vowel change.

Examples

Los niños juegan con los juguetes.Children play with toys.
Vosotros jugáis al tenis muy bien.You play tennis very well.

Summary

The irregular present tense in Spanish: Vowel changes

The irregular present in Spanish: Vowel changes

Do you want to download this infographic? Click here!

The irregular present tense in Spanish: Vowel changes

Let’s practice with some interactive exercises. Ready?

Do you have doubts about the conjugation of some verbs in Spanish? One of my favourite online tools to check the Spanish conjugation is WordReference.

😉 Do you want to practice more the irregular present tense in Spanish: Vowel changes? Write in comments four sentences using the vowel changes mentioned in this post.

I will check if them are all right, and I will correct you!

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