Irregular Present Tense Verbs in Spanish

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  • 0:00 Irregular Present Tense Verbs
  • 0:57 Complete Irregulars
  • 1:55 Stem Changing Verbs
  • 6:20 Verbs Ending in '-Go'
  • 9:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Zehel

Ashley has a M.A. in Spanish as well as a B.S. in Foreign Language Education. She has taught K-12 and now teaches college level.

When expressing yourself in the present tense in Spanish, you're bound to need to communicate using an irregular verb or two. This lesson will provide an overview of different types of irregular present tense verbs, from stem changers to complete irregulars.

Irregular Present Tense Verbs

Irregular verbs are verbs that, when conjugated, don't follow the normal conjugation patterns that usually just change the ending of the verb. Instead, the entire verb may change completely or just a portion of it will be altered.

Many of the most commonly used verbs in Spanish are irregulars. This may sound daunting, but the good news is that because they are used so much, it's easy to get the hang of them.

Some verbs are complete irregulars, meaning their conjugations don't follow an exact pattern. Other irregular verbs have more predictable irregularities, such as a change in vowels when conjugated or an irregular ending. The more predictable irregulars include -go verbs and stem-changing verbs. We'll go over what all of these are in the categories in the next sections.

Complete Irregulars

The following verbs are completely irregular and pretty common, so you've probably heard or said them before. For each of these, the entire verb changes and doesn't follow normal conjugation patterns.

First, we'll look at ser, which means 'to be.'

yo soy nosotros/as somos
eres vosotros/as soís
él, ella, usted es ellos, ellas, ustedes son

Now let's take a look at ir, which means 'to go.'

yo voy nosotros/as vamos
vas vosotros/as vaís
él, ella, usted va ellos, ellas, ustedes van

Stem Changing Verbs

Some verbs just have a change in the stem of the word. This is the part of the verb before the -ar, -er, and -ir ending. For example, with the verb poder, the stem would be pod-. When stem-changers are conjugated, the vowel closest to the -ar, -er, or -ir ending changes in the yo, tú, él, ella, usted, and ellos, ellas, ustedes forms. The nosotros/as and vosotros/as forms never experience a stem change. The regular -ar, -er, and -ir ending conjugations still apply.

The three categories of stem-changing verbs are verbs with an o in the stem that changes to a ue (o:ue stem changers), those with an e in the stem that changes to an ie (e:ie stem changers), and those with an e in the stem that changes to an i (e:i stem changers).

Let's first take a look at the o:ue stem changing verbs. The following verbs all have an o in the stem that changes to ue when conjugated in the yo, tú, él, ella, usted, and ellos, ellas, ustedes forms.

Let's take a look at the forms of almorzar, which means 'to have lunch.'

yo almuerzo nosotros/as almorzamos
almuerzas vosotros/as almorzaís
él, ella, usted almuerza ellos, ellas, ustedes almuerzan

Some other examples include:

  • Contar, meaning 'to count' or 'to tell'
  • Dormir, meaning 'to sleep'
  • Encontrar, meaning 'to find'
  • Mostrar, meaning 'to show'
  • Poder, meaning 'to be able to'
  • Recordar, meaning 'to remember'
  • Volver, meaning 'to return'
  • Jugar, meaning 'to play.' This is a special case because it's the only verb to change from u to ue. It follows the same pattern of o:ue stem changers.

yo juego nosotros/as jugamos
juegas vosotros/as jugaís
él, ella, usted juega ellos, ellas, ustedes juegan

Now let's take a look at some verbs with e:ie stem changers.

The following verbs all have an e in the stem that changes to ie when conjugated in the yo, tú, él, ella, usted, and ellos, ellas, ustedes forms.

Let's take a look at the verb cerrar, which means 'to close.'

yo cierro nosotros/as cerramos
cierras vosotros/as cerraís
él, ella, usted cierra ellos, ellas, ustedes cierran
  • Comenzar, which means 'to begin'
  • Empezar, which also means 'to begin'
  • Entender, which means 'to understand'
  • Pensar, which means 'to think'
  • Perder, which means 'to lose'
  • Preferir, which means 'to prefer'
  • Querer, which means 'to want'

Finally, let's take a look at some e:i stem changing verbs.

The following verbs all have an e in the stem that changes to i when conjugated in the yo, tú, él, ella, usted, and ellos, ellas, ustedes forms.

Let's take a closer look at pedir, which means 'to ask for.'

yo pido nosotros/as pedimos
pides vosotros/as pedís
él, ella, usted pide ellos, ellas, ustedes piden

Another example of an e:i stem changing verb is repetir, which means 'to repeat.'

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