Stem Change Verbs in Spanish: O - UE

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  • 0:01 Stem Changes in Spanish
  • 0:32 Regular Conjugations
  • 1:44 Stem Changing Verbs
  • 2:58 Stem Change O > Ue
  • 4:59 ?Vamos A Practicar!
  • 9:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Pablo Serna

Pablo has taught college Spanish at the University of Missouri and Central Methodist University, and has a master's degree in Spanish literature.

In this lesson, we will talk about stem change in Spanish and how it works when conjugating certain verbs. We will focus on the o > ue stem change in the present tense. We will also practice vocabulary related to describing the house.

Stem Changes in Spanish

Spanish has a lot of tenses, grammar rules and exceptions to those rules. That is why Spanish is not the easiest language, but that's why we are studying it! In this lesson, we will talk about stem changes for some verbs when conjugating them and more specifically about the o > ue change in the simple present. Mainly because of phonetics - how letters sound together - we see changes in some words and verbs in Spanish.

Regular Conjugations

In Spanish, there are three main groups of verbs, categorized by their endings: -ar, -er, and -ir. Most of the regular verbs in Spanish follow the general rules. These are some common regular verbs:

Verb in the infinitive Stem Ending Endings for simple present
Bailar bail- -ar -o, -as, -a, -amos, -áis, -an
Comer com- -er -o, -es, -e, -emos, -éis, -en
Vivir viv- -ir o, -es, -e, -imos, -is, -en

All verbs that are regular follow the same rules for the tense in which they are conjugated. You need to use the stem of the verb, removing the -ar, -er, or -ir part and then adding the ending on the table above.

Stem Changing Verbs

Now, stem changing verbs are a little more difficult. We cannot use the regular stem after removing the -ar/ -er/ -ir parts. Some changes happen to the stems also. There are three main stem changes in the present: o > ue, e > ie, and e > i. All forms but the nosotros and vosotros forms change their stem.

Let's see some examples:

o > ue: dormir = yo duermo, tú duermes, él/ella/usted duerme, nosotros dormimos, vosotros dormís, and ellos/ustedes duermen.

e > ie: pensar = pienso, piensas, piensa, pensamos, pensáis, piensan

e > i: pedir = pido, pides, pide, pedimos, pedís, piden

For this lesson, we will focus on the o > ue change.

Stem Change O > UE

Some common verbs that have the o > ue stem change are:

  • poder (to be able)
  • dormir (to sleep)
  • contar (to count/recount a story)
  • almorzar (to eat lunch)
  • volar (to fly)
  • volver (to return/come or go back)
  • morir (to die)
  • encontrar (to find)
  • mostrar (to show)

Let's conjugate the first one:

Poder (to be able)
yo puedo nosotros podemos
tú puedes vosotros podéis
él/ella/usted puede ellos pueden

Now it's your chance to complete this chart with other verbs:

Person\Verb dormir contar almorzar

yo duermo (blank) (blank)

(blank) cuentas almuerzas

él/ella/usted (blank) cuenta (blank)

nosotros dormimos (blank) (blank)

vosotros (blank) (blank) almorzáis

ustedes/ellos (blank) cuentan almuerzan

¡Vamos a Practicar!

Felipe and Alejandro are brothers and they are talking about some chores their parents asked them to do because they need some extra money to buy tickets for a concert.

Felipe: Bueno Alejandro, mira la lista. Tenemos muchas tareas y oficios (chores) que hacer en la casa (house). Pero tú y yo volamos (common expression in Spanish to say that you do something quickly) haciendo cosas juntos. Yo puedo empezar con los dormitorios de los invitados (guest room) y tú con el baño (bathroom).

Alejandro: ?Y por qué yo el baño?

Felipe: Porque yo soy mayor (older) que tú. Cuándo termines, nos encontramos aquí en la sala (living room).

Alejandro: Está bien. Pero yo almuerzo primero en el comedor (dining table/room) porque tengo mucha hambre (I'm very hungry).

Let's answer the first set of questions:

1. ?Dónde puede empezar a limpiar Alejandro?

  • Puede empezar en el baño.

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