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Week 4 Day 2: Stem-changing verbs

What’s in store for you today: Stem-changing Verbs

Today’s goals are:

●     To learn about stem-changing verbs

Listen to Track 4.2.1


Boy: Andrea, ¿qué quieres hacer hoy? (Andrea, what do you want to do today?)

Girl: Quiero salir con amigos. ¿Qué quieres hacer tú? (I want to go out with friends. What do you want to do?)

Boy: Quiero leer en casa. (I want to read at home.)

Girl: Vale. Esta noche yo salgo con amigos y tú lees en casa. (Okay. Tonight I [will] go out with friends and you [will] read at home.)

Boy: También, necesito fregar. (Also, I need to do the dishes.)

Girl: Yo puedo fregar, si quieres. (I can do the dishes, if you want.)

Boy. No te preocupes. Friego yo. (Don’t worry. I [will] do the dishes.)


Stem-changing Verbs

If you remember in the last lesson, when we talked about that very handy verb “decir,” we mentioned a group of verbs called “boot-shoe” or “stem-changing” verbs. Well, in today’s lesson, we’re going to really dive in and see what this group of verbs is all about!

For starters, there are three main groups* of “stem-changers.” They are:

  • e:i
  • o:ue
  • e:ie

*There are a few other stem-changers sprinkled throughout the Spanish language. But, for today, we’re going to focus on these, because they are the most frequent.

What all those letters up there mean is that when a stem*-changing verb falls into one of those categories, the vowel they contain (an e for example) will change when conjugated to specific persons (to i for example).

*If you remember, we talked about “verb stems” when we learned the –ar verbs.

Let’s start with the first group.


E:I Stem-changing Verbs

Listen to Track 4.2.2


We have already talked about the verb decir (“to say/to tell”). But there are a lot of others verbs that will fall into the category of e:i stem-changers. Some are very useful verbs, such as repetir (to repeat) or competir (to compete).

Let’s work with the verb pedir (to ask for) for now, though.



Yo pido

Nosotros/as pedimos

Tú pides

Vosotros/as pedís

Él/Ella/Usted pide

Ellos/as/Ustedes piden

Notice how the verb endings are the same as they would be for any other -ir verb.

Just as an example of how important it can be to remember your stem-changers, if you were to say this verb “pedir” in the 1st person singular without the stem change, you would actually be saying the noun “fart.”
(Pedo = fart).

So you definitely want to make sure you remember when to change those vowels!

Rules to Remember

If you remember, back at the beginning of this chapter, we referred to them as “boot-shoe” verbs as well. This is something that we do simply to make it easier for you to remember which of the persons carries the change. If you look at the chart above, and pay attention to the highlighted portions, you could say that it almost looks like a “boot” or a “shoe.” It may seem silly, but thinking of it this way is actually very helpful!

However you choose to remember it, though, what’s happening is this:

  • The stem-change happens in all persons except the 1st person plural (Nosotros/as) and 2nd person (familiar) plural (Vosotros/as).
  • This will be true for all of your stem-changing verbs.
  • -Ar verbs will still take -ar verb endings; -er verbs will still take -er verb endings; -ir verbs will still take -ir verb endings. The only thing that changes with the conjugations of these verbs is the stem.

Listen to Track 4.2.3


So, let’s go back to the verb decir and look at it again.


Yo digo

Nosotros/as decimos

Tú dices

Vosotros/as decís

Él/Ella/Usted dice

Ellos/as/Ustedes dicen


So, as you can see, “decir” is not only a -go verb, it’s also a “boot-shoe” – ”stem-changing” – verb.

Other common e:i stem-changing verbs

Listen to Track 4.2.4


Below, you’ll find a list of common e:i stem-changing verbs. Make sure you jot these down so you can study them later!

  • Reír – To laugh
  • Seguir* – To follow
  • Sonreír – To smile
  • Servir – To serve
  • Repetir – To repeat
  • Competir – To compete
  • Pedir – To ask for

*Note: Seguir is a little strange in the 1st person singular conjugation for pronunciation reasons. Just so you don’t get confused, here’s how it conjugates:


Yo sigo*

Nosotros/as seguimos

Tú sigues

Vosotros/as seguís

Él/Ella/Usted sigue

Ellos/as/Ustedes siguen

*Note how the “u” dropped. Again, this is for pronunciation reasons.


O:UE Stem-changing Verbs

Now that you understand the way stem-changing verbs work, the rest of this lesson will be pretty simple! It’s just a matter of remembering which verbs fall into which categories. (It might be a good idea to pull out some flashcards here and start jotting these things down!)

Listen to Track 4.2.5


The o:ue stem-changers work just like the e:i that we just saw. Here, we’ll find a whole slew of useful verbs – things like dormir (to sleep) and encontrar (to find). And we can’t forget one of the most used verbs in almost any language: poder (“to be able to” or you could even say “to can” – even though that doesn’t make sense in English). You need it to be able to say proudly, “yo puedo hablar español” (I can speak Spanish).

Let’s work with the verb poder so we can see how this group of verbs looks when conjugated.


Yo puedo

Nosotros/as podemos

Tú puedes

Vosotros podéis

Él/Ella/Usted puede

Ellos/as/Ustedes pueden

Other common o:ue stem-changing verbs

Listen to Track 4.2.6


Below, you’ll find a list of other common o:ue stem-changing verbs. Don’t forget to write them down!

  • Contar – To count
  • Mover – To move
  • Morir – To die
  • Volver – To return
  • Probar – To try
  • Soñar – To dream
  • Almorzar* – To have lunch
  • Dormir – To sleep
  • Encontrar – To find
  • Poder – To be able to

*As was mentioned before, in Spain, comer means to have lunch. Almorzar can mean (in some places in Spain) “mid-morning snack.”


E:IE Stem-changing Verbs

Listen to Track 4.2.7


You’ve made it to the last set of stem-changing verbs! In this set, you’ll find verbs like cerrar (to close) and entender (to understand). Have you ever heard anyone say, “no entiendo”? Well, now you know why! You’re also going to find another very common and very useful verb in this group: the verb querer (to want).


Yo quiero

Nosotros/as queremos

Tú quieres

Vosotros/as queréis

Él/Ella/Usted quiere

Ellos/as/Ustedes quieren


Notice how just the -e took the change. The “u” hung around 1) for pronunciation reasons and 2) because it’s not affected at all by the stem-change.

Other common e:ie stem-changing verbs

Listen to Track 4.2.8


Here are some more e:ie stem-changers you’re going to want to remember!

  • Mentir – To lie
  • Pensar – To think
  • Cerrar – To close
  • Entender – To understand
  • Encender – To turn on
  • Fregar* – To wash/To scrub
  • Comenzar – To begin
  • Perder – To lose
  • Querer – To want

* Fregar can mean both “to do the dishes” or simply just “to scrub” or “to wash.”


E:IE Bonus Words

Listen to Track 4.1.9


There are two more verbs we’re going to look at today: tener (to have) and venir (to come).

I’m sure you’re wondering why they’re in their own little category. The answer is simple! They are different than other e:ie stem-changers because they are also -go verbs.

Take a look:









An Important Grammar Note:

Now that you’ve learned a whole slew of new verbs, you can make a whole slew of new sentences. And those sentences you make may have more than one verb in them. If this happens, and you’re refering to the same subject, your first verb will be conjugated while the second remains in the infinitive form.


Today, we talked about stem-changing verbs.

We looked at three main groups:

  • E:I
  • O:UE
  • E:IE