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Preterite Tense Conjugation of Stem-Changing Verbs

When "regular verbs" are conjugated the ending changes and the front part (a.k.a. stem or root) doesn’t change. When "stem-changing verbs" are conjugated the stem changes. Most stem-changing verbs follow a few rules when conjugated, however, there are some verbs that don't follow a consistent rule when they are conjugated, and these are called, "irregular verbs". The verbs that change from “e” to “ie” and “o” to “ue” ending in “ar” and “er” are regular in the preterit tense as are the verbs ending in “cer”.

Fortunately, most stem-changing verbs follow a few rules when they are conjugated.

1.      Change the "o" to "u" in the stem but only for the subjects "Usted/él/ella" and "Ustedes/Ellos/Ellas". The other subjects are conjugated as a regular verb. For example:

Spanish

Spanish

English

Subject

Infinitive: Dormir

To sleep

Yo

Dormí

I slept

Dormiste

You slept

Usted/él/ella

Durmió

You (formal)/He/She slept

Nosotros

Dormimos

We slept

Ustedes/Ellos/Ellas

Durmieron

You (plural)/They slept

 

Here is a list of stem-changing verbs that follow this rule:

Spanish

English

Dormir

To sleep

Morir

To die

 

 

2.      Change the "e" to "i" in the stem but only for the subjects "Usted/él/ella" and "Ustedes/Ellos/Ellas". The other subjects are conjugated as a regular verb. For example:

Spanish

Spanish

English

Subject

Infinitive: Pedir

To ask

Yo

Pedí

I asked

Pediste

You asked

Usted/él/ella

Pidió

You (formal)/He/She asked

Nosotros

Pedimos

We asked

Ustedes/Ellos/Ellas

Pidieron

You (plural)/They asked

 

Here is a list of stem-changing verbs that follow this rule:

Spanish

English

Mentir

To lie

Reír

To laugh

Sonreír

To smile

Servir

To serve

Seguir

To follow/to continue

 

3.      For verbs that end in "car" change "c" to "qu" but only for the subject "yo". The other subjects are conjugated as a regular verb. For example:

Spanish

Spanish

English

Subject

Infinitive: Buscar

To look for

Yo

Busqué

I looked for

Buscaste

You looked for

Usted/él/ella

Buscó

You (formal)/He/She looked for

Nosotros

Buscamos

We looked for

Ustedes/Ellos/Ellas

Buscaron

You (plural) speak/They looked for

 

Here is a list of stem-changing verbs that follow this rule:

Spanish

English

Colocar

To put in place

Explicar

To explain

Practicar

To practice

Sacar

To take out

Tocar

To touch

 

 

4.      For verbs that end in "gar" change the "g" to "gu" but only for the subject "yo". The other subjects are conjugated as a regular verb. For example:

Spanish

Spanish

English

Subject

Infinitive: Llegar

To arrive

Yo

Llegué

I arrived

Llegaste

You arrived

Usted/él/ella

Llegó

You (formal)/He/She arrived

Nosotros

Llegamos

We arrived

Ustedes/Ellos/Ellas

Llegaron

You (plural) speak/They arrived

 

Here is a list of stem-changing verbs that follow this rule:

Spanish

English

Castigar

To punish

Juzgar

To judge

Pagar

To pay

 

For verbs that end in "zar" change the "z" to "c" but only for the subject "yo". The other subjects are conjugated as a regular verb. For example:

Spanish

Spanish

English

Subject

Infinitive: Abrazar

To hug

Yo

Abracé

I hugged

Abraste

You hugged

Usted/él/ella

Abrazó

You (formal)/He/She hugged

Nosotros

Abrazamos

We hugged

Ustedes/Ellos/Ellas

Abrazaron

You (plural) speak/They hugged

 

Here is a list of stem-changing verbs that follow this rule:

Spanish

English

Abrazar

To hug

Alcanzar

To reach

Alzar

To raise

Realizar

To realize (achieve a goal)

Tropezar

To trip

 

 

5.      For verbs that end in "uir" change the "i" to "y" but only for the subjects "Usted/él/ella" and "Ustedes/Ellos/Ellas". The other subjects are conjugated as a regular verb. For example:

 

Spanish

Spanish

English

Subject

Infinitive: Construir

To construct

Yo

Construí

I constructed

Construiste

You constructed

Usted/él/ella

Construyó

You (formal)/He/She constructed

Nosotros

Construimos

We constructed

Ustedes/Ellos/Ellas

Construyeron

You (plural) speak/They constructed

 

Here is a list of stem-changing verbs that follow this rule:

Spanish

English

Destruir

To destroy

Incluir

To include

Huir

To flee

Sustituir

To replace