Spanish Lessons for Learning
Spanish Grammar

   

Lesson 8:  Irregular verbs II: Stem changing verbs

 

            By now you’ve learned a few irregular patterns for Spanish verbs as well as the procedure for stem changing.  There are a few irregular stem-changing verbs, but you’ll find that even their irregularity is consistent with other verb patterns we’ve studied so far.  Study this chart of irregular[1] yo forms:

 

tener

to have

yo tengo

venir

to come

yo vengo

decir

to say, to tell

yo digo

oír

to hear

yo oigo

seguir

to follow, to continue

yo sigo

conseguir

to get, to obtain

yo consigo

perseguir

to follow after

( to follow someone around)

yo persigo

 

 

Like many verbs with irregular yo forms, the first four verbs on this list add a g to the stem.  Tener and venir have an e–ie stem change in the present tense as well as an irregular yo form.  Decir has an e–i stem change with an irregular yo form.  Armed with this information, you should be able to conjugate tener, venir and decir in the present tense.  Three verb trees are provided at the end of the lesson for you to flex your verb conjugating muscles.  You may want to interrupt yourself now and finish the rest of the lesson later; otherwise, be sure to complete this practice before moving on to Lesson 9.

 

            The verb oír adds either a g or a y to the forms inside the “boot.”  This verb has similarities with other irregular and stem-changing verbs, but it combines familiar patterns in a unique way.  I find that simply memorizing these forms is the simplest way to learn them:

 

oír

yo oigo

nosotros oímos

 

tú oyes

 

 

él

ella oye

Ud.

ellos

ellas oyen

Uds.

 

Notice that there is no written accent in any of the forms inside the “boot.”  The pronunciation changes because of the written accent.  Oír sounds like “oh-ear” and most conjugated forms preserve this sound: “oh-yay,” “oh-ee-mos,” etc.  The yo form sounds like “oy-go.”  It’s interesting (at least to me) that the Spanish language has permitted the pronunciation to be corrupted in this way; a simple written accent would have made the yo form “oh-ee-go.”  Whatever the reason, there is no written accent in the yo form, and the pronunciation is noticeably different from the rest of the present tense forms.  Apparently, oír follows its own drummer.

 

            Seguir, conseguir and perseguir all follow the rules for e–i stem-changing verbs; their inclusion in this section is somewhat unfair, because their apparent irregularity comes from following all the rules of written Spanish.  In Spanish, the consonant g may be pronounced like the [g] in gold and gather, or else like the [h] in ham and horse.  As you may have guessed, there are specific spelling rules dictating when to pronounce this consonant as the English [g] and when to pronounce it as the English [h].  Here are the rules:

 

ga

“gah”

ge

“hay”

gi

“hee”

go

“go”

gu

“goo”

 

So what happens when you need to pronounce “gay” and “gee?”  The Spanish language adds a silent u to preserve the [g] sound.  Observe:

 

gue

“gay”

gui

“gee” (like McGee)

 

I and U are weak vowels in Spanish, and they do well with silent partners.  A, E, and O are stronger; the addition of a u changes the pronunciation, as you can see here:

 

gua

“gwah”

guo

“gwoh”

guu

“gwoo?” “goo-oo?”  Tough call!

 

In all cases, and as you saw with oír, both vowel sounds would be preserved with a written accent.  “Gwah” and “gwoh” are the correct pronunciations in lenguaje and antiguo, and therefore no accent is necessary.  You will sometimes see two dots over the vowel u.  These dots are called an umlaut, and they allow the weak vowels to function the way stronger vowels do when paired with a u.[2]  In the word antigüedad, the güe sounds like “gway.”  This language seems to have thought of everything!

 

            Getting back to verbs, you can see in this verb tree that seguir follows all the rules for preserving the g pronunciation, and therefore must alter its spelling in the yo form.  This verb therefore breaks the rules to follow the rules.

 

seguir

yo sigo

nosotros seguimos

 

tú sigues

 

 

él

ella sigue

Ud.

ellos

ellas siguen

Uds.

 

Conseguir and perseguir function the exact same way.

 

            At this point, I’ve introduced almost all you need to know to work with present tense verbs, yet there are still three lessons left for this tense.  Before moving onto to reflexive verbs, we’ll deal with four verbs whose idiosyncracies require more than a simple verb tree—and by “simple,” I mean “basic.”  Understanding verb forms is key to making sense of Spanish, not to mention making sense in Spanish. 

 


 

Practice

 

Fill in all of the present-tense forms of these three verbs.  Use Lessons 7 and 8 for reference.

 

                              tener 

yo ____________

nosotros ___________

 

tú ____________

 

 

él

ella ____________

Ud.

ellos

ellas ____________

Uds.

 

 

                              venir 

yo ____________

nosotros ___________

 

tú ____________

 

 

él

ella ____________

Ud.

ellos

ellas ____________

Uds.

 

 

                              decir 

yo ____________

nosotros ___________

 

tú ____________

 

 

él

ella ____________

Ud.

ellos

ellas ____________

Uds.

 

 

Rewrite this paragraph, changing all verbs to the yo form.  For extra credit, translate.

 

            Tenemos un carro blanco.  Siempre seguimos la ley.  Cuando oímos una ambulancia, la dejamos pasar.  Perseguimos a las personas peligrosas.   Les decimos a la gente, <<¡Cuidado!>>  ¿Por qué?  Porque somos la policía.


 

Answers

 

tener

venir

decir

tengo

tenemos

vengo

venimos

digo

decimos

tienes

vienes

dices

tiene

tienen

viene

vienen

dice

dicen

 

 

            Tengo un carro blanco.  Siempre sigo la ley.  Cuando oigo una ambulancia, la dejo pasar.  Persigo a las personas peligrosas.   Les digo a la gente, <<¡Cuidado!>>  ¿Por qué?  Porque soy la policía.

 

            I have a white car.  I always follow the law.  When I hear an ambulance, I let it go by.  I follow dangerous people.  I tell people, “Be careful!”  Why?  Because I am the police. 

 

The last sentence is awkward, I know.  It would sound better to say, “Porque soy un/una policía,” “I am a police officer.”

 


 

[1] While seguir, conseguir and perseguir are not strictly considered irregular, their yo forms delete the letter u from the verb stem.  The reason is explained later in the lesson; instead of “irregular,” it may be more accurate to call these three “special circumstance” stem-changing verbs!

[2] Gerald Erichsen has created an extraordinarily detailed lesson on written accents at http://spanish.about.com/library/weekly/aa080299.htm

 

 Denise Pettek is the author of this Spanish lesson.  
 


 

 


We hope that you enjoyed this online Spanish class. If you are a webmaster, please feel free to link to this web page. You can learn more about how you can start speaking real Latin American Spanish with Learning Spanish Like Crazy Level One  by clicking here. Or you can learn more about Learning Spanish Like Crazy Nivel Dos  by clicking here.

 


 

Fill Out the Form Below and Invite a Friend to This Site, If You Think It Can Help Him or Her Learn Spanish

* = Required form fields

Your Name:*    Your E-mail Address:* 
 
Friend's First Name:*   Friend's Last Name:
  Friend's E-mail Address:* 
 
Comment:  Please feel free to change the content of the box below