Irregular verbs

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An irregular verb (verbo irregular in Spanish) is a verb whose conjugation doesn't follow one of the regular conjugation patterns of the language. Examples of irregular verbs in Spanish are: ser, ir, hacer, traducir, and traer.

Most comprehensive grammars and bilingual dictionaries have a section showing each class of irregular verb and cross-references from each dictionary entry to the appropriate model conjugation. A few of the most commonly-used verbs are irregular in unique ways. Most of the other irregular verbs follow one or more patterns of irregularity.

All regular verbs have one verb stem and use the regular endings for their class (-ar, -er, -ir) for all verb forms.

Irregular verbs may have irregular stems, irregular stems combined with irregular endings, irregular patterns of theme vowels, and alterations in spelling required by different spellings of certain sounds based on the sounds that follow.

Verbs with stem irregularities

Many verbs modify the verb stem in stereotypical ways, but use the regular endings for the verb's class.

Verbs that change a vowel in the stem

Many irregular verbs change the central vowel of the last syllable of stem in a characteristic way. Many grammars and language-teaching texts call these verbs stem-changing verbs or radical-changing verbs. There are three classes of verbs in this group of verb.

Type 1 stem-changing verbs change e -> ie, o -> ue, or u -> ue when stressed. All of these verbs are -ar or -er verbs. The affected forms are present indicative (1st singular, 2nd singular, 3rd singular & plural), present subjunctive (1st singular, 2nd singular, 3rd singular & plural), and imperative (singular). For example:

  • sentar
    • present indicative: siento, sientas, sienta, sentamos, sentáis, sientan
    • present subjunctive: siente, sientes, siente, sentemos, sentéis, sienten
    • imperative: sienta, sentad
  • contar
    • present indicative: cuento, cuentas, cuenta, contamos, contáis, cuentan
    • present subjunctive: cuente, cuentes, cuente, contemos, contéis, cuenten
    • imperative: cuenta, contad
  • jugar (Jugar is the only verb that changes u -> ue.)
    • present indicative: juego, juegas, juega, jugamos, jugáis, juegan
    • present subjunctive: juegue, juegues, juegue, juguemos, juguéis, jueguen
    • imperative: juega, jugad

Type 2 stem-changing verbs change e -> ie or o -> ue when stressed and change e -> i or o -> u in some other forms. All of these verbs are -ir verbs. The change from e -> ie or o -> ue affects the same forms as Type 1. The change from e -> i or from o -> u affects all of the remaining forms that are also affected in Type 3. For example:

  • sentir
    • present indicative siente, sientes, siente, sentemos, sentéis, sienten
    • present subjunctive: sienta, sientas, sienta, sintamos, sintáis, sientan
    • preterite: sentí, sentiste, sintió, sentimos, sentisteis, sintieron
    • past subjunctive -ra: sintiera, sintieras, sintiera, sintiéramos, sintierais, sintieran
    • past subjunctive -se: sintiese, sintieses, si'ntiese, sintiésemos, sintieseis, sintiesen
    • imperative: siente, sentid
    • present participle: sintiendo
  • dormir
    • present indicative: duermo, duermes, duerme, dormimos, dormís, duermen
    • present subjunctive: duerma, duermas, duerma, durmamos, durmáis, duerman
    • preterite: dormí, dormiste, durmió, dormimos, dormisteis, durmieron
    • past subjunctive -ra: durmiera, durmieras, durmiera, durmiéramos, durmierais, durmieran
    • past subjunctive -se: durmiese, durmieses, durmieses, durmiésemos, durmieseis, durmiesen
    • imperative: duerme, dormid
    • present participle: durmiendo

Type 3 stem-changing verbs change e -> i when stressed and in some other forms. All of these verbs are -ir verbs. The affected forms are present indicative (1st singular, 2nd singular, 3rd singular and plural), present subjunctive (all forms), preterit (3rd singular and plural), past subjunctive (all forms), imperative (singular), and the present participle. For example:

  • pedir
    • present indicative: pido, pides, pide, pedimos, pedís, piden
    • present subjunctive: pida, pidas, pida, pidamos, pidais, pidan
    • preterite: pedí, pediste, pidió, pedimos, pedisteis, pidieron
    • past subjunctive -ra: pidiera, pidieras, pidiera, pidiéramos, pidierais, pidieran
    • past subjunctive -se: pidiese, pidieses, pidiese, pidiésemos, pidieseis, pidiesen
    • imperative: pide, pedid
    • present participle: pidiendo
  • seguir
    • present indicative: sigo, sigues, sigue, seguimos, seguís, siguen
    • present subjunctive: siga, sigas, siga, sigamos, sigáis, sigan
    • preterite: seguí, seguiste, siguió, seguimos, seguisteis, siguieron
    • past subjunctive -ra: siguiera, siguieras, siguiera, siguiíeramos, siguierais, siguieran
    • past subjunctive -se: siguiese, siguieses, siguiese, siguiésemos, siguieseis, siguiesen
    • imperative: sigue, sequid
    • present participle: siguiendo

Verbs that extend the verb stem

Some verbs modify the stem by extending the stem by adding one or more sounds to the end of the infinitive stem.

Verbs that add a velar consonant to the end of the stem

Some verbs extend the stem by adding a velar consonant, either /k/ or /g/, depending on whether the preceding consonant is voiceless or voiced.This affects the first-person singular present indicative and all forms of the present subjunctive. All verbs in this class are -er or -ir verbs, and many of them end with -cer or -cir. For example:

  • conocer (regular stem pronunciation /co-nos-/, extended stem pronunciation /co-nosk-/
    • present indicative: conozco, conoces, conoce, conocemos, conocéis, conocen
    • present subjunctive: conozca, conozcas, conozca, conozcamos, conozcáis, conozcan
  • salir (regular stem /sal-/, extended stem /salg-/
    • present indicative: salgo, sales, sale, salimos, salís, salen
    • present subjunctive: salga, salgas, salga, salgamos, salggáis, salgan

Verbs that add a palatal semi-consonant to the end of the stem

Some verbs extend the stem by adding a palatal semiconsonant (generally spelled y). This affects the stressed stems of the present indicative and imperative, and all stems of the present subjunctive. For example:

  • huir:
    • present indicative: huyo, huyes, huye, huimos, huís, huyen
    • present subjunctive: huya, huyas, huya, huyamos, huyáis, huyan
    • imperative: huye, huid
  • argüir:
    • present indicative: arguyo, arguyes, arguye, argüimos, argüís, arguyen
    • present subjunctive: arguya, arguyas, arguya, arguyamos, arguyáis, arguyan
    • imperative: arguye, argüid

Verbs that add both a palatal semi-vowel and a velar consonant to the end of the stem

Some verbs extend the stem by adding both a palatal semivowel and a velar consonant (generally spelled ig). This affects the first person singular present indicative and all stems of the present subjunctive. For example:

  • caer:
    • present indicative: caigo, caes, cae, caemos, caéis, caen
    • present subjunctive: caiga, caigas, caiga, caigamos, caigáis, caigan
  • oír: this verb adds both a palatal and a velar extension in the usual forms, and it also adds a palatal extension in the other stem-stressed forms of the present indicative and in the singular imperative:
    • present subjunctive: oigo, oyes, oye, oímos, oís, oyen
    • present subjunctive: oiga, oigas, oiga, oigamos, oigáis, oigan
    • imperative: oye, oíd

Verbs that modify how the stem is vocalized

Some verbs modify the method of vocalization in the stem; these are verbs whose infinitive stem ends with one of the semiconsonants /y/ or /w/. In some forms the semiconsonant changes to a vowel (/y/ -> /i/ or /w/ to /u/) and carries the tonic accent for the word. The affected forms are 1st singular, 2nd singular, 3rd singular and 3rd plural in the present indicative and present subjunctive, and the 2nd singular imperative. For example:

  • variar:
    • present indicative: varío, varías, varía, variamos, variáis, varían
    • present subjunctive: varíe, varíes, varíe, variemos, variéis, varíen
    • imperative: varía, variad
  • continuar:
    • present indicative: continúo, continúas, continúa, continuamos, continuáis, continúan
    • present subjunctive: continúe, continúes, continúe, continuemos, contuéis, continúen
    • imperative: continúa, conintuad

Verbs that have more than one type of modification

Some verbs belong to both the class of verbs that modify a stem vowel and to the class of verbs that add a consonant to the stem. For example:

  • tener: this verb also has other irregular forms in other tenses and moods:
    • present indicative: tengo, tienes, tiene, tenemos, tenéis, tienen
    • present subjunctive: tenga, tengas, tenga, tengamos, tengáis, tengan
  • venir: this verb also has other irregular forms in other tenses and moods:
    • present indicative: vengo, vienes, viene, venimos, venís, vienes
    • present subjunctive: venga, vengas, venga, vengamos, vengáis, vengan

Verbs with stem and ending irregularities

A much smaller set of verbs, totalling approximately 30 basic verbs plus some derived verbs, have a greater degree of irregularity. Most of these verbs have more than one stem, and they also have variant endings for some forms. While there is sometimes some similarity between two or a few of these with some verb forms, they generally are different elsewhere in their paradigms.

Verbs with shortened stems

  • escribir (infinitive stem escrib-):
    • past participle: escri-to
  • romper (infinitive stem romp-):
    • past participle: ro-to
  • haber (infinitive stem hab-):
    • present indicative: he, has, ha, hemos, habéis, han
  • hacer (infinitive stem hac-):
    • future: haré, harás, hará, haremos, haréis, harán
    • conditional: haría, harías, haría, haríamos, haríais, harían
  • decir (infinitive stem dec-):
    • future: diré, dirás, dirá, diremos, diréis, dirán
    • conditional: diría, dirías, diría, diríamos, diríais, dirían

Verbs with consonant substitution

  • producir (infinitive stem produc-):
    • preterite (with alternate endings): produje, produjiste, produjo, produjimos, produjisteis, produjeron
    • past subjunctive -ra: produjera, produjeras, produjera, produjéramos, produjerais, produjeran
    • past subjunctive -se: produjese, produjeses, produjese, produjésemos, produjeseis, produjesen
  • hacer (infinitive stem hac-):
    • present indicative: hago, haces, hace, hacemos, hacéis, hacen
    • present subjunctive: haga, hagas, haga, hagamos, hagáis, hagan
  • haber (finitive stem hab-):
    • present subjunctive: haya, hayas, haya, hayamos, hayáis, hayan

Verbs with other types of stem extensions

  • traer (infinitive stem tra-):
    • preterite (extension plus alternate endings): traje, trajiste, trajo, trajimos, trajisteis, trajeron
  • estar (infinitive stem est-):
    • preterite (extension plus alternate endings): estuve, estuviste, estuvo, estuvimos, estuvisteis, estuvieron
  • andar (infinitive stem and-):
    • preterite (extension plus alternate endings): anduve, anduviste, anduvo, anduvimos, anduvisteis, anduvieron
  • ver (infinitive stem v-):
    • present: veo, ves, ve vemos, veis, ven
    • imperfect: va, vas, va, vamos, vais, van
    • past participle: visto

Verbs with other types of stem-vowel changes

  • poder (infinitive stem pod-):
    • preterite (plus alternate endings): pude, pudiste, pudo, pudimos, pudisteis, pudieron
    • past subjunctive -ra: pudiera, pudieras, pudiera, pudiéramos, pudierais, pudieran
    • past subjunctive -se: pudiese, pudieses, pudiese, pudiésemos, pudieseis, pudiesen
    • present participle: pudiendo
  • hacer (infinitive stem hac-):
    • preterite (plus alternate endings): hice, hiciste, hizo, hicimos, hicisteis, hicieron
    • past subjunctive -ra: hiciera, hicieras, hiciera, hiciéramos, hicierais, hicieran
    • past subjunctive se: hiciese, hicieses, hiciese, hiciésemos, hicieseis, hiciesen
  • haber (infinitive stem hab-):
    • preterite (plus alternate endings): hube, hubiste, hubo, hubimos, hubisteis, hubieron
    • past subjunctive -ra: hubiera, hubieras, hubiera, hubiéramos, hubierais, hubieran
    • past subjunctive -se: hubiese, hubieses, hubiese, hubiésemos, hubieseis, hubiesen
  • venir (infinitive stem ven-):
    • preterite (plus alternate endings): vine, viniste, vino, vinimos, vinisteis, vinieron
    • past subjunctive -ra: viniera, vinieras, viniera, viniéramos, vinierais, vinieran
    • past subjunctive -se: viniese, vinieses, viniese, viniésemos, vinieseis, viniesen
  • decir (infinitive stem dec-):
    • present indicative: (digo), dice, dices, decimos, decís, dicen
  • freír (infinitive stem fre-):
    • past participle: frito

Verbs with stem vowel change o -> ue + alternate ending

  • morir (infinitive stem mor-):
    • past participle: muerto

Stems with consonant and vowel changes

  • caber (infinitive stem cab-): quep-o (1st singular present indicative, all present subjunctive), cup-e (preterit + alternate endings)
  • saber (infinitive stem sab-): sup-e (preterit + alternate endings)
  • tener (infinitive stem ten-): tuv-e (preterit + alternate endings)
  • poner (infinitive stem pon-): pus-e (preterit + alternate endings)
  • querer (infinitive stem quer-): quis-e (preterit + alternate endings)
  • decir (infinitive stem dic-): dij-e (preterit + alternate endings), dig-o (1st singular present indicative, all present subjunctive), dich-o (past participle)
  • hacer (infinitive stem hac-): hech-o (past participle)

Stems with both shortening and vowel changes

  • saber (infinitive stem sab-): (1st singular present indicative)
  • volver (infinitive stem volv-): vuel-to (past participle)
  • resolver (infinitive stem resolv-): resuel-to (past participle)

Verbs with stem lengthening by insertion of ie

  • abrir (infinitive stem abr-): abier-to (past participle)
  • cubrir (infinitive stem cubr-): cubier-to (past particple)

Verbs with consonant and vowel change with o -> ue

  • poner (infinitive stem pon-): pues-to (past participle)

Verbs with stem replacement

  • ser (infinitive stem s-):
    • er-es (2nd singular present indicative),
    • es (3rd singular present indicative),
    • se-a (present subjunctive)
    • fu-i (preterit)
  • ir (infinitive stem is empty/blank):
    • v-oy (present indicative, imperative)
    • vay-a (present subjunctive)
    • fu-i (preterit)

Verbs with theme vowel variations

Most regular verb forms have a theme vowel following the stem: for -ar verbs the theme vowel is a for most forms and e for present subjunctive, for -er verbs the theme vowel is e for most forms and a for present subjunctive, and for -ir verbs the theme vowel is either e or i for most forms and a for present subjunctive.

Some verbs drop the theme vowel from the ending, perhaps in combination with a stem change:

  • Future and conditional
    • haber (stem + theme hab-e): hab-ré, also (saber, caber, poder, querer)
    • hacer (stem + theme hac-e): ha-ré
    • decir (stem + theme dec-i): di-ré
  • singular imperative:
    • hacer (stem + theme hac-e): haz, (also salir, valer, poner, tener, venir)
  • past participles, many of which have already been presented elsewhere
  • other unique cases
    • saber (stem + theme sab-e):
    • haber (stem + theme hab-e): he, ha, ha-s, ha-n
    • ser (stem + theme s-e): er-a (imperfect)

Some verbs replace the theme vowel with the consonant d in future and conditional forms:

  • poner (stem + theme pon-e): pon-d-ré (also tener, valer, salir, venir)

Several -er and -ir verbs have irregular preterite forms that use alternate endings, some of which alter the theme vowel. The standard preterite endings are , i-ste, i-ó, i-mos, i-steis, ie-ron.

  • First alternate set of endings: -e, i-ste, -o, i-mos, i-steis, ie-ron or e-ron. 1st singular and 3rd singular move the tonic accent from the ending to the stem.
    • poner (stem + theme pon-e): pus-e, pus-i-ste, pus-o, pus-i-mos, pus-i-steis, pus-ie-ron (plus several other verbs)
    • decir (stem + theme dic-e): dij-e, dij-i-ste, dij-o, dij-i-mos, dij-i-steis, dij-e-ron (plus a few other verbs)
  • Second alternate set of endings: i, i-ste, -e, i-mos, i-steis, e-ron. The only verbs that use this set of preterite endings are ser and ir.
    • ser (stem + theme s-e) and ir (stem + theme -i): fu-i, fu-i-ste, fu-e, fu-i-mos, fu-i-steis, fu-e-ron

Some verbs cross theme systems:

  • dar (stem + theme d-a): d-i, d-i-ste, d-i-o, d-i-mos, d-i-steis, d-ie-ron (preterit)
  • ir (stem + theme -i): v-a, v-a-s, v-a, v-a-mos, v-a-is, v-a-n (present indicative)

Two verbs switch theme vowels in the preterite after an extended stem:

  • estar (stem + theme est-á): stem + extension est-uv: est-uv-e, est-uv-i-ste, est-u-vo, etc.
  • andar (stem + theme and-a): stem + extension and-uv: and-uv-e, and-uv-i-ste, and-u-vo, etc.

Five verbs extend a present tense ending by appending the semivowel y

  • Extending 1st singular indicative ending -o
    • dar (stem + theme d-a): doy
    • estar (stem + them est-á): est-oy
    • ser (stem + theme s-e): s-oy
    • ir (stem + theme -i): v-oy
  • Extending 3rd singular indicative ending for an alternate form
    • haber (stem + theme hab-e): ha-y

Some verbs have theme variations that are entirely phonological, as their stems end with either ll or ñ, which absorbs the the following semivowel /y/ of any ending. This affects only -er and -ir verbs in the 3rd singular and plural preterit, in the past subjunctive, and the present participle

  • bullir (stem + theme bull-i): bull-ó, bull-e-ron, bull-e-ndo
  • teñir (stem + theme teñ-i): tiñ-o, tiñ-e-ron, tiñ-e-ndo

Verbs that require spelling changes to maintain correct pronunciation

A few Spanish consonant sounds require different spellings depending on what vowel letter follows them. Every verb stem that ends with one of these sounds will use two different spellings of a given stem.

  • c/z: vencer (stem spelled venc- or venz-) venz-o, venc-es, etc.
  • g/gu: pagar (stem spelled pag- or pagu-): pago, pagas, etc. (present indicative), pague, pagues, etc. (present subjunctive), pagué, pagaste, etc. (preterit)
  • gu/g: distinguir (stem spelled distingu- or disting-): disting-o, distingu-es, etc. (present indicative), disting-a, disting-as, etc. (present subjunctive)
  • c/qu: sacar (stem spelled sac-, saqu-), sac-o, sac-as, etc. (present indicative), saqu-e, saqu-es, etc. (present subjunctive), saqu-é, sacaste, etc. (preterit)
  • g/j: fingir (stem spelled fing-, finj-): finj-o, fing-es, etc. (present indicative), finj-a, finj-as, etc. (present subjunctive)
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