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Even more irregular verbs in the preterite: orthographic changes

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Even More Irregular Verbs in the Preterite: Orthographic Changes

We have already mentioned that irregular verbs in the preterite tense are not the same as in the present tense. Some of them change their stem vowel for historical reasons. But these are also some verbs that change their spelling in order to preserve the original pronunciation of the stem. Let’s find out which verbs these are and how they alternate!

Here is a comprehensive table of irregular Spanish verbs with orthographic changes in the preterite:

Irregular Spanish verbs with orthographic changes in the preterite

Now, let’s dig deeper and look at some examples for better understanding.

Irregular YO Forms

Spanish verbs that end in such letter combinations as -car, -gar, and -zar have irregular 1st person singular forms in the preterite tense. As we have said, the change is purely orthographical, so you won’t even notice it in oral speech.  In order to preserve the original consonant sound, they undergo slight changes:

  • tocar – yo toqué
  • pagar – yo pagué
  • cruzar – yo crucé

Remember: these orthographic changes only take place in the 1st person singular form of the preterite. In all the other forms, the original spelling is preserved.

Irregular 3rd Person Forms

Spanish verbs that end in a letter combination with a prevalence of vowels (-aer, -eer, -oer, -oír, and -uir) welcome the letter Y into their spelling, in the 3rd person singular and plural forms of the preterite, to be more precise.

Take a look at the table to see the orthographic alternation more clearly:

Irregular Spanish verbs with orthographic (spelling) changes in the preterite

Please note also that for the verbs that end in - aer, -eer, -oer, and -oír, an accented í comes into the picture in all person and number forms where the sound [i] is present. For the verbs that end in -uir, no such change is required.

That's quite enough for one lesson! And now, let's see how well this new info has set itself in your memory - take this short quiz!

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