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Stem Changers in the Preterite in Spanish
Whether a stem-changing verb will or will not change its stem in the preterite tense depends on its final two letters. Let's sort the rule out together!

When we said there were only four irregular verbs in the preterite tense, we were not exactly honest with you.  There are a couple… dozen… more but you know all them quite well since they also are irregular in the present tense. The good thing here is that some of the irregular stem-changing verbs from the present become quite regular in the past. Let’s deal with all of them in turn.

Whether a stem-changing verb will or will not change its stem in the preterite tense depends on its final two letters.

Stem-Changing –AR and –ER Verbs

The verbs that end in -er and -ar do NOT change their stems in the preterite; they take regular preterite tense forms based on either the -ar or the -er conjugation pattern. Here’s a table that illustrates the mechanism:

Learn the irregular verbs that do not change their stems in the preterite

Stem-Changing –IR Verbs

The stem-changing verbs that end in -ir still change their stems in the preterite. However, there are some differences:

  1. the stem vowel only changes in the 3rd person singular and plural forms,
  2. it does not change to a letter combination (e->ie or o->ue), but to a single vowel – the first from the said combination of the present tense forms.

This table will probably tell it better than any explanation would:

Learn the irregular Spanish verbs that change their stems in the preterite

And now, it’s time to put your immediate memory to a short test!

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