These verbs are a form of irregular verb in Spanish that are only irregular in the present tense. There is a change in the stem of the verb in all present tense forms of the verb, EXCEPT for the we (nosotros) and you plural (vosotros) forms of the verb. There are 4 types of radical changing verb:

  • e 🡪 ie
  • e 🡪 i
  • o 🡪 ue
  • u 🡪 ue

We will look through these one by one, using examples to see some of the common verbs that fall into each category.

An important thing to bear in mind is which of the vowels in a word can be radical changing, as this can often confuse people. A vowel can only be radical changing if it is in the PENULTIMATE syllable of a word. For example, ‘repetir’ is an e 🡪 i radical changing verb. However, there are two E’s in the word, so how do we know which changes? Well, if we break down the syllables, we have: re – pe – tir. We can see that the penultimate syllable is “pe”, so this is the e that is radical changing, meaning in the first person of the verb it conjugates as ‘repito’, and NOT ‘ripeto’!

E 🡪 ie

This is the most common type of radical changing verb. An example of this type of verb is ‘comenzar’ (to start):

Comienzo

Comienzas

Comienza

Comenzamos

Comenzáis

Comienzan

There are many verbs in this category, including:

Querer (to want)

Cerrar (to close)

Despertarse (to wake up)

Empezar (to begin)

Mentir (to lie)

Perder (to lose)

Recomendar (to recommend)

Sentarse (to sit down)

Preferer (to prefer)

E 🡪 i

An example in this category is ‘pedir’ (to ask for/order):

Pido

Pides

Pide 

Pedimos

Pedís

Piden

Other examples are:

Repetir (to repeat)

Decir (to say) [Ojo: the I form is ‘digo’]

Seguir (to follow) [Ojo: the I form is ‘sigo’]

Elegir (to choose) [Ojo: the I form is ‘elijo’]

Servir (to serve)

O 🡪 ue

There are also many examples of this type. One of these is ‘volver’ (to return):

Vuelvo

Vuelves

Vuelve

Volvemos

Volvéis

Vuelven 

Other examples include:

Almorzar (to have lunch)

Dormir (to sleep)

Recordar (to remember) 

Morir (to die)

Contar (to count)

Costar (to cost)

Mostrar (to show)

Doler (to hurt)

Encontrar (to find/meet)

Llover (to rain)

Poder (to be able to)

Soler (to usually)

U 🡪 ue

The only example of this type is a verb which is quite common (yes, I know, all of the most used verbs seem to be irregular in one way or another…). The verb is ‘jugar’ (to play):

Juego

Juegas

Juega

Jugamos

Jugáis

Juegan

If you learn that a verb is radical changing, a good habit is to write which form of radical changer it is next to it when you write the verb in your vocab book. For example, for ‘volver’ you may write:

Volver (ue) 🡪 to return

Working with radical changing verbs

Have a go at practising the conjugation of some of these verbs. Some of them you will already be familiar with using, but with others it takes some time to get used to how they conjugate (Hint: all of the verbs are included in the explanations above)

  1. He lies all the time
  1. We always wake up early in the summer
  1. Why do you (singular) follow the car?
  1. They lose every week because they don’t play well
  1. You (plural) have eggs with rice for lunch
  1. On Sundays, I choose the film that we watch
  1. He usually walks to school, but sometimes his feet hurt so he can’t
  1. If it rains tomorrow, we are not going to be able to begin our journey
  1. They often want to sing, but you (singular) prefer to dance
  1. She recommends this book, but I don’t like it because many people die

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