Learn e-ie boot verbs

You now know that all verbs in Spanish end in -ar, -er, or -ir.  You've learned how to conjugate them.  You've learned that there are 6 conjugations for each.  

Notice that when you conjugate verbs, you only change the ending.  You take off the original ending and add on a different one. The first part of the verb, called the stem, doesn't change.  

In this lesson you'll learn about a group of verbs called stem-changing verbs.  In these verbs, there's a small spelling change in the stem, in 4 out of 6 conjugations.  These verbs are also called boot verbs, because if you trace a line around the spelling changes (see chart, below), you've drawn a boot.

There's good and bad news around stem-changing verbs. 
  • The bad news is that there's no way to tell a stem-changing verb from a normal verb. You need to memorize which verbs stem change and which don't.
  • The good news is that there are only 3 kinds of stem-changing verbs. In one, you'll replace the letter e with ie. In another, you'll replace the letter o with ue.  In the third, you'll replace the letter e with i   What if there are two e's in the stem of a stem-changing verb, like in the verb despertar?  Which e will stem change?  The answer: always choose the last e in the stem.

There are 3 kinds of stem-changing verbs:
1. e - ie stem-changing verbs
2. o - ue stem-changing verbs
3. e - i stem-changing verbs

In this lesson, we'll talk about the first kind of stem-changing verb, e - ie.

Stem-changing verbs have the same 6 conjugated verb endings as regular verbs. Take a look at the chart comparing the conjugations of two -er verbs: a regular verb, ceder, with those of a stem-changing verb, perder (to lose). 


Notice that the -er verb endings, in orange, are the same. 

Now focus on the conjugations of perder and the 4 of them in which of them the e changed to ie.  The stem changes are in green

Here are the steps for conjugating an e-ie stem-changing verb.

1. Take off the -ar, -er, -ir ending.
2. You're left with the stem. Change the e to ie
3. Add the conjugated ending.

Look at the conjugations of the -ar verb pensar, below, as an example. Stem changes are in red, and conjugated -ar verb endings are in green. The unchanged parts of the verb stem are in blue

Notice that the stem changes happen in only 4 of the 6 conjugations. The nosotros and vosotros forms of the verb never stem-change.  Notice also that if you draw a line around the conjugations that stem change, you have the rough outline of a boot. That is where stem-changing verbs get their name "boot verbs."

Watch the video on e-ie stem-changing verbs.

Quiz yourself on e-ie boot verb conjugations:

Mira la lista de verbos comunes de cambios de raíz e-ie:
 calentar  to heat
 cerrar  to close
 comenzar  to start
 convertir  to convert
 defender  to defend
 despertar  to wake (someone)
 empezar  to start
 entender  to understand
 hervir  to boil
 mentir  to lie
 negar  to deny
 pensar  to think, plan
 perder  to lose
 preferir  to prefer
 querer  to want (a thing), to love (a person)
 sentar  to seat
 sentir  to feel
 tener  to have
 venir  to come