Group Irregularities

Group irregularities (that is, irregularities that occur in patterns, among certain groups of verbs) generally result from vowel-focused modifications. Letter substitutions often occur across person and number, without affecting the employment of the regular verb endings.

Let's take a look at the first type of group irregularity, a diphthong base change from e to ie. This change occurs with many irregular verbs, across all three conjugation groups (among ar, er, and ir verbs). As an example, take a look at how to conjugate calentar (to warm up, heat).

Diphthong Base Change from E to IE

–ar calentar (to warm up, heat)
yo –o caliento
–as calientas
él, ella, usted –a calienta
nosotros, nosotras –amos calentamos
vosotros, vosotras –áis calentáis
ellos, ellas, ustedes –an calientan

Take a look at the nosotros and vosotros forms of calentar. As you can see, they are the only two forms that do not undergo a base change. As you'll notice with most irregular Spanish verbs, these two forms rarely undergo a base change.

The group of verbs that act similarly to calentar is not small. Refer to the following table for the infinitives and a sample conjugation (in the yo form, to show which vowel undergoes the change and the nosotros form, where the root doesn't change).

List of Verbs with Base Change from E to Ie

Verb Practice #1

Translate the following sentences using the appropriate verb forms. Use your English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English dictionary to look up words you don't already know.

1. I rent my dwelling.

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2. What (are) you (informal, singular) think(ing)?

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3. Today you (formal) start the new job.

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4. On Fridays we scrub the floors.

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5. They want to go out to eat.

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6. We warn of the danger.

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Keep in mind that group irregularities are often limited to specific tenses and persons. Many of the words above follow the regular conjugations in other tenses. For example: Hoy meriendo en casa. (I snack at home today.) but Ayer, merendé en un restaurante. (Yesterday I snacked at a restaurant.)

Diphthong Base Change from O to UE

Another common diphthong base change among –ar and –er verbs (though not in –ir verbs) is when the base vowel o changes to ue. Just as with the previous group of verbs, the nosotros and vosotros forms retain the base as it appears in the infinitive form. The following table provides a sample conjugation for the verb mostrar (to show). Notice that only the base of this verb is irregularthe endings remain the same as for any regular ar verb.

Diphthong Base Change from O to UE

–ar mostrar (to show)
yo –o muestro
–as muestras
él, ella, usted –a muestra
nosotros, nosotras –amos mostramos
vosotros, vosotras –áis mostráis
ellos, ellas, ustedes –an muestran

The following table lists common verbs that belong to the same group as mostrar and behave in a similar way.

List of Verbs with Base Change from O to UE

Verb Practice #2

Translate the following sentences using the appropriate verb forms. Use your English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English dictionary to look up words you don't already know.

1. I eat lunch at noon.

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2. Tomorrow they fly to San Diego.

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3. I hang the shirts.

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4. You (informal, singular) show houses.

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5. She finds a coin on the floor.

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6. I don't dream much.

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There is a special case to the “o to ue group” irregularity. Fortunately, it is limited to one verb, oler (to smell). In addition to transforming the o to ue, as in other cases, there is an additional h added to the beginning of the word: yo huelo, tú hueles, él huele, nosotros olemos, vosotros oléis, ellos huelen.

Base Change from E to I

Another group of verbs, exclusively from the –ir category, undergoes a base change where the letter e changes to i. Once again, the nosotros and vosotros forms are the only ones not subject to this change. An example of this group is the verb repetir (to repeat)—see the following table on how it is conjugated.

Diphthong Base Change from E to I in–Ir Verbs

–ir repetir (to repeat)
yo –o repito
–es repites
él, ella, usted –e repite
nosotros, nosotras –imos repetimos
vosotros, vosotras –ís repetís
ellos, ellas, ustedes –en repiten

The following table presents a list of verbs similar to repetir in their behavior in the present tense.

List of Verbs with Base Change from E to I

The following words also belong to the same group—in each one, the e changes to i. However, they are also irregular in other respects (described in the following sections of the chapter). For now, simply look at how they have been conjugated.

Base Change from E to I and Additional Irregularities

Verb Practice #3

Translate the following sentences using the appropriate verb forms. Use your English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English dictionary to look up words you don't already know.

1. I (am) boil(ing) eggs.

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2. We elect the president.

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3. You (formal, plural) always follow all the rules.

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4. They follow the soaps.

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5. You (informal, plural) are dressing a baby.

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6. How tall are you (informal, singular)? (Literally: How much do you measure?)

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Once all of the verb practices are completed, check your answers.

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