29 Stem-changing verbs 2

O:ue and u:ue stem-changing verbs

The second type of stem-changing verbs involve those with either an “o” or a “u” in the stem, and the change is to “ue”. The pattern that we saw before remains the same; the constant is that the “nosotros / vosotros” forms do not have changes in their stems while all other forms do.

Stem-changing verb pattern

Stem-change? Stem-change?
yo (yes) nosotros (no)
tú (yes) vosotros (no)
él (yes) ellos (yes)
ella (yes) ellas (yes)
Ud. (yes) Uds. (yes)

Stem-changing verbs: o:ue

The verb “poder” (can, to be able to) is another practical verb that allows us to talk about one’s capacity to do something and to ask for permission. Although the chart below shows the basic meaning of each conjugation to mean “I can”, “you can”, etc., keep in mind that the other meanings are “I’m able to”, “you’re able to” and so on for the other conjugations.

Poder: can, to be able to

Subject pronouns Singular Basic meaning Subject pronouns Plural Basic meaning
yo puedo I can, I’m able to nosotros/as podemos we can
puedes you can vosotros/as podéis you can (Sp.)
él puede he can ellos pueden they can
ella puede she can ellas pueden they can (f)
Ud. puede you can Uds. pueden you can

Once again, recall that to make questions, we can simply conjugate the verb that agrees with the subject of the sentence. A rising inflection of the voice at the end of the question would signal the difference between a statement “I can” (puedo) and “Can I? (¿Puedo?):

Poder: can, to be able to

Subject pronouns Singular Question Subject pronouns Plural Question
yo ¿Puedo? Can I? nosotros/as ¿Podemos? Can we?
¿Puedes? Can you? vosotros/as ¿Podéis? Can you? (Sp.)
él ¿Puede? Can he? ellos ¿Pueden? Can they?
ella ¿Puede? Can she? ellas ¿Pueden? Can they? (f)
Ud. ¿Puede? Can you? Uds. ¿Pueden? Can you?
Alma puede trabajar de noche. Alma can work nights.
¿Puedes ayudar ahora? Are you able to (can you) help now?
No podemos ir. We can’t go.
Pueden comer si quieren. They can eat if they want to.
¿Puedo pagar más tarde? Can I pay later?
¿Podéis volver a las tres? Are you (pl-Spain) able to return at three?
Uds. pueden visitar mañana. You (pl) can visit tomorrow.

Stem-changing verbs: u:ue

The verb “jugar” (to play) seems to be the only u:ue stem-changing verb in Spanish; it’s meaning “to play” is used in the sense of to play games and sports. The verb “tocar” (not stem-changing) is used to express “to play” musical instruments. Notice again the “nosotros / vosotros” forms do not stem-change:

Jugar: to play (games, sports)

Subject pronouns Singular Basic meaning Subject pronouns Plural Basic meaning
yo juego I play nosotros/as jugamos we play
juegas you play vosotros/as jugáis you play (Sp.)
él juega he plays ellos juegan they play
ella juega she plays ellas juegan they play (f)
Ud. juega you play Uds. juegan you play

OJO 1: The preposition “a” (to) typically follows the verb “jugar” before mention of a game or sport and does not have a direct equivalent in English.

Jugamos a las cartas los sábados. We play cards on Saturdays.
¿Juegas al baloncesto? Do you play baskeball?
¡Los otros niñon no juegan conmigo! The other kids don’t play with me!
Juan Carlos juega al fútbol el viernes. Juan Carlos is playing soccer on Friday.

To continue with more o:ue and u:ue stem-changing verbs…

Common o:ue stem-changing verbs

Infinitivo Infinitive Infinitivo Infinitive
almorzar to have lunch morir to die
contar to count poder can; to be able to
costar to cost probar to taste, to try
dormir to sleep recordar to remember
encontrar to find sonar to ring, to sound
llover to rain soñar (con) to dream (about)
morder to bite volar to fly
mostrar to show volver to return (to a place)

OJO 1: for a couple of the verbs listed above, the third person forms (él / ellos) are used nearly exclusively. For example, “llover” (to rain) would only be used in the third person singular form “llueve” (it rains). The need to say “I rain” or “we rain” is unlikely—perhaps possible in a poetic sense. Similarly, the verb “costar” (to cost) is likely to be used in the “it/they” forms to ask how much something costs:

¿Cuánto cuesta? How much does it cost?
¿Cuánto cuestan? How much do they cost?

¿Cómo se dice…?:

Now you try out some sentences: use the verbs from the o:ue stem-changing verb list above to translate the sentences below.

Some vocabulary you might need: examen = test; perro = dog; sandalia = sandal; típicamente = typically; cada = each; llave = key; antes de = before

  1. I don’t remember when the test is.
  2. Do your dogs bite?
  3. (At) what time do you have lunch? (tú)
  4. They’re returning on Sunday.
  5. How much do the sandals cost?
  6. How many hours do you (Ud.) sleep typically?
  7. We fly to Spain each year.
  8. Can she go too?
  9. I can’t find my keys!
  10. Javier returns before 6:00pm.


  1. No recuerdo cuando es el examen.
  2. ¿Muerden tus perros?
  3. ¿A qué hora almuerzas?
  4. Ellos vuelven el domingo.
  5. ¿Cuánto cuestan las sandalias?
  6. ¿Cuántas horas duerme Ud. típicamente?
  7. Volamos a España cada año.
  8. ¿Puede ir ella también?
  9. ¡No puedo encontrar mis llaves!
  10. Javier vuelve antes de las seis.

Grammar Details:

#6 from above: ¿Cuántas horas duerme Ud. típicamente?
When forming a question, the position of the subject pronoun (Ud.), if used, frequently follows the conjugated verb. Same thing for #8 with “ella”.

#9 from above: ¡No puedo encontrar mis llaves!
Did you remember to conjugate the first verb (puedo) and leave the second (encontrar) in the infinitive?


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First Year Spanish 1 Copyright © 2019 by Paul Eckhardt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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