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Preterite: Common Stem-Changing Verbs

A common mistake made by students of Spanish is to carry over the stem changes from the present indicative to the preterite indicative. The common o -> ue, e -> ie, and e -> i stem changes of the present indicative never carry over into the preterite forms. However, many -ir verbs which have a stem change in the present indicative do have a type of stem change in the preterite, but it is generally a different change, and then, only in the 3rd person. For example:

Present Indicative of divertirse

  Singular Plural
1st me divierto nos divertimos
2nd te diviertes os divertisteis
3rd se divierte se divierten

(note the e -> ie stem change in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person singular, and 3rd person plural)

Preterite Indicative of divertirse

  Singular Plural
1st me divertí nos divertimos
2nd te divertiste os divertisteis
3rd se divirtió se divirtieron

(note the e -> i stem change in the 3rd person singular and plural)

Other common verbs which exhibit this change include: pedir, seguir, vestir, repetir, reír, etc.

o -> u stem changes in the preterite

The verbs morir and dormir undergo a similar change in the preterite:

  Singular Plural
1st morí morimos
2nd moriste moristeis
3rd murió murieron
  Singular Plural
1st dormí dormimos
2nd dormiste dormisteis
3rd durmió durmieron

(note the o -> u stem change in the 3rd person singular and plural)