In the fourteenth class of our Absolute Beginner Spanish course we are going to learn more about the present tense. This time, we’re going to study the most frequent irregular present tense patterns, the two with diphthongization.
Verbs with diphthongized forms
The most frequent irregular pattern in the present tense is the one where some forms have a pure vowel and some other forms have a diphthong.
For example, the 1st person singular of the verb querer is quiero, whereas the 1st person plural is queremos. The same happens with the verb dormir: duermo, dormimos.
Now there is good news and bad news.
The bad news is that we can’t know beforehand, just by looking at the infinitive, if a verb will have this irregular pattern. For example, if we have the infinitive pensar, we can’t know if it’s going to be yo pienso or yo penso.
The good news is that the irregularity pattern itself is quite predictable: if a verb has this irregularity, it is always the same forms, according to the following very simple rule.
The shoe rule
We can summarize this whole lesson by using the very simple shoe rule (la regla del zapato). The shoe rule works as follows:
- we list the singular forms of the verb in one column on the left
- the plural forms of the verbs go to the column on the right
- we draw a shoe-boot pointing to the right
- the forms inside the shoe are the ones with a dipthong
In the following table we have the two shoe rule patterns: e ↔ ie and o ↔ ue:
|él, ella, usted||quiere||duerme|
|ellos, ‑as, ustedes||quieren||duermen|
Pro tip: notice that the diphthongized forms are the ones where the root —not the ending— is stressed. This is a very common general pattern in Spanish: puerta ↔ portero.
Get used to this pattern, because it is going to be appearing all the time. We said it before, but here it goes again: we can’t know what verbs are diphthongized, so you also need to learn that feature about each of these verbs as they appear.