Spanish Grammar Tip

El tiempo presente – verbos con diptongación


The series of surprises within the present tense in Spanish include those verbs that change the yo-form, such as elegir → elijo or conducer  → conduzco, as seen in the previous grammar pill. The fun is not only limited to those, though! Indeed, there is a large number of highly frequent verbs that present some distinctive irregularities which only affect one vowel of the verb root. These are called verbos con diptongación.

For clarity:

recomendar (to recommend) recomend- -ar
querer (to want/love) quer- -er
repetir (to repeat) repet- -ir

The affected vowel -generally the one on which the phonic stress is placed- becomes a diphthong, i.e., a combination of two adjacent vowels within the same syllable. However, these irregularities can be systematized. Additionally, the verbal forms of the first and second person plural, that is nosotros and vosotros, do not suffer any change.

E > IE

Empezar (to start)
Yo Empiezo
Él/Ella Empieza
Nosotros/Nosotras Empezamos
Vosotros/Vosotras Empezáis
Ellos/Ellas Empiezan


Some of verbs following the same pattern are:

cerrar (to close) > cierro | pensar (to think) > pienso | querer (to want/love) > quiero

entender (to understand) > entiendo | sentir (to feel) > siento

preferir (to think) > prefiero

O > UE

Encontrar (to find)
Yo Encuentro
Él/Ella Encuentra
Nosotros/Nosotras Encontramos
Vosotros/Vosotras Encontráis
Ellos/Ellas Encuentran


Similar verbs displaying the same irregularity are:

costar (to cost) > cuesta |soñar (to dream) > sueño | poder (to can) > puedo

volver (to return) > vuelvo | dormir (to sleep) > duermo

morir (to die) > muero

Finally, there are two loners presenting single vowels within their stems which also change into a diphthong throughout their present tense conjugation.

I > IE U > UE
adquirir (to adquire) > adquiero  jugar (to play) > juego


Let’s look at some examples:

Me despierto temprano todos los días. → I wake up early every day.

¿Quieres un café? → Do you want a coffee?

En invierno llueve mucho. → It rains a lot in wintertime.

Los niños juegan en el parque. → The children play in the park.

El puente atraviesa el río. → The bridge crosses the river.


If you want to improve your Spanish join the Spanish Evening Elementary 1 course!


Have a look at more Spanish Resources  or watch a some video tutorials from our our YouTube Channel