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Spanish -ir verbs with a vowel change in the preterite

You will recall that some verbs have a vowel change in the present tense, the vowel of the stem changing when it is stressed. For example, the verb sentir (to feel) has forms such as siento (I feel). In general:

-ir verbs with a vowel change in the present tense also have a vowel change in certain forms of the preterite.

What is the vowel change?

The vowel change for -ir verbs in the preterite is generally a bit simpler than in the present tense:

  • the vowel change is from e to i;
  • the verbs morir and dormir change o to u.

So for example, pedir (to request1) has the form pidió (he/she requested); the verb preferir (to prefer) has the form prefirieron (they preferred).

1. In practice, pedir is often translated as to ask. We use the translation request to distinguish it from preguntar, which means ask as in "request information".

When does the vowel change?

The vowel changes in forms where the ending doesn't have a stressed i vowel. In practice, that means:

The vowel changes in the third person forms (the él/ella and ellos/ellas forms).

Example conjugations

Here are the full preterite forms of the verbs pedir and dormir:

I requested
you requested
he/she requested
nosotros, -aspedimos
we requested
vosotros, -aspedisteis
you requested
they requested
Preterite of the verb pedir, showing the vowel change in third person forms.
I slept
you slept
he/she slept
nosotros, -asdormimos
we slept
vosotros, -asdormisteis
you slept
they slept
Preterite of the verb dormir, showing the vowel change in third person forms.

Next: exercises

On the next page, you can practise the preterite of -ir verbs with a vowel change. If you don't want to do the exercises right now, you may prefer to skip ahead to the next section on irregular preterite forms.

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