Now it is time to learn the famous boot verbs (sometimes called "shoe verbs"). The
correct grammatical term for boot/shoe verbs is stem-changing verbs.
This category of verbs is made up of a small number of -AR, -ER, -IR verbs.
The only difference between the verbs that fit into the category of "boot verbs," and
all the other verbs you've been working with up until now, is this:
When you conjugate these boot verbs, the conjugations that fit inside an
imaginary "boot" have their stem vowel changed from a single vowel to a double
Example 1: The "u" in the verb jugar (to play) has to be changed to "ue" for the
Subject Pronouns Jugar
él ella usted juega
ellos ellas ustedes juegan
The same rule holds true for the e that needs to stem-change to
ie . . . the o that needs to stem-change to ue . . . and the e that has to stem-change to
i in other verbs classified as boot-verbs.
What's the "stem of a verb," you ask? Well, here is how I would explain it. . . .
To understand what the "stem" is, we need to need to examine, and to be able to
identify all the possible parts of a verb.
Spanish boot-verbs, like non-boot verbs, can be made up of up to three (3) different
These elements (or "parts," if you prefer) are, in order, from the beginning to the end
of the verb:
1. the prefix.
2. the stem (or the root, as it's sometimes called).
3. the ending.
As an example, let's use the boot-verb preferir (i, i). * If we were to break it down
according to the above-mentioned, we find that the prefix is pre-, the stem is fer, and
the ending is -ir.
In a boot-verb, it is the stem that undergoes the spelling change when the verb is
conjugated into the present tense. You will remember that all Spanish verbs end in
either "-AR," "-ER," -IR."
So, in other words, the part of the verb that comes right before the verb end is
called the stem of the verb.
Here's a list of some of the most common boot verbs we might use on a daily basis.
Boot verbs are divided into their stem-changing groups:
u --> ue, o --> ue; e --> ie; and e --> i.
e --> ie p199
preferir (e, ie) -- to prefer
querer (e, ie) — to want; to love
cerrar (e, ie) — to close
empezar (e, ie) -- to begin
entender (e, ie) – to understand
e --> i p228
servir (e, i) -- to serve
pedir (e, i) — ask for permission/order something
o --> ue p223
dormir (u, ue) -- to sleep dormir (ue, u) -- to fall asleep
poder (u, ue) -- to be able (to do something) almorzar (ue, u) -- to eat lunch
encontrar (u, ue) -- to die
volver (u, ue) -- to return
u --> ue
jugar (u, ue) -- to play a game
So what does a boot or shoe have to do with Spanish verbs? It’s easy…
After you draw your boot/shoe, all you have to remember is this simple rule:
Everything INSIDE the "boot" changes its stem vowel!
"E" to "IE."
You'll notice the endings for boot verbs are exactly the same as the endings we use
with regular verbs.
"E" changes to "IE"
More e-ie boot verbs:
entender -- to understand
cerrar -- to close ( something )
pensar -- to think
comenzar -- to commence or to begin
empezar -- to start or to begin
perder -- to lose ( a game, your keys, etc. )
Here's another boot-verb example, this time using the "O to UE" changes inside the
"O" goes to "UE"
More o--ue boot verbs:
volver -- to return El jueves vuelvo a Yakima.
costar -- to cost ¿Cuanto cuesta una noche en el hotel?
llover -- to rain Hace frio y llueve mucho.
Here's the main "U goes to UE" verb
"U" goes to "UE"
jugar -- to play (board games, athletics) Juego Monopoly.