Conjugating the Irregular Spanish Verb Querer (to Want)

Spanish verbs fall into different groups, and each group is conjugated a little differently. If you’re going to master Spanish verbs like querer, you need to be able to identify which group a verb belongs to: regular (follows regular conjugation rules for -ar, -er, and -ir verbs), stem-changing (morphs depending on how you use it in a sentence), spelling-changing (has consonant-spelling changes in some forms to follow pronunciation rules), or reflexive (reflects the action back on the subject of the sentence).

Querer (keh-rehr) (to want) is tricky. In the present tense, it has an e-to-ie stem change in all but the nosotros and vosotros forms. Here’s the present tense conjugation:

The Present Tense of Querer
Conjugation Translation
yo quiero I want
tú quieres You (informal) want
él/ella/ello/uno quiere He/she/one wants
usted quiere You (formal) want
nosotros queremos We want
vosotros queréis You all (informal) want
ellos/ellas quieren They want
ustedes quieren You all (formal) want

The following examples show you querer in action:

  • ¿Quieres comprarme un teléfono? (Do you want to buy a telephone from me?)

  • No quiero tu teléfono. (I don’t want your phone.)

Here’s where it starts to get weird. In the preterit, querer has a few pretty significant irregularities:

  • It doesn’t really have a stem change so much as it picks up a completely different stem: quis-.

  • It doesn’t use the same endings as normal -er verbs in the yo and él/usted forms.

  • It doesn’t even have the same meaning. That’s right: Although querer means “to want” in the present, in the preterit it means “to try.”

Got all that? Look carefully at the following table to see all this preterit craziness at work:

The Preterit Tense of Querer
Conjugation Translation
yo quise I tried
tú quisiste You (informal) tried
él/ella/ello/uno quiso He/she/one tried
usted quiso You (formal) tried
nosotros quisimos We tried
vosotros quisisteis You all (informal) tried
ellos/ellas quisieron They tried
ustedes quisieron You all (formal) tried

You use the preterit tense like this:

  • Ella quiso acostarse a las nueve. (She tried to go to bed at 9 p.m.)

  • Nosotros quisimos cantar. (We tried to sing.)

After all that preterit drama, the imperfect form is a breath of fresh air: In the imperfect, querer conjugates like a regular verb. Check out the following table and examples.

The Imperfect Tense of Querer
Conjugation Translation
yo quería I used to want
tú querías You (informal) used to want
él/ella/ello/uno quería He/she/one used to want
usted quería You (formal) used to want
nosotros queríamos We used to want
vosotros queríais You all (informal) used to want
ellos/ellas querían They used to want
ustedes querían You all (formal) used to want

Here are some examples of the imperfect tense:

  • ¿Querían ustedes ir a nadar los sábados? (Did you used to want to go swimming on Saturdays?)

  • Si. Queríamos ir a nadir los sábados. (Yes. We used to want to go swimming on Saturdays.)

But wait! You’re not out of the woods yet. In the future tense, querer undergoes another stem transformation to querr- (the regular stem quer- + another r). However, it still uses the normal future endings:

The Future Tense of Querer
Conjugation Translation
yo querré I will want
tú querrás You (informal) will want
él/ella/ello/uno querrá He/she/one will want
usted querrá You (formal) will want
nosotros querremos We will want
vosotros querréis You all (informal) will want
ellos/ellas querrán They will want
ustedes querrán You all (formal) will want

Use the future tense like this:

  • ¿Querrás irte a Europa este verano? (Will you want to go to Europe this summer?)

  • Sí. Querré irme a Europa contigo. (Yes. I will want to go to Europe with you.)

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