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Spelling-Changing Spanish Verbs and Pronunciation

As a Spanish verb is conjugated, changes in its spelling may alter the way the word is pronounced, so additional spelling changes are necessary to ensure that the resulting pronunciation of the word matches the pronunciation of the original. Basically, Spanish is a phonetic language, so what you see is what you get (or, more precisely, what you see is what you say or hear). The following eight groups give these spelling changes some sense of logic:

  • Group 1: Soft g changes to j in front of an -o or an -a ending.

  • Group 2: Hard gu changes to g in front of an -o or an -a ending.

  • Group 3: Hard qu changes to c in front of an -o or an -a ending.

  • Group 4: The c in -cer or -cir verbs, when preceded by a consonant, changes to a z in front of an -o or an -a ending.

  • Group 5: The c in -cer or -cir verbs, when preceded by a vowel, changes to zc in front of an -o or an -a ending. (This spelling-change rule is not dictated by pronunciation reasons, but it still falls under the category of a spelling change rule.)

  • Group 6: Hard c changes to qu in front of an -e ending.

  • Group 7: The letter z changes to c in front of an -e ending.

  • Group 8: Hard g changes to gu in front of an -e ending.

Groups 1 through 5 affect the present tense; here some examples of each group.

Group 1 (soft g to j): escojer (to choose)
yo escojo
escoges
él/ella/ello/uno escoge
usted escoge
nosotros escogemos
vosotros escogéis
ellos/ellas escogen
ustedes escogen

Another verb in this group is proteger (to protect).

Group 2 (hard gu to g): distinguir (to distinguish)
yo distingo
distingues
él/ella/ello/uno distingue
usted distingue
nosotros distinguimos
vosotros distinguís
ellos/ellas distinguen
ustedes distinguen

Two other verbs in this group are conseguir (to attain) and seguir (to follow).

Group 3 (hard qu to c): delinquir (to offend)
yo delinco
delinques
él/ella/ello/uno delinque
usted delinque
nosotros delinquemos
vosotros delinquís
ellos/ellas delinquen
ustedes delinquen

This verb stands alone — no other verb follows its example.

Group 4 (c to z): convencer (to convince)
yo convenzo
convences
él/ella/ello/uno convence
usted convence
nosotros convencemos
vosotros convencéis
ellos/ellas convencen
ustedes convencen

Another verb in this group is vencer (to defeat/conquer).

Group 5 (c to z): conocer (to know/be familiar with)
yo conozco
conoces
él/ella/ello/uno conoce
usted conoce
nosotros conocemos
vosotros conocéis
ellos/ellas conocen
ustedes conocen

Other verbs in this group are conducir (to drive), producir (to produce), traducir (to translate), crecer (to grow), ofrecer (to offer), and pertenecer (to pertain).

“But what about Groups 6 through 8?” you ask. Those groups (along with Groups 1 and 2, pulling double duty) deal with the subjunctive mood, which you use to express wish, desire, and/or supposition.

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