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10 High Frequency Irregular Spanish Verbs: I Call Them "Yo-Go's"

What are “Yo-Go’s”?
I coined a name for this group of irregular Spanish verbs to help my students remember them, and it is a term used by other teachers and students. “Yo-go’s” are commonly used irregular Spanish verbs that have the
“-go” ending only in the yo form when conjugated in the present tense. The “yo” form is the first person singular form: when “I” is the subject of the verb.

The letter “g” seems to come out of nowhere because it is not a letter found in the verb’s stem. When conjugating these verbs, you have to remember to add it only to the “yo” form. I don’t include verbs that already have the letter “g” in the verb stem in the “yo-go” group (verbs like: jugar, llegar, and seguir) because the letter “g” is already part of the verb stem for all the conjugations of the verb. 

One of the first “yo-go’s” that you learn in beginning Spanish is “tengo.” It comes from the verb “tener” which means “to have” and in certain expressions it means “to be”: tengo hambre (I’m hungry), tengo sed (I’m thirsty), tengo frio (I’m cold), tengo calor (I’m warm), etc. Below is a list of all seven “yo-go” verbs.


 Why are “Yo-Go’s” important?

Besides sharing the “-go” ending in the yo form in the present tense, the letter “g” will show up again in the conjugations of these verbs when you learn the commands (the imperative mood) and the subjunctive tense. If you make the distinction when learning the present tense, it will be easier for you to remember it when you are studying the commands and the subjunctive later. 

The subjunctive is a tense that is typically studied at the advanced level; however, it is more frequently used in Spanish than English. The subjunctive tense is considered more formal in English, but it is very common in Spanish. You will even hear small children use this tense frequently because their parents model it for them. As children learning our native language, our listening skills develop before our speaking skills, so it’s a good idea to be aware of the subjunctive even if you don’t use it yet.

How can “Yo-Go’s” help me?
I identified this irregular verb group to make it easier for beginners to remember the “sneaky-g” when conjugating these verbs in the present tense and when you are learning the commands and the subjunctive later. You will typically study the commands before the subjunctive, so make a mental note to remember (to recycle) the conjugations when appropriate. A nit-picky note: the letter “g”, however, will be followed by the letter “a” (not “o”) in the commands (all but two conjugations–tú and vosotros) and all of the conjugations of the subjunctive. 

“Yo-Go’s” are a perfect example of my teaching philosophy and the basis to my verb guide, The Spanish Verb Conjugator, The Beginner’s Guide to Mastering Spanish Verbs: use the present and past tenses as a bridge to the advanced tenses. The groundwork will already be assembled should you decide to continue on with your Spanish studies. It’s a built-in feature to prepare you for the future, but it can feel like a burden in the beginning.

My hope is that you can tackle the challenges with awareness instead of giving up in frustration. Hang in there! Everything worthwhile comes with challenges that may test your convictions. Otherwise it would be, well...easy. Don’t get me wrong, I love “easy,” but I do believe that some things, like learning Spanish, wouldn’t be as satisfying to accomplish if they weren’t a little tricky.   

As part of my philosophy also: if you don't make it to the advanced level that's okay too. You can still accomplish a lot of living in the Spanish language with basic skills. I know this for a fact. And guess what happens if you lower your expectations and maintain your basic Spanish skills? They only get better.

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Reader Comments (5)

i hate irregular verbs of any language but i think that
learning how to conjugate verbs is so important in learning a language !!!

September 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLearn languages

There are not only seven "yo-gos." What about caer and decir?

September 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohnson

Johnson: You're right, caer and decir are yo go's too, I may have to change the post to "9". Gracias.

November 2, 2010 | Registered CommenterJeanne Bielejeski

Valer is valgo too.

March 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKari

Muchas gracias for reminding me of the missing 'Yo-Go's" I have added them to the verb chart.

March 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterJeanne Bielejeski

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