No matter where you are, you’re going to need sleep. If you’re with Spanish speakers, you’ll want to know how to talk about it. Rather than inventing new words or gesturing, this lesson will help you say exactly what you want to say when talking about sleep in the present.
Introducing the Verb Dormir
Ah, sleep! So essential to life, and at times so elusive to some of us! At one time or another you may find yourself talking about your sleeping habits with friends. For this lesson we’ll see how that is done in Spanish with the verb dormir (pronounced dor-MEER), ‘to sleep’.
Dormir in Context
Perhaps one never misses sleep more than when a new life has been added to a family. To understand dormir in context, let’s look at an example. You see your friend Mariana with her new baby. Like any new mother, Mariana’s sleep patterns have changed, and you both want to talk about it.
Use dormir to talk about how a baby sleeps.
Seeing the lovely little one, you ask Mariana:
¿Duerme por toda la noche? (Does she sleep all night?)
Mariana: No, ella no duerme toda la noche. Ella se despierta cada dos horas. (No, she doesn’t sleep all night. She wakes up every two hours.)
You: Entonces tú no duermes mucho, ¿verdad? (So you don’t sleep a lot, right?)
Mariana: No, yo no duermo mucho. (No, I don’t sleep a lot.)
You: ¿Y duermen ustedes durante el día? (And do you all sleep during the day?)
Mariana: Sí, dormimos después del almuerzo. ¡Yo duermo cuando ella duerme! (Yes, we sleep after lunch. I sleep when she sleeps!)
In general, in order to use a Spanish verb in a sentence you must change the ending of the verb to correspond with the subject. We call this conjugation. If you think of a verb as a power tool like a drill, that has different bits at the end that you can attach for different tasks, then you have the idea of conjugation. Let’s look at the example with the regular verb vivir (to live).
Yo vivo en Los Angeles. (I live in Los Angeles.)
Tú vives en Nueva York. (You live in New York.)
For each example, the only part of the verb that changes is the ending, the part that originally ended in -ir.
Conjugating verbs is like using one drill (verb stem) with different bits (endings).
Drill with bits
Because dormir is a stem-changing verb, instead of just changing the ending, or the drill bit, you actually have to change more of the spelling of the verb. In the stem of the verb, the -o changes to -ue for most of the conjugations. It would be like switching out your battery for the power plug to use the drill. It’s essentially the same tool with the same parts, you just needed to do a little extra to the drill itself for the task at hand. Let’s see how that looks.
VERB: Dormir (dor-MEER) – to sleep
Subject Pronoun Dormir Conjugation Pronunciation Translation
yo duermo (DWAYR-moh) I sleep
tú duermes (DWAYR-mays) you sleep (singular, informal)
él/ella/usted duerme (DWAYR-may) he/she sleeps
you sleep (formal, singular)
nosotros dormimos (dor-MEE-mohs) we sleep
vosotros dormís (dor-MEES) you all sleep (informal)
ellos/ellas/ustedes duermen (DWAYR-mayn) they sleep
you all sleep (formal, plural)
Notice that there are two forms of dormir that DO NOT change the spelling in the stem of the verb. Those are the nosotros and vosotros forms of the verb. Recall that in your conversation with Mariana she made the following statement:
Sí, dormimos después del almuerzo. (Yes, we sleep after lunch.)
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