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When I was learning Spanish, I came across the fact that Spanish verbs have three classes: AR, ER, and IR. I notice that more of them have the AR verb ending.

The verb endings are the same in Latin, but is there a root from Proto-Indo-European that determines these verb endings? If there is, it is probably not 100% across the board because some ER/ERE verbs in Latin got turned into IR verbs. If there isn't an obvious one, then is there a tendency for AR verbs to have one type of trait(s) and the other types to have another trait or group of traits?

What I mean by "where do they come from" is in part about if there are words that are roots.

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In Latin, the present infinitive was marked with a suffix -(e)re attached to the verb stem. This ended up creating four fairly-regular categories: stems ending in , with infinitives in -āre; stems ending in , with infinitives in -ēre; stems ending in , with infinitives in -īre; and stems ending in anything else, with infinitives in -ere. Eventually, in Vulgar Latin/Proto-Romance, this fourth "catch-all" group got split up and its verbs redistributed among the others, giving the familiar Spanish categories of -ar, -er, -ir.

So, the real question is, where did these four different "flavors" of stems come from?

Well, in Proto-Indo-European, there were quite a lot of different ways to turn a basic root into a verb stem. Most of these involved suffixes of some sort, so these suffixes determined the ending of the stem that was passed down to Latin:

  • "Root verbs" (no suffix) generally ended in consonants, so they went into the -ere class
  • Verbs suffixed with *-ye ended up in the -ere or -īre classes
  • Verbs suffixed with *-eh₁ ended up in the -ēre class
  • Verbs suffixed with *-eh₂ ended up in the -āre class
  • Verbs suffixed with anything else went into the -ere class

So for most verbs, which class they ended up in, depended on which method was used to turn the root into a verb in Proto-Indo-European. Sometimes this affected the meaning, but sometimes it didn't, and it was just an accident of fate that the verb formed with *-ye caught on and the one formed with *-eh₁ didn't.

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