Regular vs. Irregular Verbs

In previous lessons, you learned the verb ser to be - permanent, a common irregular verb. (As if learning 50 conjugations of a verb wasn’t enough, we also have to watch out for the dreaded irregular verbs! 🙈) Why are they called that? Well, they are irregular because they don’t follow the same conjugation patterns as regular verbs. To make sure you’re ready to face more verbs in the coming lessons, let’s look at both regular and irregular verbs in Portuguese.
Hang on to your hats! 🎩👒

Irregular verbs happen in English too

Have you noticed that English also has irregular verbs? The verb “to be” is a good example – could you explain to a beginner why “you is” or “she am” is incorrect?
You can’t! The correct conjugations just have to be memorized because they come from an irregular verb.

Irregular verbs in Portuguese

In Portuguese, when you conjugate a regular verb, you take the root (which doesn’t change throughout the conjugation) and you add an ending, which varies according to the subject, number, and tense. Depending on how the verb ends (-ar, -er, or -ir), these endings are always the same for regular verbs.
With irregular verbs, it’s more complicated.
Some irregular verbs present changes in the root, others in the termination (ending) rules, and others in both. However, being classified as irregular doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire conjugation becomes weird and unfamiliar. Sometimes it’s only in certain forms and sometimes a Portuguese verb can be irregular in one tense (i.e. present tense) but regular in another… Que confusão! What a mess!

Changes in the root:

  • Medir To measureEu meço I measure (instead of “Eu medo”)
  • Trazer To bringEu trago I bring (instead of “Eu trazo”)

Changes in the ending:

  • Fazer To doEle fazHe does (instead of “Ele faze“)
  • Estar To beEu estouI am (instead of “Eu esto“)

How can you tell whether a verb is regular or irregular?

There is no way to know if the verb will be regular or not just by looking at the infinitive form of the verb. Again, you just have to memorize them over time!
However, depending on how different an irregular verb is from what it “should” be, it is possible to group the irregular verbs in Portuguese into the following groups:

Strong Irregular Verbs examples:

    • Estar To be
    • Dar To give
    • Ter To have
    • Saber To know
    • Fazer To do
    • Querer To want
    • Poder To be able to
    • Dizer To tell

Weak Irregular Verbs examples:

    • Ouvir To hear
    • Perder To lose
    • Medir To measure
    • Pedir To ask

Totally Different Verbs examples:

ser
to be (permanent condition)

Indicativo

Ser – Indicativo – Presente

Tu és uma boa pessoa.
You’re a good person.

  • eu sou
  • I am
  • tu és
  • you are
  • ele / ela é
  • he / she is
  • você é
  • you formal are
  • nós somos
  • we are
  • eles / elas são
  • they masc. / they fem. are
  • vocês são
  • you pl. are

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ter
to have

Indicativo

Ter – Indicativo – Presente

Tu tens olhos azuis.
You have blue eyes.

  • eu tenho
  • I have
  • tu tens
  • you have
  • ele / ela tem
  • he / she has
  • você tem
  • you formal have
  • nós temos
  • we have
  • eles / elas têm
  • they masc. / they fem. have
  • vocês têm
  • you pl. have

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ir
to go

Indicativo

Ir – Indicativo – Presente

Nós vamos lá muito.
We go there a lot.

  • eu vou
  • I go
  • tu vais
  • you go
  • ele / ela vai
  • he / she goes
  • você vai
  • you formal go
  • nós vamos
  • we go
  • eles / elas vão
  • they masc. / they fem. go
  • vocês vão
  • you pl. go

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vir
to come

Indicativo

Vir – Indicativo – Presente

Nós vimos aqui relaxar.
We come here to relax.

  • eu venho
  • I come
  • tu vens
  • you come
  • ele / ela vem
  • he / she comes
  • você vem
  • you formal come
  • nós vimos
  • we come
  • eles / elas vêm
  • they masc. / they fem. come
  • vocês vêm
  • you pl. come

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An example with -AR Verbs

You may have already seen some regular -AR verbs, like falar:

falar
to speak

Indicativo

Falar – Indicativo – Presente

Eu falo com ela todos os dias.
I speak with her everyday.

  • eu falo
  • I speak
  • tu falas
  • you speak
  • ele / ela fala
  • he / she speaks
  • você fala
  • you formal speak
  • nós falamos
  • we speak
  • eles / elas falam
  • they masc. / they fem. speak
  • vocês falam
  • you pl. speak

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Now have a look at one of the most common irregular -AR verbs in Portuguese:

estar
to be (temporary or accidental condition)

Indicativo

Estar – Indicativo – Presente

Nós estamos quase lá.
We are almost there.

  • eu estou
  • I am
  • tu estás
  • you are
  • ele / ela está
  • he / she is
  • você está
  • you formal are
  • nós estamos
  • we are
  • eles / elas estão
  • they masc. / they fem. are
  • vocês estão
  • you pl. are

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Let’s compare the endings of the 2 verbs’ conjugations:

Regular -AR Ending Actual Conjugation of “Estar”
-o Eu estou
-as Tu estás
-a Ele / Ela / Você está
-amos Nós estamos
-am Eles / Elas / Vocês estão

Tip: As you start memorizing more irregular verbs, you may see some patterns. For example, although the verb dar to give is also irregular, it happens to be conjugated with the same endings as estar to be - temporary

dar
to give

Indicativo

Dar – Indicativo – Presente

Eu dou as minhas roupas para caridade.
I give my clothes to charity.

  • eu dou
  • I give
  • tu dás
  • you give
  • ele / ela
  • he / she gives
  • você
  • you formal give
  • nós damos
  • we give
  • eles / elas dão
  • they masc. / they fem. give
  • vocês dão
  • you pl. give

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Other Common Irregular Verbs

odiar
to hate

Indicativo

Odiar – Indicativo – Presente

Os miúdos odeiam vegetais.
The kids hate vegetables.

  • eu odeio
  • I hate
  • tu odeias
  • you hate
  • ele / ela odeia
  • he / she hates
  • você odeia
  • you formal hate
  • nós odiamos
  • we hate
  • eles / elas odeiam
  • they masc. / they fem. hate
  • vocês odeiam
  • you pl. hate

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ver
to see

Indicativo

Ver – Indicativo – Presente

Eu vejo bem porque uso óculos.
I see well because I wear glasses.

  • eu vejo
  • I see
  • tu vês
  • you see
  • ele / ela
  • he / she sees
  • você
  • you formal see
  • nós vemos
  • we see
  • eles / elas veem
  • they masc. / they fem. see
  • vocês veem
  • you pl. see

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sair
to leave

Indicativo

Sair – Indicativo – Presente

Tu sais sempre do trabalho muito cansado.
You always leave work very tired.

  • eu saio
  • I leave
  • tu sais
  • you leave
  • ele / ela sai
  • he / she leaves
  • você sai
  • you formal leave
  • nós saímos
  • we leave
  • eles / elas saem
  • they masc. / they fem. leave
  • vocês saem
  • you pl. leave

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You can see more common examples of irregular verbs in Portuguese here: Irregular -ER Verbs & Irregular -IR Verbs

Help! 😧

Remember, you can always reference our Verbs section for help with conjugating regular and irregular verbs in different tenses. 😌

Comments:

    • Hey, Shirley. Oh, it certainly could – “ter” is also a highly irregular verb. This is not an extensive list, though, just a few examples. I’ll add it anyway, since it’s a verb that we use all the time and good to know.

  • In the third person plural of “ver” and “ler” you need two “e”s because you need eyes to see and read and “eyes” has two “e”s; whereas, you don’t need eyes to have (ter) something (one “e” with a circumflex)

    • That’s precisely what Portuguese teachers often say to help students memorize the different conjugations 🙂 Definitely don’t take it literally, but keep it in mind as a convenient mnemomic.

  • God, its much harder than i thought!
    I suppose there is no easy way to learn verbs, it just depends upon how good your memory is as to how quickly you can memorise them!

    • For the irregular ones, it does come down to some memorization. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it!) many of the most common verbs are irregular, which means you’ll also often hear certain conjugations in context. That can make it easier to pick some of it up within common phrases without explicitly having to memorize.

    • Good question – this is a tough one. We actually talk about this in one of our podcasts: As Senhoras Que Bebem Cerveja . Skip to about the 5:50 mark and listen to Rui’s pronunciations. It’s hard to hear, but basically with veem, the first e is more like “eh”, whereas with vêm it’s more like a nasalized “ay”.

  • The difference between the conjugation for ver and those for vir has always been difficult for me. But I like the “you need two eyes to read, so therefore you need two e’s in the plural conjugations for ver” tip.

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