Portuguese Irregular Verbs – a Needed Overview
As if the subjunctive and the other funky tenses weren’t enough, you still have to study Portuguese irregular verbs.
But hey – many languages that feature some form of conjugation (even English!) force their learners to deal with irregular verbs.
In English, you have verbs with irregular past tenses – dive, dove, dived… Come, came, come… That’s not easy for people like us to learn.
Japanese have different forms for verbs depending on the person you’re talking to. That’s what I call “very, very hard.”
In Portuguese, in addition to many verb conjugation you have to learn, you still have to tackle irregular verbs.
The bad thing is that they are irregular (duh!). That means there is not a single rule that can be used for each one of them.
But the good thing is that they carry some similarities. Even though the root of the verb may change a lot, the endings tend to be quite similar.
Another aspect of the Portuguese irregular verbs is that most of them end in -er.
Portuguese verbs have three different endings in the infinitive: -ar, -er, -ir.
Very few verbs end in AR and are irregular. One blatant example is the verb “estar,” which is another word for “to be.”
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we move on, let’s understand what we mean by regular and irregular.
What are regular verbs in Portuguese?
When the verb is regular, it means it’s root doesn’t change when it’s conjugated.
- Falar, eu falo, você fala.
The root here is FAL-and it is used with all conjugations in all tenses.
The endings are the same for every single verb – of course considering its ending in the infinitive (ar, er, ir).
And what are irregular verbs in Portuguese?
now, when the verb is irregular, the root changes – and sometimes in ways we can’t really understand.
Take the verb IR, for example.
Why is it that we say “vou” (I go) in the present tense but “fui” (I went) in the past tense?
It has to do with etymology. Folks like me are all about etymology. You can learn it if you feel tempted to, but having this knowledge without having to use it will just make you feel bloated.
(By the way, the verbs “vadere” and “ire” blended together to give birth to our Portuguese “ir” and it’s conjugations. There is more, but if you want to have some topic for conversation, now you can use this one)
An important note
Some Portuguese teachers may have told you that we have irregular verbs that change the endings and irregular verbs that change the root.
But the good thing is that they are very few and tend to follow certain paradigms.
And just two of those verbs that are very important are “ler” and “ver”.
Some verbs that change the root are:
- medir, meço (I measure)
- pedir, peço (I ask “a favor”)
- trazer, trago (I bring)
And some verbs that change the ending are:
- dizer, digo, diz (I say, you say)
- fazer, faço, faz (I do, you do)
Is there any way to identify irregular verbs?
The short answer is: no.
This is something that you have to sit down and read and memorize some of the verbs.
The good thing is, they are frequently used. You’ll end up learning them even if you don’t want to.
And here I prepared a list with five very common irregular verbs ending in -ER that can be very helpful, especially if you have learned Spanish before or if you speak it as a native language.
Exercises (instructions in the video)
- Joana vê os amigos no sábado? (Segunda-feira)
- Você vê algum problema neste texto? (Nenhum problema)
- Nós vemos esse documento hoje ou amanhã? (Amanhã mesmo)
- Você sabe dirigir? (Não)
- Você sabe falar francês? (Sim, fluentemente)
- Seus amigos sabem aonde você vai? (Não, eu não lhes contei)
- Hoje você traz seu computador? (Não, só amanhã)
- Eu gostaria de saber o que ela traz todos os dias para o trabalho? (Comida)
And a special gift for savvy PwE learners
You can’t rely on your teacher whenever you need to understand or remember the conjugation of a specific verb.
And in Brazil, we have some good resources online – free – that help us and may help you have a better grasp of Portuguese.
I routinely use this website when I have to write longer texts in Portuguese. And I think you’ll benefit from it, too.
If you want to read more grammar articles, head over to our content-rich grammar section.