The Exquisite Conjugation of Portuguese Verbs Ending in -IR
Learning Portuguese entails a lot—speaking every day, memorizing new vocabulary, and conjugating verbs. Sounds simple… But it’s not all this rosy picture when it comes to the conjugation of Portuguese verbs ending in -IR.
That’s because this verb group has some “irregular verbs” that are less irregular than others.
The Two Big Groups
You can put the verbs ending in -IR In Portuguese in 2 groups.
- The ones that change the vowel only in the first person for the present tense.
- The ones that change vowels in more than one position.
And this second group can be subdivided into three additional groups.
- Verbs that change the root vowel in the first, third person singular and the third person plural.
- Verbs that change the letter O into U in the first person of the simple present tense.
- And verbs that change the letter O into U in the third person singular and plural.
Let’s take a look at the easiest one first.
Loses One E, Gains One I
Brazilians use the verbs in this first group very frequently.
This is because the verbs vestir, preferir, sugerir, sentir, refletir, seguir, and repetir are in here.
(Also the verbs that derive from them, like investir, revestir, referir, interferir, transferir, conferir, perseguir, conseguir, and the one that doesn’t really come from any other verb—divertir.)
- >>>Eu prefiro / visto / consigo<<<
- Você, Ele, Ela prefere / veste / consegue
- Nós preferimos / vestimos / conseguimos
- Vocês, Eles, Elas preferem / vestem / conseguem
You can see that the first person suffers the vowel change. Only that.
Also, the present subjunctive is formed by using the root of the conjugation of the first person (prefir-, vist-, consig-), so it’s “irregular” as well.
- Que eu prefira, que você prefira…
Loses an E, Gains Three I
This group comprises one verb and its derivatives that so commonly pester my English-speaking friends.
(If you tend to say “progressar”, that’s understandable, but it’s not “good” Portuguese.)
- Eu progrido
- Você, Ele, Ela progride
- Nós progredimos
- Vocês, Eles, Elas progridem
Only the “nós” keeps the same vowel.
Other verbs in this group are:
Regredir, agredir, transgredir (de transgressão), prevenir—there are others, but these are the most common. (Although there’s a verb much dear to my debate-loving friends, digredir, this isn’t used as often… but its noun, digressão, is, so—USE IT)
Also, bear in mind that this change also influences the present subjunctive. (que eu progrida, que eu previna…)
Loses One O, Gains One U
The most common delegate of this group is descobrir.
And it’s only the first person singular in the simple present tense that takes the blow.
- Eu descubro
- Você, Ele, Ela descobre
- Nós descobrimos
- Vocês, Eles, Elas descobrem
This conjugation also has an impact on the present subjunctive—so, pay attention 😊
Other verbs in this group are cobrir, recobrir, encobrir (yep, all of which originate from the same route), dormir, and tossir (cough).
Cuspir (to spit) is a funny verb. It takes the opposite route. You might feel tempted to put it in this group… but it belongs in the next—
Loses Two U, Gains Two O
As I said, cuspir belongs in this group—and it has many friends to boot.
- Eu cuspo
- >>>Você,Ele, Ela cospe<<<
- nós cuspimos
- >>>Vocês, Eles, Elas cospem<<<
Strange choice of verbs, right?
This will help you memorize. Spits two teeth (U-shaped), gains two sockets (or holes, if you will) that are O-shaped.
With this verb you’ll also find subir (a common-íssimo verb) and sumir (disappear) and its derivatives (“consumir” being top-of-mind).
Phew! That was harsh—but much needed.
And if you have more grammar questions, ask me. I’ll probably write an article and put it up here in the grammar section.
All you want is to speak with more confidence—making fewer (if any) mistakes. Here’s the report that’ll truly help you.