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Portuguese Irregular Verbs Students Need to Learn as Soon as Possible

Did you notice that some of the most frequently used Portuguese verbs are irregular? You should learn them as soon as possible to readily expand your language skills.

In this article, I will walk you through 8 must-know Portuguese irregular verbs while explaining how and when to use them.  

Being highly versatile, we use these verbs non-stop in day-to-day life. Learning their conjugations and, above all, how and when to use them, will considerably add to your ability to express yourself in Portuguese.

Let’s get started.

  1. Ser (be) > sou; és; é; somos; são
  2. Estar (be) > estou; estás; está; estamos; estão
  3. Ter (have) > tenho; tens; tem; temos; têm
  4. Haver (there is) > hei; hás; há; havemos; hão
  5. Ir (go) > vou; vais; vai; vamos; vão
  6. Poder (can) > posso; podes; pode; podemos; podem
  7. Fazer (do) > faço; fazes; faz; fazemos; fazem
  8. Dar (give) > dou; dás; dá; damos; dão

* Note that while all these verbs are irregular in the present tense, some of them are regular in the past tenses. Learn more about regular conjugation in Portuguese:
Portuguese Regular Verbs in the Present Tense
Portuguese Regular Verbs in the Past Tense

Ser 

In Portuguese, there are two equivalents of the English verb to beser and estar

Conjugation

Here’s what ser’s conjugation in the present and past tenses * looks like:

PresentPreterite 
Pretérito perfeito
Imperfect
Pretérito imperfeito
eusoufuiera
tuésfosteeras
você 
ele, ela
éfoiera
nóssomosfomoséramos
vocês 
eles, elas
sãoforameram

* In Portuguese, there are two past tenses, namely perfeito and imperfeito. To learn more about the differences between the two, read the following article:  Portuguese Perfect vs. Imperfect Tense: Know When to Use Which.

Permanent states

Unlike the verb estarser normally refers to permanent states, that is, things and phenomena that prevail in time. Here’re some examples:

Paris é em França. * 
Paris is in France.  

Eles são pessoas alegres. 
They are cheerful people.  

Eu sou Português. 
I am Portuguese.

* concerning geographic location, another verb is often used instead of ser, namely ficar. Learn more about it: Making the Most of the Portuguese Verb “Ficar”: Verb Usage and Conjugation.

As you see, the sentences above express facts and traits that wouldn’t change overnight – they are long-lasting.

Passive voice

Also, the Portuguese verb ser, like to be in English,  is used to form passive-voice sentences. 

active voice 
O Manuel escreveu um livro. 
Manuel wrote a book.  

passive voice 
O livro foi escrito pelo Manuel. 
The book was written by Manuel.

Like in English, the verb ser is followed by the past participle * of the action verb. In Portuguese, however, the past participle must agree in gender and number with the passive subject it refers to.

* Read the following article to learn more about the Portuguese Past Participle: Portuguese Past Participle and Auxiliary Verbs that Go with It.

Let’s change the passive subject to plural and feminine and see what happens:

passive voice 
As cartas foram escritas pelo Manuel. 
The letters were written by Manuel.

Reading tips! Here’re two articles to immerse yourself in the intricacies of Portuguese gender and number:

1. Disentangling Gender with Portuguese Masculine-to-Feminine Spelling Patterns
2. Forming the Plural in Portuguese: Singular-to-Plural Conversion Patterns You Need to Care About

Estar 

The Portuguese verb estar is the “other” to be. Unlike ser, estar usually refers to temporary states, that is, things that change over time. 

Conjugation

Let’s start by looking at what estar’s conjugations look like: 

PresentPreterite 
Pretérito perfeito
Imperfect
Pretérito imperfeito
euestouestiveestava
tuestásestivesteestavas
você
ele, ela
estáesteveestava
nósestamosestivemosestávamos
vocês 
eles, elas
estãoestiveramestavam

Temporary states

Here’re a couple of examples with estar lending a temporary quality to time:

Hoje, estou bem-disposto. 
Today, I am in a good mood.  

Nós estamos na Inglaterra. 
We are in England.  

O chá está super quente. 
The tea is super hot.

Now, there are contextual subtleties making the choice between ser and estar not that obvious. Read this article to go deeper into ser vs estar: Portuguese Verbs Ser and Estar: How and When to Use Either.

Ter 

The Portuguese verb ter is equivalent to the English verb have

Conjugation

Here’s what its present and past simple verb forms look like:

PresentPreterite 
Pretérito perfeito
Imperfect
Pretérito imperfeito
eutenhotivetinha
tuestástivestetinhas
você
ele, ela
estátevetinha
nósestamostivemostínhamos
vocês 
eles, elas
estãotiveramtinham

Expressing possession

Let’s look at a couple of examples where ter corresponds to have:

Eu tenho dois filhos. 
I have two children.  

Ela tem muito dinheiro. 
She’s got a lot of money.

Talking about age

Now, we also use ter in situations where English calls to verbs other than have. That’s the case when we talk about age:

– Que idade tens
Tenho 23 anos. 
– How old are you? 
– I’m 23 years old.

Expressing physiological states

Also, unlike in English, we use ter + noun to express physiological states:

Tens frio
Pelo contrário, tenho calor
– Are you cold? 
– On the contrary, I am hot.  


Tens sede
– Sim, tenho sede e também tenho fome
– Are you thirsty? 
– Yes, I am thirsty and also hungry.

Forming perfect tenses

Like the verb have, ter is used as an auxiliary to form perfect tenses:

Tenho trabalhado muito ultimamente. 
I have been working a lot lately.

Reading tips! Here’s an article to go to if you want to explore Portuguese equivalents to English tenses and moods: Portuguese Verb Tenses and Moods Explained: A Usage Rundown Anchored to English.

Ter de – must

Finally, the verb ter followed by the preposition de is equivalent to the English modal verb must

Tens de deixar de fumar se quiseres ter saúde. 
You must quit smoking if you want to stay healthy.

Reading tips! Learn more about Portuguese modal verbs: Portuguese Equivalents of English Modal Verbs

Haver

The Portuguese verb haver is used to (1) express duration and time flow. It is also used for (2) saying that someone or something exists, or that something happens (much like there is in English). 

Additionally, haver can replace ter (as auxiliary) to (3) form perfect tenses.

Conjugation

Here’s what haver looks like in the present and past simple tenses: 

PresentPreterite 
Pretérito perfeito
Imperfect
Pretérito imperfeito
euheihouvehavia
tuháshouvestehavias
você
ele, ela
*houvehavia
nóshavemoshouvemoshavíamos
vocês 
eles, elas
hãohouveramhaviam

* Note that those first two usage situations of haver mentioned above only use haver’s third-person singular (therefore highlighted in bold). 

Time flow

Here’re a couple of examples where haver () is expressing duration and time flow:

Vivo em Lisboa 3 anos. 
I have been living in Lisbon for 3 years.  

O José visitou a Rússia 2 anos. 
José visited Russia 2 years ago.

Note that in the first sentence, the main verb is in the present tense (vivo) –  in that case, refers to the passage of time concerning a durative action between a point in the past and the present moment (for 3 years). 

In the second sentence, however, the main verb is in the past tense (visitou) – then, denotes the passage of time between the present moment and a punctual action that took place in the past (2 years ago).

There is …

Now, look at a few examples of  haver () used as there is/are:

alguém aqui com pressa? 
Is there anyone here in a hurry?  

Na vida momentos bons e maus. 
In life, there are good and bad moments.

Note that, unlike in English, we continue to use the singular form even when it refers to a plural noun, as is the case for the second sentence above.

Forming perfect tenses (instead of ter)

Finally, here’s an example with haver being used as an auxiliary verb to form a perfect tense (in this case, we conjugate haver to conform with the subject):

Nós havíamos vivido com dificuldades antes de termos ficado ricos. 
We had lived with difficulties before we got rich.

Further reading! Be sure, there is more to haver. Here’s an article for you in case you want to go deeper into this verb:  The Portuguese Verb “Haver” and Things You Say with It.

Ir 

The Portuguese verb ir is the equivalent of the English verb go. It is also used as an auxiliary verb to express future time. 

Conjugation

Here’s what it looks like in the present and past simple tenses:

PresentePreterite 
Pretérito perfeito *
Imperfect
Pretérito imperfeito
euvoufuiia
tuvaisfosteias
você
ele, ela
vaifoiia
nósvamosfomosíamos
vocês 
eles, elas
vãoforamiam

* Note that the perfeito past tense of ir has the same verb conjugations as the perfeito past tense of ser. Then, of course, it is the context telling you which verb is being used.

Here’s an example:

– Onde vais
–  Vou ao supermercado. 
– Where are you going? 
– I’m going to the shop.

Future time

Ir is also used as an auxiliary to express a future time, much like the English structure be + going to:

– O que vais fazer logo à noite? 
–  Vou fazer um bolo. 
– What are you going to do this evening? 
– I’m going to bake a cake.

Tips! Portuguese language learners often use andar when they want to say ir and vice-versa. Learn more about it: Portuguese Verbs “Ir” vs. “Andar” – Know When to Use Either.

Poder 

The Portuguese modal verb poder is used to express permission and possibility, just like can in English.

Conjugation

Here’s what it looks like in the present and past simple tenses:

PresentPreterite 
Pretérito perfeito
Imperfect
Pretérito imperfeito
eupossopudepodia
tupodespudestepodias
você
ele, ela
podepôdepodia
nóspodemospudemospodíamos
vocês 
eles, elas
podempuderampodiam

Here’re a couple of examples with poder:

Podes-me ajudar? 
Can you help me?  

Não podes fumar aqui! 
You can’t smoke in here!

Reading tips!

Learn more about other Portuguese modal verbs:  Portuguese Equivalents of English Modal Verbs.

Also, you may feel unsure about if you should be using the verb conseguir or poder. Learn the difference: How to Tell “Poder” Apart From “Conseguir” in Portuguese.

Fazer

We often use the Portuguese verb fazer where, in English, we say make, do, or take. Besides, the verb fazer is extensively used in colloquial expressions and set phrases.

Conjugation

Here’s what fazer looks like in the present and past simple tenses:

PresentPreterite 
Pretérito perfeito
Imperfect
Pretérito imperfeito
eufaçofizfazia
tufazesfizestefazias
você
ele, ela
fazfezfazia
nósfazemosfizemosfazíamos
vocês 
eles, elas
fazemfizeramfaziam

Do, make, take

Here are some examples where fazer corresponds to either do, make, or take:

– O que estás a fazer
– Estou a fazer o almoço. 
– What are you doing? 
– I am making lunch.  

Faz uma pausa! 
Take a break!

Set phrases

And now, a few examples of set phrases with fazer:

Fazer idea (to have a clue) 
Não faço ideia! 
I have no idea!  

Fazer de conta (pretend) 
Ela fez de conta que não me viu. 
She pretended that she didn’t see me.  

Fazer a barba (to shave) 
Faço a barba uma vez por semana. 
I shave once a week.

Reading tips! Continue to explore the idiomatic riches of fazer in this article: The Portuguese Verb “Fazer” and All the Things You Say with It.

Dar

The Portuguese verb dargive in English – is incredibly versatile and used in countless idioms and set phrases. 

Conjugation

Here is what it looks like conjugated in the present and past simple tenses: 

PresentPreterite 
Pretérito perfeito
Imperfect
Pretérito imperfeito
eudoudeidava
tudásdestedavas
você
ele, ela
deudava
nósdamosdemosdávamos
vocês 
eles, elas
dãoderamdavam

Give

Here’re some examples of dar when used as in give:

Ele deu-me uma prenda. 
He gave me a gift.  

Este problema está a dar-te dores de cabeça! 
This problem is giving you a headache!

Expressing possibility

Now, dar followed by the preposition para is often used to express possibility, much like poder above is:

Desculpa, mas não deu para chegar a tempo. 
Sorry, but I couldn’t make it in time.  

para me ajudares? 
Can you help me?

Noticing

We also say dar followed by conta to say that we notice/realize something:

O Joaquim deu conta que se esqueceu do telemóvel em casa. Joaquim realized that he had forgotten his mobile at home.  Quando me dei conta já passava da meia-noite. When I realized, it was already past midnight.

Idioms

Here’re a few idioms with dar:

Dar um jeito (do a favor) 
Podes dar-me um jeito? 
Can you do me a favor? 

Quem me dera (I wish) 
Quem me dera que estivesses aqui. 
I wish you were here.  

Dar com o gato (finding out the problem) 
Já deste com o gato? 
Did you already find what was bugging you?

Further reading! There’s so much more you can say with dar … This one is a giant, really! Learn more about its idiomatic uses in the following article: The Portuguese Verb “Dar”: Usage and Idiomatic Expressions.

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