Table of contents Chapter 24 24.1 Irregular verbs - an introduction

chapter 23
Chapter 24: Irregular verbs

  24.1 Irregular verbs - an introduction

In probably all Indo-Germanic languages - at least in Spanish, French, Italian, Persian, English, German and Latin - the change of verbs follows a certain logic. It's hard enough to learn this logic and then there are exceptioins to this logic, which makes things not even easier.

Of the irregular verbs, there are two types. The first are the ones that change only their way of writing (not the way they are spoken). They are only in their spelling different to ensure the regularity of the spoken language. In the spoken language, they are not even irregulars. Let's have a look at an example.

vencer = to win
same logic:
= to convince

yo venzo
tú vences
él vence
nosotros vencemos
vosotros vencéis
ellos vencen
yo vencía
tú vencías
el vencía
nosotros vencíamos
vosotros vencíais
ellos vencían
yo vencí
tú venciste
él venció
nosotros vencimos
vosotros vencisteis
ellos vencieron
yo venza
tú venzas
él venza
nosotros venzamos
vosotros venzáis
ellos venzan
yo venciera
tú vencieras
él venciera
nosotros venciéramos
vosotros vencierais
ellos vencieran
vence (no venzas)
venza Usted (no venza Usted)
venced (no venzáis)
venzan Ustedes
yo vencería
tú vencerías
él vencería
nosotros venceríamos
vosotros venceríais
ellos vencerían

with convencer: yo convenzo, tú convences... yo convencí, tú convenciste... yo convenza, tú convenzas... etc.

As you can see, vencer changes its stem in the first person singular in presente indicativo and in all the forms of the subjuntivo. This is only a different spelling to ensure the phonetical consistence. If not changed the the first person singular in presente indicativo would be:

venco = spoken: venko

Now it would be irregular because the sound of [c] would change to [k]. This is due to the rule that before the vocals a and o c is spoken k. These kinds of irregularities are derived irregularities.

Then there are the genuine irregular verbs that change not only in spelling but also in the way they are spoken. We will give an overview that include the imperfect, which actually has hardly any irregularities but it's easier to learn this way.

There are about 2,000 verbs, 1,000 of those have some kind of irregularity. But don't worry there aren't 1,000 different irregularities but only about 80. Most of them follow a certain scheme. Some verbs have more than one irregularity. One of those is colgar = to hang.

colgar = to hang

yo cuelgo
tú cuelgas
él cuelga
nosotros colgamos
vosotros colgáis
ellos cuelgan
yo colgaba
tú colgabas
él colgaba
nosotros colgábamos
vosotros colgabais
ellos colgaban
yo colgué
tú colgaste
él colgó
nosotros colgamos
vosotros colgasteis
ellos colgaron
yo colgaré
tú colgarás
él colgará
nosotros colgaremos
vosotros colgaréis
ellos colgarán
yo cuelgue
tú cuelgues
él cuelgue
nosotros colguemos
vosotros colguéis
ellos cuelguen
yo colgara
tú colgaras
él colgara
nosotros colgaramos
vosotros colgarais
ellos colgaran
cuelga (no cuelgues)
cuelgue Usted (no cuelgue Usted)
colguemos (no colguemos)
colgad (no colguéis)
cuelguen Ustedes (no cuelguen)
yo colgaría
tú colgarías
él colgaría
nosotros colgaríamos
vosotros colgaríais
ellos colgarían
gerundio: colgando
participio perfecto: colgado

This verb shows two changes. The o turns an u, and after g is an u added (again because of the pronunciation rule that g is spoken with a throat-sound when it is before i or e). Therefore, it is tú cuelgues and not tú cuelges. In the following we have distinguished between genuine irregular verbs and derived irregular verbs. If a verb has two irregularities, a genuine one and a derived one, it is to be found among the genuine irregular verbs only.

We now will have a look first at the genuine irregular verbs and the first ones are so irregular that even the imperfect is irregular.

chapter 23