Italian Irregular Verbs: An Introduction

From day one, Italian learners encounter the irregular present tense. For example, the irregular verb stare, is used in the common greeting “Ciao, come stai?” (= Hello, how are you?), or other irregular verbs such essere (= to be) and avere (= to have) appear in many useful sentences for beginners. This is because in Italian, as in many other languages, the most frequently used verbs are often irregular. This means that those verbs do not follow regular conjugation patterns and their conjugation must be memorized.

All Italian verbs can be divided into three groups and are classified according to the ending of their infinitive forms into three groups (conjugations): – are, – ere, or – ire.

Common first conjugation irregular verbs (ending in – are) are: andare (= to go), dare (= to give), fare (= to do/make), stare (= to stay).

Common second conjugation irregular verbs (ending in – ere) are: essere (=to be), avere (= to have), bere (= to drink), cadere (= to fall), sapere (= to know), volere (= to want).

Common second conjugation irregular verbs (ending in – ire) are: dire (=to say), venire (= to come), uscire (= to go out), salire (= to go up).

Irregular Present Tense: Conjugation

This table shows some the present tense of some first conjugation irregular verbs (ending in – are):

Irregular verbs – Present Tense (First Conjugation)
andare (to go) dare (to give) fare (to do/make) stare (to stay)
io vado do faccio sto
tu vai dai fai stai
lui/lei va fa sta
noi andiamo diamo facciamo stiamo
voi andate date fate state
loro vanno danno fanno stanno

This table shows some the present tense of some second conjugation irregular verbs (ending in – ere):

Irregular verbs – Present Tense (Second Conjugation)
essere (to be) avere (to have) sapere (to know) bere (to drink)
io sono ho so bevo
tu sei hai sai bevi
lui/lei è ha sa beve
noi sappiamo abbiamo sappiamo beviamo
voi sapete avete sapete bevete
loro sanno hanno sanno bevono

This table shows some the present tense of some third conjugation irregular verbs (ending in – ire):

Irregular verbs – Present Tense (Third Conjugation)
dire (to say) venire (to come) uscire (to go out) salire (to go up)
io dico vengo esco salgo
tu dici vieni esci sali
lui/lei dice viene esce sale
noi diciamo veniamo usciamo saliamo
voi dite venite uscite salite
loro dicono vengono escono salgono

Present Tense: Explained

In Italian, the present tense is used in the following cases:

  • To talk about ongoing actions happening in the present:

Lucia sta bene.

Lucia is doing well.

Hai tempo per un caffè?

Do you have time for a coffee?

  • To talk about general truths:

Le temperature salgono durante i mesi estivi.

The temperature goes up during the summer.

  • To talk about habits and recurrent actions still happening in the present:

Bevo un bicchiere di latte ogni sera dopo cena.

Every evening after dinner I drink a glass of milk.

  • Sometimes, the present tense is used to talk about the future, if the time of the action is clear from other elements in the sentence, meaning if other words refer to a future time or event.

Vieni a trovarmi la prossima settimana?

Will you come visit me next week?


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