How many irregular verbs are there in Spanish

How Many Irregular Verbs There Are in Spanish and How to Use Them

Spanish is really great at not over-complicating things (as opposed to, say, English). 

With most Spanish verbs, for example, what you see is what you get. You apply the simple conjugation charts you already learned and—boom, you’re done.

However, some verbs (such as the irregular ones) are just weird and work under some unique rules.

Here, we’ve created a guide to teach you how to figure out these irregular verbs and their mysterious workings.

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How Many Irregular Verbs Are There in Spanish?

Spanish has over 250 irregular verbs. While this may sound like a lot, don’t worry, there are lots of patterns that will help you memorize a majority of these irregular verbs.

These numbers should put things into perspective when thinking about how many Spanish verbs are irregular:

  • Almost all -AR verbs are regular. Less than 5% are irregular.
  • Almost all -ER verbs are irregular. Over 72% are irregular. There are 18 verbs that end in -AER and they are all irregular. For example, caer (to fall) and traer (to bring).
  • Less than half of all -IR verbs are irregular. Over 33% are irregular.

An Introduction to Irregular Verb Conjugation

Irregular verbs are verbs that do not use the standard, “regular” verb conjugations that you probably know.

What makes irregular verbs difficult is that they do not have a regular set of rules you can follow, however, there are some tips and tricks that will help you understand irregular verb conjugation.

How to Conjugate Irregular Verbs

Let’s look at some common irregular Spanish verbs and how you use them.

Ser and Estar (To Be)

These are the two most common verbs in Spanish. They’re also two of the weirdest verbs to conjugate. 

I’m not going to go into all of the differences between ser and estar, but I am going to show you how to conjugate these funky verbs in the five indicative simple tenses.

 Ser Present Preterite Imperfect Conditional Future
yo soy fui era sería seré
eres fuiste eras serías serás
él/ella/Usted es fue era sería será
nosotros somos fuimos éramos seríamos seremos
vosotros sois fuisteis erais seríais seréis
ellos/ellas/Ustedes son fueron eran serían serán

 

 Estar Present Preterite Imperfect Conditional Future
yo estoy estuve estaba estaría estaré
estás estuviste estabas estarías estarás
él/ella/Usted está estuvo estaba estaría estará
nosotros estamos estuvimos estábamos estaríamos estaremos
vosotros estáis estuvisteis estabais estaríais estaréis
ellos/ellas/Ustedes  están estuvieron estaban estarían estarán

Estar in every tense starts with “est.” So even though the endings are irregular, which will take a bit of practice and memorization, the beginning three letters are always the same.

This will also help you distinguish between ser and estar in reading and conversation.

Haber (To Have)

Haber is another verb that doesn’t quite have anything else like it.

Only a few of these conjugations are irregular and are shown in red below.

You can see that the real funky tense is the preterite. The only thing that’s different is that, in the preterite, you’re using a u when normally you would use an a.

Haber Present Preterite Imperfect Conditional Future
yo he hube había habría habré
has hubiste habías habrías habrás
él/ella/Usted ha, hay hubo había habría habrá
nosotros hemos hubimos habíamos habríamos habremos
vosotros habéis hubisteis habíais habríais habréis
ellos/ellas/Ustedes han hubieron habían habrían habrán

Hacer (To Do) and Decir (To Say)

Decir and hacer have one main thing in common: the soft c. This means that they have similar irregularities:

1. The first person conjugation (yo) in the present tense requires a g for both decir and hacer.

2. In the preterite tense, they both change the vowel in their stems to i.

3. The conditional tense for hacer and decir both add an r.

Take a look!

 Hacer Present Preterite Imperfect Conditional Future
yo hago hice hacía haría haré
haces hiciste hacías harías harás
él/ella/Usted hace hizo hacía haría hará
nosotros hacemos hicimos hacíamos haríamos haremos
vosotros hacéis hicisteis hacíais haríais haréis
ellos/ellas/Ustedes hacen hicieron hacían harían harán

 

 Decir Present Preterite Imperfect Conditional Future
yo digo dije decía diría diré
dices dijiste decías dirías dirás
él/ella/Usted dice dijo decía diría dirá
nosotros decimos dijimos decíamos diríamos diremos
vosotros decís dijisteis decíais diríais diréis
ellos/ellas/Ustedes  dicen dijeron decían dirían dirán

Tener (To Have) and Poner (To Put)

This pair also have different meanings, but share some irregularities:

1. In the first person conjugation (yo) of the present tense there’s a g.

2. The preterite tense changes the stem vowel to u for both poner and tener.

3. In the conditional and the future tenses there’s a d placed before the conjugated ending.

 Tener Present Preterite Imperfect Conditional Future
yo tengo tuve tenía tendría tend
tienes tuviste tenías tendrías tendrás
él/ella/Usted tiene tuvo tenía tendría tend
nosotros tenemos tuvimos teníamos tendríamos tendremos
vosotros tenéis tuvisteis teníais tendríais tendréis
ellos/ellas/Ustedes  tienen tuvieron tenían tendrían tendrán

 

 Poner Present Preterite Imperfect Conditional Future
yo pongo puse ponía pondría pond
pones pusiste ponías pondrías pondrás
él/ella/Usted pone puso ponía pondría pond
nosotros ponemos pusimos poníamos pondríamos pondremos
vosotros ponéis pusisteis poníais pondríais pondréis
ellos/ellas/Ustedes  ponen pusieron ponían pondrían pondrán

Sentir (To Feel) and Seguir (To Follow)

These two verbs have the same irregularity in preterite: The e changes to i in both the singular and the plural third person conjugations.

However, they have different irregularities in the present tense:

  • Sentir has ie instead of e in the singular first and second person conjugations. 
  • Seguir has just an i instead of the e for the first person plural and the first, second and third person singular.

These irregularities are very common and you will find them repeated often.

Other verbs which have the same irregularity as sentir (e to ie) include: empezar, comenzar, pensar and querer.

Other verbs like seguir (e to i) are: pedir, elegir and medir.

 Sentir Present Preterite Imperfect Conditional Future
yo siento sentí sentía sentiría sentiré
sientes sentiste sentías sentirías sentirás
él/ella/Usted siente sintió sentía sentiría sentirá
nosotros sentimos sentimos sentíamos sentiríamos sentiremos
vosotros sentís sentisteis sentíais sentiríais sentiréis
ellos/ellas/Ustedes  sienten sintieron sentían sentirían sentirán

 

 Seguir Present Preterite Imperfect Conditional Future
yo sigo seguí seguía seguiría seguiré
sigues seguiste seguías seguirías seguirás
él/ella/Usted sigue siguió seguía seguiría seguirá
nosotros seguimos seguimos seguíamos seguiríamos seguiremos
vosotros seguís seguisteis seguíais seguiríais seguiréis
ellos/ellas/Ustedes siguen siguieron seguían seguirían seguirán

The best way to pick up on these irregular verbs is to see, read or hear them in natural contexts.

This can be done easily by consuming authentic Spanish media, like books or TV shows, or by using immersion-based language learning programs.

One example is FluentU, which uses Spanish videos featuring native speakers and interactive subtitles. For any spoken word, verb or otherwise, these captions provide definitions, grammatical details and example sentences.

With time you’ll be able to hear the differences in regular and irregular verbs and be able to use them as they’re meant to be used!

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