Irregular Present Tense: Italian Grammar Lesson 8

Key Takeaways

Discover the essentials of Italian verb conjugation, focusing on irregular verbs across three conjugations (-are, -ere, -ire). Learn how to use the present tense for various contexts and master common irregular verbs with practical examples.

  • Identify the three conjugations: Italian verbs are grouped into three categories based on their infinitive endings: –are, –ere, and –ire. Knowing this helps you understand how to conjugate them correctly. 📚
  • Master common irregular verbs: Get familiar with frequently used irregular verbs like andare (to go), essere (to be), and dire (to say). These verbs don’t follow regular patterns, so memorization is key. 🧠
  • Use the present tense effectively: The present tense in Italian isn’t just for now. Use it to talk about ongoing actions, general truths, habits, and even future events if the context is clear. 🕒
  • Recognize the progressive tense: When you need to emphasize that something is happening right now, use the –ing form (progressive tense). It’s a handy tool to make your Italian sound more natural. ⏳
  • Practice with examples: Examples like Lucia sta bene (Lucia is doing well) and Bevo un bicchiere di latte ogni sera (I drink a glass of milk every evening) help solidify your understanding of how to use these verbs in real-life situations. 🗣️
  • Remember the irregulars: The most commonly used verbs in Italian are often irregular. This means you’ll encounter them frequently, so it’s worth putting in the effort to memorize their unique conjugations. 💪
  • Learn through context: Sometimes the present tense is used to talk about future events. For example, Vieni a trovarmi la prossima settimana? (Will you come visit me next week?). Context clues will help you understand and use this correctly. 🔮
  • Stay motivated: Conjugating irregular verbs can be challenging, but with practice and memorization, you’ll get the hang of it. Keep practicing, and soon you’ll be conjugating like a native speaker! 🚀

Quick facts

How are Italian verbs categorized?

Italian verbs are grouped by their infinitive endings into three conjugations: -ARE, -ERE, and -IRE.

What is the importance of the thematic vowel in Italian verb conjugation?

The thematic vowel determines the verb conjugation and affects its conjugation pattern.

How do the root and ending of an Italian verb differ in function?

The root conveys the verb’s meaning, while the ending provides grammatical information like tense and subject.

Why are verbs crucial in sentence structure?

Verbs dictate the choice of subject, objects, and prepositions, forming the backbone of sentence construction.

Which Italian conjugation is mostly regular?

The first conjugation (-ARE verbs) is predominantly regular, unlike the second and third conjugations.

How does the present tense function in Italian?

It describes current actions, general truths, habits, and future actions when the time is specified.

How do irregular verbs differ in conjugation from regular verbs?

Irregular verbs change their root entirely when conjugated, making them harder to learn.

What memory types are involved in learning Italian verbs?

Learning involves procedural memory for grammar and pronunciation, and declarative memory for vocabulary and irregular forms.

How can one effectively practice irregular Italian verbs?

Regular practice and conversation, possibly with an AI tutor, helps reinforce memory and correct usage.

What role do irregular verbs play in language fluency?

Mastering irregular verbs is essential for fluency as they are frequently used and often irregular forms must be memorized.

My Thoughts

Italian Verbs: an Introduction

Italian Verbs Conjugations

Italian verbs can be divided into three groups based on their conjugationsthat is, the ending of their infinitive forms, which affects the way the verb is, indeed, conjugated. The three Italian conjugations are -ARE, -ERE, -IRE:

  • First conjugation (verbs end in – are): mangiare (= to eat), lavorare (= to work), studiare (= to study).
  • Second conjugation (verbs end in – ere): leggere (=to read), perdere (= to lose), vivere (= to live).
  • Third conjugation (verbs end in – ire): dormire (= to sleep), capire (= to understand), preferire (= to prefer).

In linguistics, the vowel that changes and allows to determine the verb conjugation is called thematic vowel. When you conjugate a verb in Italian, its root displays semantic information – the meaning of the verb – , while its ending displays the following grammatical information:

  • subject (person and number)
  • verb mood and tense
  • verb conjugation

Let me show you an example:

LAVORARE – lavorano

where lavor is the root, displaying the meaning of the verb (to work) and –ano is the ending, displaying the verb conjugation (first), the verb tense (indicative present), and the subject (third person plural).

Almost all Italian first-conjugation verbs are regular. Irregular verbs usually belong to the second and third conjugation.

Italian Verbs Moods and Tenses

Italian is a very rich language in terms of verbal system. It has different moods and tenses. Here, I will show you the present tense of the indicative mood, but I believe it is important you are familiar with the entire verb organization in general.

I made this table which shows the first person singular conjugation of all verb tenses and moods. Notice that, for the imperative mood, I used the second person singular.

Mood Tense Conjugation
Indicativo Presente (Present) studio
Imperfetto (Imperfect) studiavo
Passato remoto (Remote Past) studiai
Futuro semplice (Simple Future) studierò
Passato prossimo (Present Perfect) ho studiato
Trapassato prossimo (Past Perfect) avevo studiato
Trapassato remoto (Preterite Perfect) ebbi studiato
Futuro anteriore (Future Perfect) avrò studiato
Congiuntivo Presente (Present) studi
Imperfetto (Imperfect) studiassi
Passato (Past) abbia studiato
Trapassato (Past Perfect) avessi studiato
Condizionale Presente (Present) studierei
Passato (Past) avrei studiato
Imperativo Presente (Present) studia
Infinito Presente (Present) studiare
Passato (Past) avere studiato
Participio Presente (Present) studiante
Passato (Past) studiato
Gerundio Presente (Present) studiando
Passato (Past) avendo studiato

Here, I will discuss the present tense of the indicative mood. Precisely, irregular verbs only. If you want to know more about regular present tense, have a look at the relevant grammar lesson!

Mangio una mela ogni giorno.

Italian Present Tense


While all regular verbs in the present tense are conjugated by removing the infinitive ending areere, or ire and by adding the corresponding endings, with irregular verbs the situation is different.

Irregular verbs change their entire root when being conjugated. The endings – that is, the conjugation itself – are the same as the regular verbs, but their root is different, which makes learning them a bit harder.

Here are 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

Here are 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 siamo abbiamo sappiamo beviamo
voi siete avete sapete bevete
loro sono hanno sanno bevono

Here are 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


In Italian, the present tense is used to:

  • talk about actions that are currently happening:

Lucia vive a Bologna.🔊

Lucia lives in Bologna.

Oggi lavoroda casa.🔊

I’m working from home today.

However, notice that if you want to stress out that an action or event is occurring right now, you can use the progressive tense (-ing form).

  • talk about general truths:

L’acqua bolle a 100 gradi.🔊

Water boils at 100 degrees.

Le tigri non vivono in Africa.🔊

Tigers don’t live in Africa.

  • talk about habits and recurrent actions currently happening:

Mangio due piatti di pasta al giorno.🔊

I eat pasta twice a day.

Tutte le sere leggo un po’ prima di andare a dormire.🔊

Every evening I read for a bit before I go to sleep.

  • talk about future actions if the time of the action is clear:

Domani torno a casa.🔊

I’m going back home tomorrow.

Gli studenti bevono caffè ogni mattina.

Practice with Quizlet

Here's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.

Verb: Centre of the Sentence

Learning irregular verbs might result a bit harder, but it is essential if you want to learn a new language. Verbs are the most important element of a sentence. They affect the choice of the subject, the objects, their relative prepositions etc…

Let me tell you a secret about how your brain works when learning irregular verbs.

There are two main types of long-term memory that comes into play when learning a language: procedural memory and declarative memory.

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How to Learn Languages Fast

Procedural memory allows to automatically use language without having to think about every step. It makes using grammar correctly, pronouncing words right, and using phrases naturally much smoother.

Declarative memory allows you to remember specific information about the language, such as remembering words and what they mean, that is, the language vocabulary.

When it comes to learning irregular words, you will be using the declarative part of your memory, because you have to learn that a certain word has a certain form no matter what.

Therefore my advice is that you practice a lot, and if you don’t have a conversation partner, take advantage of our Italian AI tutor to engage in unlimited conversations based on your level.

You can personalize your conversations and, for instance, you can choose to speak only in present tense and get instant feedback on your errors.

You have just taken the first step!

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions


What is irregular present tense?

Irregular verbs are verbs that, when conjugated, do not follow the normal conjugation structures, which typically only change the verb's ending. 

What are the irregular verbs in Italian?

Some of the most common Italian irregular verbs are: AVERE (to have) , ESSERE (to be), ANDARE (to go) , USCIRE (to leave, to go out) , VENIRE (to come) , FARE (to do, to make), DARE (to give), DIRE (to say, to tell)

How do you form the present tense in Italian?

The Italian present tense is produced by simply changing the verb stem's endings. After the traditional -are, -ere and -ire ends of the infinitive are removed, the verb's stem is what is left over.

Italian word of the day
Non capivo più niente dal sonno.
I was so tired that I couldn’t think.
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