In many Romance languages, the first person plural and singular forms are completely different:

  • French (aller): je vais, nous allons
  • Italian (andare): io vado, noi andiamo
  • Catalan (anar): jo vaig, nosaltres anem

There seems to be something equivalent in Portuguese and Gallician (but not, surprisingly, in Spanish) and presumably in other Romance languages. The best I could find out for their etymology is that they come from the Latin ire which can explain some of the other forms of this irregular verb (j'irais for example) but

  1. where do these v- and a- forms come from and
  2. why are the singular and plural forms so different in so many languages? Do they really come from ire?

In short, what's up with this verb?

  • 6
    This is an example of "suppletion". English also has one of these ("go/went", "be/am/is/are"). Those verbs in Romance languages originate from fusions in conjugated forms of different verbs, namely "ire (to go)", "vadere (to walk)", "alare (Vulgar Latin:to go)".
    – Sindry
    Nov 7, 2014 at 0:55
  • @Sindry thanks! I was trying to bring in the Spanish and Italian andar/e but couldn't figure out where it came from. I guess it's also from alare. Would that mean the f- forms are from a fourth verb? Any chance of whipping this up into an answer?
    – terdon
    Nov 7, 2014 at 1:07
  • The origin of "andar/e" is still controversal. As for those f- forms, they apparently come from the past forms of "sum (to be)" as you can see in the simple past forms of "be" verbs in other Romance languages. I don't think this is worth whipping up an answer as all the information I posted here is what I got from simplys looking up in Wiktionary except for the name of the phenomenon (suppletion).
    – Sindry
    Nov 7, 2014 at 1:30
  • @Sindry fair enough. I checked the Spanish dictionary of the Real Academia and it just said that ir came from ire but no mention of the other forms. Searching Wiktionary didn't occur to me oddly enough.
    – terdon
    Nov 7, 2014 at 1:39
  • 2
    Also, Spanish does have mild overlap with ir/andar in the vos imperative. Some consider ir defective there, but to say "go away", you'd have vete (tú), idos (vosotros), váya(n)se (Vd(s).), but andate (vos) Nov 7, 2014 at 6:20

1 Answer 1


According to Wiktionary (a source I should perhaps have checked before asking), the all- forms ultimately derive from

Vulgar Latin alare (attested in the 7th century Reichenau Glosses). This has traditionally been explained as deriving from Latin ambulare via or together with ambler (compare Old Provençal amblar, Italian ambiare, Romanian umbla), but this explanation is phonologically problematic. Several theories have been put forth since the 17th century to explain how ambulare could have become aller.[1] Since at least the 18th century, some have suggested that aller derives not from Latin but from Celtic[2], Gaulish *aliu: compare Welsh elen (“I was going”), Cornish ellev (“I may go”), and also Franco-Provençal alâ, allar and Friulan (“to go”) (compare lin (“we go”), lât (“gone”)).

Latin vādō (“go”) supplies the present tense forms and īre, present active infinitive of , supplies the future and conditional.

As was explained to me by @Sindry, this type of mixed etymology is called suppletion, instances of which are overwhelmingly restricted to the most commonly used lexical items in a language.

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