Irregular Verbs: Mastering the Exceptions in English Grammar

What are irregular past tense verbs? In English grammar, there are many rules, and this applies when it comes to verbs. However, there are some verbs which do not conform to the usual rules and these are known as irregular verbs. There are many of them and it is important to remember them and how they work in order to create sentences that are grammatically correct.

In this article, we will be looking at all the different irregular verbs with a comprehensive list of irregular verbs so that you can commit them to memory and use them correctly.

What Are Irregular Verbs?

In English, most verbs (regular verbs) are turned into the past tense by adding ‘-ed’ to the end of a base form of the verb.

Base Form

Irregular verbs in English are unique in that they do not follow the standard pattern of regular verbs. Unlike regular verbs, which consistently end in “-ed” for both the simple past and past participle forms, irregular verbs take on various forms.

Some common irregular verbs include:

  • Be
  • Eat
  • Get
  • Know
  • Wear

These irregular verbs diverge from the regular verb pattern in their base form and have unique conjugations.

Simple Past

The simple past tense of irregular verbs varies from one verb to another. To convey actions or states in the past, learning each individual irregular verb form is crucial. Some examples of irregular verbs in their simple past tense are:

  • Be -> was/were
  • Eat -> ate
  • Get -> got
  • Know -> knew
  • Wear -> wore

Memorizing these forms is essential for proper communication in past tense, as they do not follow the “-ed” pattern found in regular verbs.

Past Participle

Similarly, the past participle of irregular verbs also deviates from the regular verb pattern. The past participle form is commonly used in perfect tenses, passive voice, and as adjectives. Here are the irregular verbs mentioned earlier in their past participle form:

  • Be -> been
  • Eat -> eaten
  • Get -> gotten
  • Know -> known
  • Wear -> worn

As the past participle forms of irregular verbs differ significantly from regular verbs ending in “-ed,” it is important to learn and practice these variations to maintain clear and effective communication in English.

Irregular Verbs List

Irregular verbs in the English language deviate from the standard -ed ending that regular verbs follow in their past and past participle forms. To better understand and use irregular verbs, one should familiarize themselves with a list of common irregular verbs, which includes essential verbs such as be, do, find, go, and have.

Below is a table of irregular verbs, displaying their base form, simple past (V2), and past participle (V3) forms:

Base Form Past Simple Past Participle
arise arose arisen
awake awoke awoken
be was/were been
bear bore borne/born
beat beat beaten
become became become
begin began begun
bend bent bent
bet bet bet
bite bit bitten
bleed bled bled
blow blew blown
break broke broken
bring brought brought
build built built
burn burnt/burned burnt/burned
burst burst burst
buy bought bought
catch caught caught
choose chose chosen
cling clung clung
come came come
cost cost cost
creep crept crept
cut cut cut
deal dealt dealt
dig dug dug
do did done
draw drew drawn
dream dreamt/dreamed dreamt/dreamed
drink drank drunk
drive drove driven
eat ate eaten
fall fell fallen
feed fed fed
feel felt felt
fight fought fought
find found found
flee fled fled
fling flung flung
fly flew flown
forbid forbade forbidden
forget forgot forgotten
forgive forgave forgiven
freeze froze frozen
get got got/gotten
give gave given
go went gone
grow grew grown
hang hung hung
have had had
hear heard heard
hide hid hidden
hit hit hit
hold held held
hurt hurt hurt
keep kept kept
kneel knelt/kneeled knelt/kneeled
know knew known
lay laid laid
lead led led
lean leant/leaned leant/leaned
leap leapt/leaped leapt/leaped
learn learnt/learned learnt/learned
leave left left
lend lent lent
let let let
lie lay lain
light lit/lighted lit/lighted
lose lost lost
make made made
mean meant meant
meet met met
pay paid paid
put put put
quit quit quit
read read read
ride rode ridden
ring rang rung
rise rose risen
run ran run
say said said
see saw seen
seek sought sought
sell sold sold
send sent sent
set set set
shake shook shaken
shine shone shone
shoot shot shot
show showed shown
shrink shrank shrunk
shut shut shut
sing sang sung
sink sank sunk
sit sat sat
sleep slept slept
slide slid slid
speak spoke spoken
spend spent spent
spin spun spun
spit spat spat
split split split
spread spread spread
stand stood stood
steal stole stolen
stick stuck stuck
sting stung stung
stink stank stunk
strike struck struck/stricken
swear swore sworn
sweep swept swept
swim swam swum
swing swung swung
take took taken
teach taught taught
tear tore torn
tell told told
think thought thought
throw threw thrown
understand understood understood
wake woke woken
wear wore worn

Irregular Verbs: Formation Rules and Patterns

Irregular verbs are those that do not follow the typical pattern for regular verbs in English. Regular verbs form their simple past and past participle by adding “-ed” or sometimes just “-d” to their base form. In contrast, irregular verbs have unique tense forms and past participles. To understand and use these verbs correctly, it is essential to be aware of some common patterns and rules.

One approach to learning irregular verbs is to group them based on similarities in their past simple forms. For example, the verbs ‘buy’, ‘bring’, and ‘think’ all have the “-ought” ending in their past simple forms: ‘bought’, ‘brought’, and ‘thought’. By identifying such patterns, one can better memorize and recall irregular verb forms.

Some irregular verbs have identical base and past participle forms, such as ‘run’, ‘come’, ‘become’, and ‘overcome’. These are unique cases and should be noted separately, as they may be prone to errors when forming the past tense and past participle forms.

While there are no strict rules for forming irregular verbs, understanding and recognizing common patterns can help. Some patterns and examples include:

Pattern: (Verb / Past Simple / Past Participle)

Ablaut (vowel change)

  • sing / sang / sung
  • know / knew / known

Endings (e.g., “-ought”)

  • buy / bought / bought
  • catch / caught / caught

Irregular endings without change

  • hit / hit / hit
  • let / let / let

Keep in mind that these patterns are not universal and may not apply to all irregular verbs. However, they can serve as a starting point for understanding and learning these verbs more efficiently. As one encounters new irregular verbs, it is crucial to practice and commit them to memory to use them accurately in conversation and written communication.

Examples of Irregular Verb Usage

Irregular verbs do not follow the typical -ed ending pattern for the simple past and past participle. Instead, they undergo various changes in their base, simple past, and past participle forms.

Weak Irregular Verbs

Some irregular verbs are considered weak, which means the main vowel remains the same even as the verb changes. One example is “sleep,” whose simple past tense and past participle forms are “slept.” Other weak irregular verbs include:

  • Bet: bet, bet
  • Spread: spread, spread
  • Hurt: hurt, hurt
  • Put: put, put

These verbs display minimal changes, making it essential for the readers to recognize and understand their use in different tenses.

Strong Irregular Verbs

Strong irregular verbs experience a vowel change when moving through tenses. A few examples are as follows:

  • Swim: swam, swum
  • Sing: sang, sung
  • Drive: drove, driven
  • Write: wrote, written

In these examples, the base form, simple past, and past participle alter significantly, demonstrating the complexities of strong irregular verbs.

Usage in Sentences

Here are example sentences using several irregular verbs, illustrating their use in various tenses:

  • Sleep: She sleeps during the day. (present) / She slept during the day. (simple past) / She had slept during the day. (past participle)
  • Bet: He bets on the winning horse. (present) / He bet on the winning horse. (simple past) / He had bet on the winning horse. (past participle)
  • Swim: They swim at the beach every summer. (present) / They swam at the beach last summer. (simple past) / They have swum at the beach before. (past participle)

This section highlights varied examples of irregular verbs, providing context and demonstrating how these verbs function across different tenses in English.

List of Irregular Verbs | Picture

Irregular verbs list image

List of Irregular VerbsPin

More Examples of Common Irregular Verbs

Be:

  • I am a student.
  • She was a teacher.
  • They have been friends for years.

Have:

  • I have a car.
  • She had a headache yesterday.
  • They have had a lot of success.

Go:

  • I go to the gym every day.
  • She went to Paris last year.
  • They have gone to the beach.

Do:

  • I do my homework every day.
  • She did not like the movie.
  • They have done a great job.

Eat:

  • I eat breakfast every morning.
  • She ate sushi for lunch.
  • They have eaten at that restaurant before.

Drink:

  • I drink coffee every morning.
  • She drank a glass of water.
  • They have drunk a lot of beer.

Come:

  • I come from Canada.
  • She came to the party late.
  • They have come a long way.

Run:

  • I run five miles every day.
  • She ran a marathon last year.
  • They have run out of time.

Write:

  • I write in my journal every day.
  • She wrote a book last year.
  • They have written many reports.

Break:

  • I break things easily.
  • She broke her arm.
  • They have broken a few rules.

Take:

  • I take the train to work.
  • She took a vacation last month.
  • They have taken many photos.

Speak:

  • I speak English fluently.
  • She spoke to the manager.
  • They have spoken on the phone.

Swim:

  • I swim in the pool every day.
  • She swam across the lake.
  • They have swum in the ocean.

See:

  • I see my friends every weekend.
  • She saw a movie last night.
  • They have seen that show before.

Give:

  • I give to charity every year.
  • She gave me a present.
  • They have given a lot of support.

Tips for Learning and Memorizing

When tackling irregular verbs, it’s important for learners to find effective strategies to understand and memorize them. Below are some useful tips to improve the learning experience:

1. Group common irregular verbs together

Some irregular verbs share similar patterns. Instead of learning them alphabetically, identifying and grouping these verbs can make memorization more manageable.

2. Prioritize the most common irregular verbs

Start with the 10 most common irregular verbs and gradually add more to your list. This will make learning and memorizing them more efficient and practical.

3. Use flashcards

Create flashcards with the infinitive, past tense, and past participle forms of each verb. This will not only improve memorization but also make it easier to review and quiz oneself.

4. Incorporate learning into everyday activities

Turn memorizing into a game or incorporate irregular verbs into songs and rhythms. This can help make learning enjoyable and increase the likelihood of retaining the information.

5. Learn in sentences

Use irregular verbs in various sentences and contexts to gain a better understanding of their meaning and usage. This will also help to strengthen their retention.

6. Display lists in visible locations

Place lists of irregular verbs in locations where they can easily be seen throughout the day, such as on your desk, fridge, or bathroom mirror. This constant exposure will help reinforce memorization.

7. Seek feedback from others

Practice using irregular verbs with others and ask them to correct your usage if needed. This will not only improve your understanding of the verbs but also increase your confidence in using them.

Irregular Verbs List Video

Irregular verbs play a crucial role in the English language, deviating from the standard rules of verb conjugation that apply to regular verbs. These verbs do not follow the typical pattern of adding an -ed ending to their root form for both the simple past and past participle. Instead, irregular verbs adopt alternative patterns, making them a challenging aspect of English grammar for both native speakers and language learners.

There are numerous irregular verbs in English, each with unique forms that may vary significantly from their base or bare infinitive. The mastery of these verbs requires time and practice, as it is essential to memorize their various forms and understand their appropriate usage in speaking and writing. It is also helpful to make sentences using each irregular verb form to gain a better grasp of their correct application.

Related Resources

Grammar

Tenses

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