Irregular Verbs

All verbs in the English language have an infinitive form (the base form you find in the dictionary). To express the past tense and past participle, the ending of the infinitive form has to change. For most verbs, to create the past tense and past participles, we add "ed" or "d" to the end of the verb. But what about the verbs that do not follow this rule? These are known as irregular verbs, and there are around 200 of them in the English language!

Irregular Verbs Irregular Verbs

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    Irregular Verbs Meaning

    Irregular verbs refer to verbs that do not follow the expected conjugation pattern for the past tense and the past participle. Instead, each irregular verb is slightly different and has its own unique past tense form and past participles.

    Conjugation pattern refers to how we create different forms of a verb to express different tenses and aspects. We often conjugate verbs by adding a suffix to the end of the word. For example, the regular way to create the past tense is to add "ed" or "d" to the end of a verb.

    An example of an irregular verb is as follows:

    Take the sentence, "I am eating lunch." In the past tense, this sentence would be "I ate lunch," and the past participle would be "I had eaten lunch."

    You would not say, "I eated lunch" or "I had eated lunch" as this is grammatically incorrect.

    The verb "to eat" is just one example of many different irregular verbs.

    Irregular Verb Illustration of beer and burger StudySmarterFig. 1 - Both 'to eat' and 'to drink' are irregular verbs.

    Check out the four types of irregular verbs below:

    Types of Irregular Verbs

    There are four types of irregular verbs, which are as follows:

    1, Verbs with the same infinitive, past simple, and past participle form, e.g.,

    InfinitivePast SimplePast Participle
    To letlet"I let you win."let"I had let you win."

    2. Verbs with the same past simple and past participle form, e.g.,

    InfinitivePast SimplePast Participle
    To catchcaught"He caught a fish."caught"He had caught a fish."

    3. Verbs with the same infinitive and past participle form, e.g.,

    InfinitivePast SimplePast Participle
    To becomebecame"She became a ballet dancer."become"She had become a ballet dancer."

    4. Verbs with different infinitive, past simple, and past participle forms, e.g.,

    InfinitivePast SimplePast Participle
    To be was/were"I was eating / they were eating."been"I had been eating / they had been eating."

    Irregular Verb Examples

    Below are some examples of the different types of irregular verbs, including their infinitive, past simple, and past participle forms.

    Let's start with the verbs that have the same infinitive form, past simple, and past participle:

    InfinitivePast SimplePast Participle
    To bet BetBet
    To bidBidBid
    To burstBurstBurst
    To castCastCast
    To costCostCost
    To cutCutCut
    To hitHitHit
    To hurtHurtHurt
    To letLetLet
    To put PutPut
    To quitQuitQuit
    To setSetSet
    To shedShedShed
    To shutShutShut
    To splitSplitSplit
    To spreadSpreadSpread
    To upsetUpsetUpset

    Moving on to the verbs that have the same past simple and past participle:

    InfinitivePast SimplePast Participle
    To bringBroughtBrought
    To buyBoughtBought
    To catch CaughtCaught
    To feelFeltFelt
    To findFoundFound
    To getGotGot
    To haveHadHad
    To hearHeardHeard
    To keepKeptKept
    To leaveLeftLeft
    To loseLostLost
    To makeMadeMade
    To saySaidSaid
    To sellSoldSold
    To sendSentSent
    To teachTaughtTaught
    To thinkThoughtThought
    To winWonWon

    Now the verbs that have the same infinitive form and past participle:

    InfinitivePast SimplePast Participle
    To becomeBecameBecome
    To comeCameCome
    To runRanRun

    Lastly, the verbs that have different infinitive, past simple, and past participle forms:

    InfinitivePast SimplePast Participle
    To beWas/wereBeen
    To beginBeganBegun
    To breakBrokeBroken
    To chooseChoseChosen
    To doDidDone
    To drinkDrankDrunk
    To driveDroveDriven
    To eatAteEaten
    To fallFellFallen
    To flyFlewFlown
    To giveGaveGiven
    To goWentGone
    To knowKnewKnown
    To rideRodeRidden
    To seeSawSeen
    To speakSpokeSpoken
    To swimSwamSwum
    To takeTookTaken
    To wakeWokeWoken
    To writeWroteWritten

    Irregular Verb List English

    Below is a list of some more irregular verbs. As you read through these, think about which type of irregular verb each word is.

    • abide

    • alight

    • arise

    • bend

    • bind

    • bust

    • dig

    • draw

    • flee

    • fling

    • input

    • knit

    • read

    • rise

    • slit

    • spit

    • thrust

    • tread

    • understand

    • unwind

    • wear

    • weave

    • wind

    • withdraw

    • withhold

    • withstand

    • wring

    Irregular Verb Tenses

    Although only the past tense and past participle have been mentioned above, irregular verbs can be used in any tense - just like regular verbs. For example, we know that the past (simple) tense of "to eat" is "ate," and the past participle is "eaten." But what about all the other tenses and aspects? Check them out below:

    Infinitive form: to eat

    Present simple: eat/eats

    Present progressive: am/are eating

    Present perfect: have eaten

    Present perfect progressive: have/has been eating

    Past simple: ate

    Past progressive: was/were eating

    Past perfect: had eaten

    Past perfect progressive: had been eating

    Future simple: will/shall eat

    Future progressive: will/shall be eating

    Future perfect: will/shall have eaten

    Future perfect progressive: will/shall have been eating

    Irregular Verb Forms

    Irregular verbs do not form the past tense or past participle by adding "ed" or "d" to the end of the verb. Irregular verbs are one of the most difficult parts of English grammar because they do not rely on a set rule. This often makes it difficult for English speakers (especially non-native speakers) to learn. So how can you learn the irregular verb forms if they all differ?

    There may only be one way to learn them... Memorizing. This is often done through repetition but can be achieved in various different ways, depending on how you learn best. Below are some ways you could memorize irregular verb forms:

    • Write out the verbs (e.g., make a list or a table)

    • Recite the verbs aloud

    • Try and use the verbs in your daily life (both written and spoken communication)

    • Make up a catchy song (this may seem cheesy, but it can be an effective way to remember things!)

    • Teach someone else

    • Associate the verbs with visuals

    Regular and Irregular Verbs

    Unlike irregular verbs, regular verbs follow a standard pattern for the past tense and past participles. To make the past tense or past participle with a regular verb, the suffix "ed" or "d" is added to the end of the verb. For example, the past tense of "dance" is "danced," and the past participle is also "danced."

    Irregular Verb Photo of person running StudySmarterFig. 2 - Both 'to jog' and 'to sprint' are regular verbs, whereas 'to run' is irregular.

    Check out some more examples of regular verbs below:

    InfinitivePast SimplePast Participle
    To argueArguedArgued
    To completeCompletedCompleted
    To helpHelpedHelped
    To kickKickedKicked
    To smileSmiledSmiled
    To wantWantedWanted

    As you can see, each regular verb ends in "ed" when expressing the past tense and past participle.

    Irregular Verbs - Key takeaways

    • Irregular verbs refer to verbs that do not follow the expected conjugation pattern for the past tense and the past participle.
    • Each irregular verb is slightly different and has its own unique past tense form and past participles.
    • There are four types of irregular verbs:
      • Same infinitive, past simple, and past participle forms
      • Same past simple and past participle forms
      • Same infinitive and past participle forms
      • Different infinitive, past simple, and past participle.
    • There are around 200 irregular verbs in the English language.
    • Unlike irregular verbs, regular verbs follow a standard pattern for the past simple and past participle (i.e., add "ed" or "d" to the end of the verb).
    Frequently Asked Questions about Irregular Verbs

    What does an irregular verb mean?

    An irregular verb refers to a verb that does not form the past tense or past participle by adding "ed" or "d" to the end of the word.

    What is an irregular verb example?

    An example of an irregular verb is "eat." The past tense of "eat" is "ate", and the past participle is "eaten."

    Why is it called irregular verbs?

    Irregular verbs are called "irregular" because they don't follow the regular procedure for forming the past tense and the past participle.

    How do you explain irregular verbs?

    Irregular verbs are verbs that do not follow the expected conjugation pattern in terms of the past tense and the past participle. Each irregular verb is slightly different, with its own unique tense form and past participles.

    What are irregular and regular verbs?

    Regular verbs are verbs that follow a normal pattern for tense and past participles. To make the past tense or past participle with a regular verb, the suffix "ed" or "d" is added to the end of the verb. However, irregular verbs do not follow a set rule, so each one has different past tense and past participle forms.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Irregular verbs ___ follow the expected conjugation pattern for the past tense and past participle.

    True or false?Irregular verbs don't follow a set rule.

    How many types of irregular verbs are there?

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