How to Study Irregular Verbs

Table Most verbs in English are regular verbs, meaning that they add the ed ending to form both the simple past and the past participle forms, which are identical, such as play-played-played. However, there is a considerable number of irregular verbs (about 450, but only about 200 are in common use) that form their simple past and past participle forms with a vowel change, such as in see-saw-seen (see table below). Some irregular verbs do not change form at all (let-let-let). Irregular verbs originate mostly from Old English, while any new verb coined in later periods tends to be regular. Still, the ten most used verbs in English are irregular. Another distinction is between weak and strong verbs. In weak verbs, the simple past and past participle forms are identical, bearing a d or t ending (buy-bought-bought). In strong verbs the simple past and past participle are usually distinct, with the past participle having an en ending (speak-spoke-spoken). The classification of verbs to weak and strong in Modern English is less important for learners, so you can suffice with the regular-irregular distinction.

A user-friendly way to study English irregular verbs:
Regardless of the linguistic distinctions and classifications, which tend to be too complicated for learners, we suggest that you use the following tables, clustering together irregular verbs with similar change patterns in small groups. This kind of clustering aids your memory, which will strengthen with practice. Read through the tables and make note of the verbs you find useful for your purposes. You could also read the table headings if it helps you, or simply focus on the verbs themselves. You may consider creating flash cards with the different groups and study them, as explained on our vocabulary strategies pages. Remember that for looking up irregulars verbs after you have learned them, you have an alphabetical list in any dictionary for easy referencing. You may notice that in some verb parts there are two correct forms. A general rule of thumb here is that the regular verb option (with ed, no vowel change) is more commonly used in American English, whereas the irregular option (vowel change) is still in use in British English. Moreover, there may also be finer nuances in meaning pertaining to the usage of the former or the latter. In any case, consult your dictionary if you are not sure about the exact usage. The following irregular verb tables are sorted according to V1,V2, and V3 forms. Here is a quick reminder for these verb forms: ‡ Uses of the 3 main verb forms: V1=base form ‡ Present Simple ‡ ³Future Simple´ ‡ I write in English every day. ‡ I will write an English essay tomorrow. V2=Past Simple ‡ Past Simple only! ‡ Yesterday, I wrote 2 poems in English.

V3=Past participle ‡ perfect tenses ‡ passive forms ‡ passive adjective ‡ I have already written my English paper. ‡ This novel was written by Charles Dickens. ‡ This story is well-written.

Category 1: irregular ending with no vowel change, V2=V3
group 1: d ending changes to t, ent changes to end
bend bent bent build built built lend lent lent send sent sent spend spent spent

group 2: the verbs have and make
have \ has had had make made made

group 3: regular (V2, V3) in US English, irregular in UK English
learn burn dwell smell spell spill spoil learned \ learnt learned \ learnt burned \ burnt burned \ burnt dwelled \ dwelt dwelled \ dwelt smelled \ smelt smelled \ smelt spelled \ spelt spelled \ spelt spilled \ spilt spilled \ spilt spoiled \ spoilt spoiled \ spoilt

group 4: ay ending changes to aid
*said is pronounced /sed/ lay (the table, clothes, eggs) laid laid pay paid paid say *said (/sed/) *said (/sed/)

Category 2: Vowel change, irregular ending, V2=V3

group 5: vowel change , d or t ending
creep crept crept feed fed fed feel felt felt keep kept kept kneel knelt \ kneeled meet met met sleep slept slept sweep swept swept weep wept wept *leave left left

knelt \ kneeled

group 6: different pronunciation of the same vowel
d or t ending deal dealt dealt dream dreamed \ dreamt dreamed \ dreamt lean leaned \ leant leaned \ leant leap leapt leapt mean meant meant read read (/red/) read (/red/) hear heard heard

group 7: ell turns to old
sell sold sold tell told told

group 8: vowel change with ought (or *aught) ending
d or t ending bring brought brought buy bought bought fight fought fought seek sought sought think thought thought *catch caught caught *teach taught taught

Category 3: Verbs with the same form V1=V2=V3

group 9: Verbs that do not change
d or t ending bet bet bet bid (to offer) bid bid broadcast broadcast \ broadcasted broadcast \ broadcasted burst burst burst cost cost cost cut cut cut fit fit (was the right size) fitted (tailored, changed size) fit (was the right size) fitted (tailored, changed size) hit hit hit hurt hurt hurt let let let put put put set set set shut shut shut spread spread spread quit quit quit

Category 4: Vowel change, V3 ending with (e)n
group 10: V2 and V3 with long /o / sound
break choose freeze speak steal awake wake weave broke broken chose chosen froze frozen spoke spoken stole stolen awoke \ awaked awoken \ awaked woke \ waked woken \ waked wove woven

group 11: V2 long o sound, V3 shirt /i/ sound
arise arose arisen rise rose risen

*ride rode *ridden drive drove driven *write wrote *written

group 12: The following verbs:
*bite bit *bitten *hide hid *hidden eat ate eaten give gave given forgive forgave forgiven forbid * forbad(e) forbidden * bid ( to command, farewell) bade *bidden * forget forgot *forgotten get got * gotten (AmE) \ got (BrE) shake shook shaken take took taken see saw seen beat beat beaten fall fell fallen lie ( down to rest) lay lain Pay attention! Do not confuse lie (tell a lie, regular), lie (down to rest, irregular), and lay (the table, irregular). *lie (tell a lie) lied lied lie (down to rest) lay lain lay (the table, eggs) laid laid

group 13: the ear-ore-orn pattern
bear bore born swear swore sworn tear tore torn wear wore worn

group 14: V1 with ow, V2 with ew, V3 with own

blow grow know throw

blew grew knew threw

blown grown known thrown

fly flew flown draw drew *drawn

Category 5: regular V2, regular or irregular V3
group 15
show showed showed \ shown sow sowed sowed \ sown mow mowed mowed \ mown swell swelled swelled \ swollen sew sewed sewed \ sewn *shine (the shoes) shined shined *shine (brightly) shone shone

Category 6: vowel change, no ending, V2=V3
group 16: vowel change pattern, no ending
dig dug dug stick stuck stuck spin spun spun sting stung stung strike struck struck swing swung swung *hang (a man) hanged hanged *hang (a picture) hung hung slide slid slid light lighted \ lit lighted \ lit shoot shot shot

group 17: vowel change pattern i - ou - ou

bind bound bound find found found grind ground ground wind wound wound

group 18: vowel change ee - e - e
bleed bled bled feed fed fed flee fled fled *lead led led *speed speeded \ sped

speeded \ sped

Category 7: The craziest verbs! group 19: vowel change pattern i - a - u
begin drink ring shrink sing sink spin spring swim began begun drank drunk rang rung shrank shrunk sang sung sank sunk span \ spun spun sprang sprung swam swum

group 20: vowel change, V1=V3
come came come become became become run ran run

group 21: miscellaneous
the verb to be am is are was was were been go went gone *dive

(jumped head first) dove dived *dive (scuba-diving) dived dived do did done can could may might hold held held stand stood stood understand understood understood sit sat sat babysit babysat babysat win won won lose lost lost

This has been a review about the irregular verbs in English grammar. As these verbs are highly used in both spoken and written language, you should master their usage rather early on as you progress with your English writing. Reviewing the irregular verbs is not enough to make you use them correctly. The more you notice them up in your reading, and more importantly, use them properly in your writing, the better you will use them.

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