Irregular Verbs In English

Regular verbs follow the same pattern in the simple past and the past participle forms. They all take the –ed ending. If the verb ends in –e, just add –d. Here are some regular verbs:
 
Base form Simple past Past participle
Work Worked Worked
Live Lived Lived
Remember Remembered Remembered

If a regular verb ends in –y (*but not –ey), change the –y to –i. Then add –ed.
 
Base form Simple past Past participle
Cry Cried Cried
Study Studied Studied
*Obey Obeyed Obeyed

What is a past participle?
Past participles are used in the perfect tenses, such as the present perfect and the past perfect:
  • Present perfect: I have worked for this company since 2010.
  • Past perfect: I had never lived in another country before moving to Spain.
Past participles are also used in the passive voice. The structure of the passive is be + past participle. These examples use irregular verbs:
  • This bike was given to me by my parents.
  • Romeo and Juliet was written by William Shakespeare.
  • The Statue of Liberty can be seen from New Jersey.
Some past participles can be used as adjectives (tired, frustrated, ruined, closed). This can only happen if the past participle describes a state (tired) and not an action (jumped).
  • A group of tired students left the classroom.
  • I wore these shoes in the rain, and now they are ruined.
 Some of the most common English verbs are irregular. They do not take the –ed ending in the simple past and past participle forms, and their irregular forms need to be memorized.

How many irregular verbs are there?
Many sources count around 200 irregular verbs in English, but not all of those are commonly used. Most grammar books list around 100 common irregular verbs.

Irregular verb types
Although irregular verbs do not follow a pattern, they can be grouped into several types in order to help you to learn them:
  1. Verbs that have the same base form, simple past and past participle. For example:
    • Cost, cut, fit, hit, hurt, let, put, quit, set, shut, spread
    • Note: The spelling of read is the same in the base form, simple past and part participle, but the pronunciation is different. Read in the base form rhymes with need. Read in the simple past and past participle is pronounced like the color red.
       
  2. Verbs that have the same base form and past participle (but a different simple past form). For example:
    • Become, come, run
      Base form Simple past Past participle
      Become Became Become
      Come Came Come
      Run Ran Run

  3. Verbs that have the same form in the simple past and past participle. For example:
    • Bring, build, buy, catch, feel, find, have, keep, lose, make, meet, read, say, sell, send, sit, teach, win
    • Note: This is not a complete list. Consult an irregular verbs list in a grammar book to find more verbs of this type.
      Base form Simple past Past participle
      Bring Brought Brought
      Build Built Built
      Catch Caught Caught
      Find Found Found
      Have Had Had

  4. Verbs that have a different base form, simple past and past participle: For example:
    • Be, begin, break, choose, do, drink, eat, fall, give, go, know, ring, rise, see, sing, swim, speak, take, wear
    • Note: This is not a complete list. Consult an irregular verbs list in a grammar book to find more verbs of this type.
      Base form Simple past Past participle
      Be Was/were Been
      Begin Began Begun
      Break Broke Broken
      Choose Chose Chosen
      Do Did Done
       

    • Some verbs of this type can be grouped together based on similarity:
      Base form Simple past Past participle
      Break Broke Broken
      Freeze Froze Frozen
      Speak Spoke Spoken
      Steal Stole Stolen
      Wake Woke Woken
       
      Base form Simple past Past participle
      Drink Drank Drunk
      Ring Rang Rung
      Swim Swam Swum
      Sing Sang Sung
       
      Base form Simple past Past participle
      Bear Bore Born
      Swear Swore Sworn
      Tear Tore Torn
      Wear Wore Worn

  5. Strategies for learning irregular verbs
    • Memorize verbs according to the type above. The lists for type 1 and 2 are the shortest, so it may be easier to start with those. The list for type 4 is the longest but can be broken down into smaller groups, as shown.
    • When you learn a new verb, check the list to see if it is irregular. If it is, add both the simple past and the past participle forms to your vocabulary list for the week.
    • Write a list of 5 new verbs each week, and put the list in a place where you will see it several times a day.
    • Create a playlist of songs with irregular verbs. Listen to the songs regularly to remember the verb forms.

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