Most of the 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 work-worked-worked. However, there is a large number of irregular verbs (about 450, but only about 200 in common use) that form their simple past and past participle forms with a vowel change, such as in begin-began-begun (see table below). Some irregular verbs do not change form at all ( put-put-put). 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 ( think-thought-thought). In strong verbs the simple past and past participle are usually distinct, with the past participle having an en ending ( break-broke-broken). 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.
Since linguistic classifications for irregular verbs tend to be too complicated for non-academics, we suggest that you use our study tables, which bring together irregular verbs with similar change patterns in small groups. This kind of grouping aids your memory, which will strengthen with practice. Study the tables and pay attention to 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. A good memorizing tip involves creating flash cards with the different groups, as explained on our vocabulary strategies pages. Remember that for looking up irregulars verbs after you have learned them, you have an alphabetical list at the back of any dictionary or grammar book for easy referencing.
English Irregular Verbs Study Tables – Part 2
The following irregular verb categories 4-7 continue categories 1-3, found in Part 1.
Category 4: Vowel change, V3 ending with (e)n
Watch Out !
Do not confuse lie (tell a lie, regular), lie (down to rest, irregular), and lay (the table, irregular).
Category 5: regular V2, regular or irregular V3
Category 7: The craziest verbs !
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.
Grammar Guide Index
Parts of Speech - General Overview
Singular and Plural Nouns
English Adjectives - Basic Terms
English Verbs (Part 1) - Basic Terms
English Verbs (Part 2) - More Terms
The Verb To Be
Negative Sentences and Question Formation
The Irregular Verbs in English (Part 1)
The Irregular Verbs in English (Part 2)
The Verb Tenses in English
Spelling Rules for the Verb Tenses
The Past Simple Tense
The Past Progressive Tense
Sentence Structure (Part 1) - Basic Clause Structure
Sentence Structure (Part 2) - Phrases
Sentence Structure (Part 3) - Clauses
Sentence Structure (Part 4) - Sentence Types