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B2-U1 Irregular Verbs

29 de noviembre de 2023
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How to Use Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs are verbs that do not follow the normal patterns for tense and past participle. While most English regular verbs use the ending “-ed” for the past tense and participle forms, irregular verbs each have their own unique tense forms and past participles. 

Irregular verbs are one of the hardest parts of the modern English languagebecause they’re all a little different. Since there’s no formula, English speakers have no choice but to memorize each one, along with their special verb forms.

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To help you with this, below we list the common irregular verbs and their tense forms, along with a quick explanation of what they are and how they work. 


What are irregular verbs?

You could say irregular verbs are verbs that “follow their own rules.” Regular verbs follow the standard grammar rules of modern English in adding “-ed” or “-d” to form the past tense and past participle forms. Irregular verbs, however, use completely original words for their different verb forms when they’re the main verb of a sentence. (Just a reminder: The past participle is the form used with the present perfect tense.) 

To show you what we mean, let’s “dance” and “sing!” This pair is a good example to see the differences: “dance” is a regular verb, but “sing” is an irregular verb.  

To conjugate “dance,” there’s no big surprise or trick; you just use the same formula as with most other verbs. To create both the simple past tense and past participle forms, you simply add “-ed,” or in this case only “-d” because the base form ends in e already. 

BaseSimple Past TensePast Participle
dancedanceddanced

“Sing,” however, is irregular, so the normal rules don’t work. You can’t use “singed” because that’s an incorrect form for this verb. Instead, “sing” has both a unique past tense and also a unique past participle form. The only way to know how to conjugate “sing” is to memorize its special forms. 

BaseSimple Past TensePast Participle
singsangsung

In practice, you end with conjugations like these: 

We sang and danced all night. 

I have sung opera before, but I have never danced to it. 

She prefers music sung by professionals. 

The simple present tense is conjugated the same no matter whether the verb is regular or irregular. This includes adding an “-s” or “-es” for the third-person singular. Be aware that certain exceptions, like the verb “be,” have special present tense forms as well. 

BasePresent TenseSimple Past ParticiplePast Participle
beam, is, arewas, werebeen

Like “be,” quite a few other linking verbs are irregular as well, such as “become” and “feel.” Also, irregular verbs can be either transitive or intransitive verbs and can still be used as imperative verbs.  

Strong vs. weak verbs

Irregular verbs and regular verbs are often confused with strong verbs and weak verbs, although they are very similar. 

Strong verbs are any verb that changes its vowels in the past tense, like how the i in “sing” changes to an a for the past tense. Weak verbs, on the other hand, keep their vowel the same in the past tense, like the a in dance. 

With these rules in mind, we can see that all strong verbs are irregular. The confusion comes with weak verbs, because some weak verbs are irregular, too. One of the most common examples of an irregular weak verb is “sleep”: 

BaseSimple Past TensePast Participle
sleepsleptslept

Although “sleep” has its own special past tense and past participle forms (“slept”), it still keeps e as the main vowel, making it a weak verb. 

Likewise, irregular verbs that don’t change at all, like “bet” or “spread,” are also weak. You can find a full list of irregular verbs that don’t change below. 

List of irregular verbs in English

Want a list of irregular verbs in the English language? Below we list the common irregular verbs to help you study and provide a quick-reference resource in case you forget one later (note that the past tense verbs in the chart below are shown in American English forms; there are some differences in British English). 

Instead of listing the irregular verbs in each of their verb tenses, we only mention the simple past tense and past participle forms, along with the base. Any verb conjugation you do will use one of those three forms.

Please note irregular verbs that take a prefix (e.g., “resell” or “undo”) use the same irregular forms as their base word (e.g., “resold” or “undid”). 

Also, you’ll notice that some irregular verbs don’t change at all—the base, simple past tense, and past participle forms are all the same word. We discuss this type of irregular verb in the next section. 

BaseSimple Past TensePast Participle
arisearosearisen
awakeawokeawoken
bewas/werebeen
bearboreborne
beatbeatbeaten
becomebecamebecome
beginbeganbegun
bendbentbent
betbetbet
bindboundbound
bidbidbid
bitebitbitten
bleedbledbled
blowblewblown
breakbrokebroken
breedbredbred
bringbroughtbrought
broadcastbroadcastbroadcast
buildbuiltbuilt
burstburstburst
buyboughtbought
castcastcast
catchcaughtcaught
choosechosechosen
clingclungclung
comecamecome
costcostcost
creepcreptcrept
cutcutcut
dealdealtdealt
digdugdug
divedove/diveddived
dodiddone
drawdrewdrawn
dreamdreamed (sometimes “dreamt”)dreamed (sometimes “dreamt”)
drinkdrankdrunk
drivedrovedriven
eatateeaten
fallfellfallen
feedfedfed
feelfeltfelt
fightfoughtfought
findfoundfound
fleefledfled
flingflungflung
flyflewflown
forbidforbadeforbidden
forgetforgotforgotten
forgiveforgaveforgiven
freezefrozefrozen
getgotgot
givegavegiven
gowentgone
grindgroundground
growgrewgrown
hanghung (sometimes “hanged”)hung (sometimes “hanged”)
havehadhad
hearheardheard
hidehidhidden
hithithit
holdheldheld
hurthurthurt
keepkeptkept
kneelkneltknelt
knowknewknown
laylaidlaid
leadledled
leaveleftleft
lendlentlent
letletlet
lie (as in “lie down”)laylain
lightlit/lightedlit/lighted
loselostlost
makemademade
meanmeantmeant
meetmetmet
mistakemistookmistaken
mowmowedmown/mowed
overtakeovertookovertaken
paypaidpaid
proofreadproofreadproofread
putputput
quitquitquit
readreadread
resetresetreset
rideroderidden
ringrangrung
riseroserisen
runranrun
saysaidsaid
seesawseen
seeksoughtsought
sellsoldsold
sendsentsent
setsetset
sewsewedsewn/sewed
shakeshookshaken
shaveshavedshaven
shedshedshed
shineshoneshone
shootshotshot
showshowedshown
shrinkshrankshrunk
shutshutshut
singsangsung
sinksanksunk
sitsatsat
slayslewslain
sleepsleptslept
slideslidslid
slingslungslung
sneaksnuck (sometimes “sneaked“)snuck (sometimes “sneaked”)
sowsowedsown/sowed
speakspokespoken
speedspedsped
spendspentspent
spillspilt/spilledspilt/spilled
spinspunspun
spitspatspat
splitsplitsplit
spreadspreadspread
springsprangsprung
standstoodstood
stealstolestolen
stickstuckstuck
stingstungstung
stinkstankstunk
strikestruckstruck
stringstrungstrung
strivestrovestriven
swearsworesworn
sweepsweptswept
swellswelledswollen/swelled
swimswamswum
swingswungswung
taketooktaken
teachtaughttaught
teartoretorn
thinkthoughtthought
throwthrewthrown
thrustthrustthrust
treadtrodtrodden
understandunderstoodunderstood
upsetupsetupset
wakewokewoken
wearworeworn
weavewoveworn
weavewovewoven
weepweptwept
wetwet/wettedwet/wetted
winwonwon
windwoundwound
wringwrungwrung
writewrotewritten

Common irregular verbs that don’t change 

Most verbs, both regular and irregular, have different verb forms for different tenses. We add letters or change the spelling to aid communication; it helps the listener or reader understand whether you’re talking about the present, past, or future. 

However, certain verbs don’t change verb forms at all. They use the same word and same spelling for the present, past, and past participle forms. Because these words don’t follow the normal rules, they’re also considered irregular. 

You can find these words in the chart above, but to speed up your search we’ve also included them in the list below: 

  • bet
  • bid
  • broadcast
  • burst
  • cast
  • cost
  • cut
  • hit
  • hurt
  • let
  • proofread (see “read”)
  • put
  • read (past and past participle are spelled the same but pronounced differently)
  • reset
  • set
  • shed
  • shut
  • split
  • spread
  • thrust
  • upset
  • wet

Ensure you use the proper verb forms

Getting irregular verb forms right in your writing can be tricky unless you’ve memorized them all. That’s where Grammarly comes in. Acting as your built-in editor, Grammarly flags verb tense mistakes and other grammatical issues in your writing and provides suggestions on how to correct them—and so much more. From clarity to tone consistency, Grammarly’s real-time feedback helps make your writing stronger and more polished.