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Some Hints on Learning Irregular Verbs

spelling-scaled.jpgAll languages have irregular verbs. English is no different. There are no shortcuts in learning irregular verbs. They have to be memorized. But there are some things that you can do in your study to make them easier to remember.

Here are a couple of suggestions:

 

1. Group the irregular verbs by the following patterns:

A – A – A:
These are verbs that don’t change from the base form for either the simple past form or the past participle.

Examples:

cost / cost / cost
hurt / hurt / hurt
hit / hit / hit

A – B – B:
These are verbs that change from the base form for the simple past and the past participle, but there is no difference between the simple past and the past participle.

Examples:

tell / told / told
think / thought / thought
build / built / built

A – B – A:
These are verbs that change from the base form for the simple past, but then the past participle is the same as the base form.

Examples:

run / ran / run
come / came / come
dive / dove / dived

A – B – C:
These are verbs that are different for all three: base form, simple past, and past participle.

Examples:

break / broke / broken
swim / swam / swum
write / wrote / written

2. Another way to group verbs – by the change from the base form to the other forms, especially their vowel changes.

==> Key concept – This vowel change often (but not always) represents a change in pronunciation:

Base form: -a-, -ea- (pronunciation /ei/ or /i/)
Simple past: -o- (pronunciation /oʊ/)
Past participle: -o_en (pronunciation /oʊ_ɛn/ )

Examples:

break / broke / broken
speak / spoke / spoken
steal / stole / stolen
wake / woke / woken
weave / wove / woven

Base form: -aw, -ow, -y (pronunciation /ɔ/ or /oʊ/ or /ai/)
Simple past: -ew (pronunciation /u/)
Past participle: own, -awn (pronunciation /oʊn/ or /ɔn/)

Examples:

blow / blew / blown
draw / drew / drawn
fly / flew / flown
grow / grew / grown
know / knew / known
throw / threw / thrown

Base form: -i- (pronunciation /ɪ/)
Simple past: -a- (pronunciation /æ/)
Past participle: -u- (pronunciation /ʌ/)

Examples:

begin / began / begun
drink / drank / drunk
ring / rang / rung
shrink / shrank / shrunk
sing / sang / sung
sink / sank / sunk
swim / swam / swum
spring / sprang / sprung
stink / stank / stunk

Base form: -ink, -ing, -uy, -ight (pronunciation /ɪŋk/ or /ɪŋ/ or /ai/ or /ait/)
Simple past: -ought (pronunciation /ɔt/)
Past participle: -ought (pronunciation /ɔt/)

Examples:

bring / brought / brought
buy / bought / bought
fight / fought / fought
think / thought / thought

Base form: -i- (pronunciation /ai/)
Simple past: -o- (pronunciation /oʊ/)
Past participle: -i_en (pronunciation /ɪ_ɛn/)

Examples:

arise / arose / arisen
drive / drove / driven
ride / rode / ridden
rise / rose / risen
smite / smote / smitten
stride / strode / stridden
strive / strove / striven
write / wrote / written

Base form: -ell (pronunciation /ɛl/)
Simple past: -old (pronunciation /oʊld/)
Past participle: -old (pronunciation /oʊld/)

Examples:

sell / sold / sold
tell / told / told

Base form: -i- (pronunciation /ai/)
Simple past: -i- (pronunciation /ɪ/)
Past participle: -i_en (pronunciation /ɪ_ɛn/)

Examples:

bite / bit / bitten
hide / hid / hidden
slide / slid / slidden

Base form: -ind (pronunciation /aind/)
Simple past: -ound (pronunciation /aʊnd/)
Past participle: -ound (pronunciation /aʊnd/)

Examples:

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

Base form: -ee-, -ea- (pronunciation /i/)
Simple past: -e_t, -ea_t, -ed (pronunciation /ɛ_t/ or /ɛd/)
Past participle: -e_t, -ea_t, -ed (pronunciation /ɛ_t/ or /ɛd/)

Examples:

bleed / bled / bled
breed / bred / bred
deal / dealt / dealt
dream / dreamt / dreamt
feed / fed / fed
feel / felt / felt
flee / fled / fled
keep / kept / kept
kneel / knelt / knelt
mean / meant / meant
meet / met / met
plead / pled / pled
sleep / slept / slept
speed / sped / sped
sweep / swept / swept
weep / wept / wept

Base form: -ake (pronunciation /eik/)
Simple past: -ook (pronunciation /ʊk/)
Past participle: -aken (pronunciation /eikɛn/)

Examples:

forsake / forsook / forsaken
mistake / mistook / mistaken
shake / shook / shaken
take / took / taken

Base form: -ea- (pronunciation /i/)
Simple past: -e-, -ea- (pronunciation /ɛ/)
Past participle: -e-, -ea- (pronunciation /ɛ/)

Examples:

lead / led / led
leave / left / left
read / read / read

Base form: -ear (pronunciation /ɛr/)
Simple past: -ore (pronunciation /ɔr/)
Past participle: -orn(e) (pronunciation /ɔrn/)

Examples:

bear / bore / borne
swear / swore / sworn
tear / tore / torn
wear / wore / worn

Base form: -i- (pronunciation /ɪ/)
Simple past: -a- (pronunciation /ei/)
Past participle: -i_en (pronunciation /ɪ_ɛn/)

Examples:

bid / bade / bidden
forbid / forbade / forbidden
forgive / forgave / forgiven
give / gave / given

Base form: -i-, -a- (pronunciation /ɪ/ or /æ/)
Simple past: -u- (pronunciation /ʌ/)
Past participle: -u- (pronunciation /ʌ/)

Examples:

cling / clung / clung
dig / dug / dug
fling / flung / flung
hang / hung / hung
sling / slung / slung
slink / slunk / slunk
spin / spun / spun
stick / stuck / stuck
sting / stung / stung
string / strung / strung
swing / swung / swung
wring / wrung / wrung

These have no vowel change, or vowel shift, but have a change in consonant.

Base form:
-d
Simple past: -t
Past participle: -t

Examples:

bend / bent / bent
build / built / built
lend / lent / lent
make / made / made
send / sent / sent
spend / spent / spent

These are similar to the above, except they have no final consonant in the base form. The simple past and past participle are done as above, but note that the -y in the base form is changed to -i before adding the final -d.

lay / laid / laid
pay / paid / paid
say / said / said

These also have no vowel shift – they are regular verbs. However, there is an optional –t instead of –ed for simple past, past participle (note that those ending in –ll are reduced to one “l” when using –t for past tense):

burn / burned, burnt / burned, burnt
learn / learned, learnt / learned, learnt
dwell / dwelt, dwelled / dwelt, dwelled
smell / smelled, smelt / smelled, smelt
spell / spelled, spelt / spelled, spelt
spill / spilled, spilt / spilled, spilt
spoil / spoiled, spoilt / spoiled, spoilt

These are regular in simple past and past participle, but when the past participle is used as an adjective or in passive sentences, then the –n form is more common:

hew / hewed / hewn, hewed
mow / mowed / mown, mowed
prove / proved / proven, proved
saw / sawed / sawn, sawed
sew / sewed / sewn, sewed
show / showed / shown, showed
shear / sheared / shorn, sheared
sow / sowed / sown, sowed
strew / strewed / strewn, strewed
strike / struck / stricken, struck
tread / trod / trodden, trod

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