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What Are Irregular Verbs? (with Examples)

What Are Irregular Verbs? (with Examples)

An irregular verb is one that does not conform to the usual rule for forming its simple past tense and its past participle.

In English, the "usual" rule (more on this below) is to add -ed or -d to the base form of the verb to create the past forms.

This is how a regular verb forms its simple past tense and past participle. (Note: There are spelling rules to consider too.)

Read more about the spelling rules with regular verbs.

Irregular Verbs Can Be Strong or Weak Verbs

An irregular verb can be either a weak verb (when its past forms end d or t) or a strong verb. Here are some examples of strong and weak irregular verbs:

Base FormSimple Past TensePast Participlecomment
growgrewhas grownirregular verb (strong)
freezefrozehas frozenirregular verb (strong)
telltoldhas toldirregular verb (weak)
shootshothas shotirregular verb (weak)

A number of sources state that the terms irregular verb and strong verb are synonyms (i.e., they mean the same). Likewise, they claim that the terms regular verb and weak verb are synonyms.

It would be easier for us all if this were the only story. Unfortunately, here at Grammar Monster, we dont get to decide how to classify verbs. Still, here is a Venn diagram which explains the complicated version of how they are classified:



Read more about weak verbs.

Irregular Verbs Are Very Common

It is somewhat ironic that the most regularly used verbs in English are irregular. They are:

Base FormSimple Past TensePast Participle
bewas/werehas been
comecamehas come
getgothas got ()
gotten ()
gowenthas gone
knowknewhas known
makemadehas made
saysaidhas said
seesawhas seen
taketookhas taken
thinkthoughthas thought

With an irregular verb, the past form and past participle are often different (but not always). For example:

Irregular VerbSimple Past TensePast Participle
To beginbeganhas begun
To breakbrokehas broken
To buyboughthas bought

Now, contrast those irregular forms with those of regular verbs, which just add -ed or -d:

Regular Verb Past Form Past Participle
To cookcookedhas cooked
To playplayedhas played
To dancedancedhas danced

The Most Common Irregular Verbs in English

Listed below are the most common irregular verbs in English:

Irregular VerbPast SimplePast Participle
arisearosearisen
bewas/werebeen
beatbeatbeaten
becomebecamebecome
bendbentbent
beginbeganbegun
betbetbet
bindboundbound
bitebitbitten
bleedbledbled
blowblewblown
breakbrokebroken
breedbredbred
bringbroughtbrought
buildbuiltbuilt
buyboughtbought
catchcaughtcaught
choosechosechosen
comecamecome
costcostcost
cutcutcut
dealdealtdealt
digdugdug
dodiddone
drawdrewdrawn
drinkdrankdrunk
drivedrovedriven
eatateeaten
fallfellfallen
feedfedfed
feelfeltfelt
fightfoughtfought
findfoundfound
flyflewflown
forbidforbadeforbidden
forgetforgotforgotten
forgiveforgaveforgiven
freezefrozefrozen
getgotgot ()
gotten ()
givegavegiven
gowentgone
growgrewgrown
havehadhad
hearheardheard
hidehidhidden
hithithit
holdheldheld
hurthurthurt
keepkeptkept
knowknewknown
laylaidlaid
leadledled
leaveleftleft
lendlentlent
letletlet
lielaylain
lightlitlit
loselostlost
makemademade
meanmeantmeant
meetmetmet
paypaidpaid
putputput
quitquitquit
readreadread
rideroderidden
ringrangrung
riseroserisen
runranrun
saysaidsaid
seesawseen
sellsoldsold
sendsentsent
setsetset
shakeshookshaken
shineshoneshone
shootshotshot
showshowedshown
shutshutshut
singsangsung
sinksanksunk
sitsatsat
sleepsleptslept
slideslidslid
speakspokespoken
spendspentspent
spinspunspun
spreadspreadspread
standstoodstood
stealstolestolen
stickstuckstuck
stingstungstung
strikestruckstruck
swearsworesworn
sweepsweptswept
swimswamswum
swingswungswung
taketooktaken
teachtaughttaught
teartoretorn
telltoldtold
thinkthoughtthought
throwthrewthrown
understandunderstoodunderstood
wakewokewoken
wearworeworn
winwonwon
withdrawwithdrewwithdrawn
writewrotewritten

Verbs with Irregular and Regular Forms

The following verbs can be regular or irregular:

VerbPast SimplePast Participle
burnburned OR burntburned OR burnt
dreamdreamed OR dreamtdreamed OR dreamt
learnlearned OR learntlearned OR learnt
hanghung
also hanged
hung
also hanged
smellsmelled OR smeltsmelled OR smelt
spellspelled OR speltspelled OR spelt

The second form (e.g. learnt, dreamt) is more common in British English.

Irregular Verbs That Don't Change

Verbs that have the same form in Present, Past and Past Participle form:

VerbPast SimplePast Participle
betbetbet
broadcastbroadcastbroadcast
cutcutcut
hithithit
hurthurthurt
letletlet
putputput
quitquitquit
readreadread
setsetset
shutshutshut
spreadspreadspread
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