An Introduction to Irregular Verbs
  • 3-minute read
  • 12th September 2018

An Introduction to Irregular Verbs

Most verbs do exactly what you’d expect them to when you change their tense. But this isn’t always the case. Some verbs are grammatical rebels. And when these terms pop up, it is easy for errors to creep into your written work. Join us, then, for a quick look at how to handle irregular verbs.

Regular Verbs

Before we look at irregular verbs, though, we should define what a regular verb is first. These terms are easy to understand because their simple past tense and past participle forms all end with the letters “-ed.” For instance, the verb “sail” becomes “sailed.” Other examples include:

Base Verb Form Simple Past Tense Past Participle
Bake Baked Baked
Hurry Hurried Hurried
Kick Kicked Kicked
Lower Lowered Lowered
Play Played Played

As shown above with “hurry” and “hurried,” the spelling of certain words changes slightly when forming past tense forms of a regular verb. But even these terms end “-ed.” Importantly, too, the simple past tense and past participle forms are the same in each case for regular verbs.

Irregular Verbs

An “irregular verb” is any verb that doesn’t follow the rules above when forming simple past tense and past participle forms. As a result, these words don’t end with “-ed” like regular verbs.

For example, the simple present tense verb “break” does not become “breaked,” but actually changes into “broke” (simple past tense) and “broken” (past participle). Other examples include:

Find this useful?

Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.

Base Verb Form Simple Past Tense Past Participle
Cut Cut Cut
Drink Drank Drunk
Sit Sat Sat
Think Thought Thought
Write Wrote Written

As you can see, there is no real pattern to how irregular verbs behave:

  • Some change just one letter in different forms (e.g., drink > drank > drunk)
  • Others change more significantly (e.g., think > thought)
  • In some cases, the simple past tense and past participle forms are the same
  • Some words use a different term for past tense and past participle forms
  • Others don’t change from the base form in either case (e.g., cut)

It can, therefore, become a bit confusing! Our advice is to watch out for irregular verbs when reading and learn how they’re used. Checking unusual terms in a dictionary and having your work proofread to correct any verb-based errors is also a good idea.

To Be or Not to Be?

No, we’re not quoting Shakespeare. We’re just highlighting how tricky the verb “be” can be. This little word is one of the sneakiest around, with a variety of forms depending on how it is used.

Verb Forms First Person Second Person Third Person
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Present Tense Am Are Are Is Are
Past Tense Was Were Were Was Were
Present Participle Being
Past Participle Been

This may make “be” the most irregular verb around! And while it is easy to master the basic forms with practice, you should still be careful when using the subjunctive mood.

Comments (0)

Upload a document

Instant Quote

Need more help perfecting your writing?

Proofed has the perfect editor!

Instant Quote

Price

You can also upload a document to get an instant quote

Icon of cloud upload

Drag & drop your file

or browse your computer

Browse from your device

Icon of cloud upload

Drop your file here!

Icon of loading status

Your file is being
uploaded!

More Writing Tips?
Trusted by thousands of leading
institutions and businesses

Make sure your writing is the best it can be with our expert English proofreading and editing.