A User-Friendly Classification According to Change Patterns – Part 1
Most 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 play-played-played. However, there is a considerable 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 see-saw-seen (see table below). Some irregular verbs do not change form at all ( let-let-let). 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 ( buy-bought-bought). In strong verbs the simple past and past participle are usually distinct, with the past participle having an en ending ( speak-spoke-spoken). 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.
Regardless of the linguistic distinctions and classifications, which tend to be too complicated for learners, we suggest that you use the following tables, clustering together irregular verbs with similar change patterns in small groups. This kind of clustering aids your memory, which will strengthen with practice. Read through the tables and make note of 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. You may consider creating flash cards with the different groups and study them, as explained on our vocabulary strategies pages. Remember that for looking up irregulars verbs after you have learned them, you have an alphabetical list in any dictionary for easy referencing.
You may notice that in some verb parts there are two correct forms. A general rule of thumb here is that the regular verb option (with ed, no vowel change) is more commonly used in American English, whereas the irregular option (vowel change) is still in use in British English. Moreover, there may also be finer nuances in meaning pertaining to the usage of the former or the latter. In any case, consult your dictionary if you are not sure about the exact usage.
The following irregular verb tables are sorted according to V1,V2, and V3 forms. Here is a quick reminder for these verb forms:
• Uses of the 3 main verb forms:
Study Tables for the Irregular Verbs in English – Part 1
The following irregular verb categories 1-3 are complemented by categories 4-7, found in Part 2.
Category 1: irregular ending with no vowel change, V2=V3
Category 3: Verbs with the same form V1=V2=V3
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