The Farlex Grammar Book > English Grammar > Parts of Speech > Verbs > Regular and Irregular Verbs

Regular and Irregular Verbs

Definition

All English verbs are either regular or irregular, depending on how they are conjugated. The majority are regular verbs, which means that “-d” or “-ed” is added to their base form (the infinitive of the verb without to) to create both the past simple tense and past participle.
The past simple tense and past participles of irregular verbs, on the other hand, have many different forms that do not adhere to a distinct or predictable pattern. Much of the time, their past tense and past participle forms are completely different from one another. Unfortunately, this means that there is no way of determining how to conjugate irregular verbs—we just have to learn each one individually.

Conjugating Regular and Irregular Verbs

In the following sections, we’ll look at various examples of regular and irregular verbs and how the past simple tense and past participle are formed for each one.
We’ll also look at a few examples of how each of these different forms functions in a sentence.

Regular verbs

As we saw above, regular verbs are defined as having both their past simple tense and past participle forms constructed by adding “-d” or “-ed” to the end of the word. For most regular verbs, this is the only change to the word.
Here are some examples of common regular verbs:
Base Form
Past Simple Tense
Past Participle
play
bake
listen
approach
gather
climb
walk
arrive
bolt
played
baked
listened
approached
gathered
climbed
walked
arrived
bolted
played
baked
listened
approached
gathered
climbed
walked
arrived
bolted
In all of the above examples, the only alteration to the verb has been the addition of “-d” or “-ed.” Notice, too, that the past tense and past participle forms are identical in each case—this is a defining feature of regular verbs.

Changing spelling

In some cases, though, we have to modify the verb slightly further in order to be able to add “-d” or “-ed.”
For instance, with verbs that end in a “short” vowel followed by a consonant, we double the final consonant in addition to adding “-ed”;* when a verb ends in a consonant + “y,” we replace the “y” with “i” and add “-ied”; and when a verb ends in “-ic,” we add the letter “k” in addition to “-ed.”
For example:
Base Form
Past Simple Tense
Past Participle
chop
copy
panic
chopped
copied
panicked
chopped
copied
panicked
(*Usage Note: An exception to this rule occurs for words that end in a soft vowel and the consonant “l” (as in travel, cancel, fuel, label, etc.). In this case, we merely add “-ed” to form the past simple and the past participle (as in traveled, canceled, fueled, labeled, etc.)—we do not double the consonant. Note, however, that this exception only occurs in American English; in other varieties of English, such as British or Australian English, the consonant is still doubled.)
See the chapter on Suffixes to learn more about how words change when we add to their endings.

Example sentences

  • “I walk around the park each evening.” (base form)
  • “I walked around the park in the afternoon.” (past simple tense)
  • “I have walked around the park a few times this morning.” (past participle)
  • “I’m going to chop some vegetables for the salad.” (base form)
  • “He chopped some vegetables for the salad before dinner.” (past simple tense)
  • “He had already chopped some vegetables for the salad.” (past participle)
  • “Don’t copy other students’ answers or you will get an F.” (base form)
  • “I think he copied my answers.” (past simple tense)
  • “The only answers he got right were the ones he had copied.” (past participle)
  • “Your father’s fine, don’t panic!” (base form)
  • “I panicked when I heard he was in the hospital.” (past simple tense)
  • “I wish hadn’t panicked like that.” (past participle)

Irregular verbs

Irregular verbs, by their very definition, do not have spelling rules that we can follow to create the past simple tense and past participles. This means that the only way of knowing how to spell these forms is to memorize them for each irregular verb individually. Below are just a few examples of some common irregular verbs.
Base Form
Past Simple Tense
Past Participle
be
see
grow
give
think
throw
drive
ride
run
swim
sit
was/were
saw
grew
gave
thought
threw
drove
rode
ran
swam
sat
been
seen
grown
given
thought
thrown
driven
ridden
run
swum
sat
As you can see, irregular verbs can have endings that are dramatically different from their base forms; often, their past simple tense and past participles forms are completely different, too. Again, the only way to learn these variations is to memorize them.

Examples

Let’s look at some sentences that use irregular verbs in their various forms:
  • “I am excited that college is starting.” (base form)
  • “I was sad to leave home, though.” (past simple tense)
  • “I have been making a lot of new friends already.” (past participle)
  • “I drive to work every morning.” (base form)
  • “I drove for nearly an hour yesterday.” (past simple tense)
  • “I had already driven halfway to the office when I realized I forgot my briefcase.” (past participle)
  • “I would love to grow vegetables in my garden.” (base form)
  • “I grew some juicy tomatoes last summer.” (past simple tense)
  • “He has grown a lot of different vegetables already.” (past participle)
  • “I think I would like to get a dog.” (base form)
  • “She thought a dog would provide some good company.” (past simple tense)
  • “She hadn’t thought about how much work they are.” (past participle)

Conjugating present tense and the present participle

Although there are stark differences between regular and irregular verbs when it comes to conjugating their past simple tense and past participles, both kinds of verbs do follow the same conventions when creating present participles and present tense in the third person singular (the other two elements of verb conjugation).
For example:
Regular Verbs
Regular Verb
Past Simple Tense
Past Participle
Third Person Singular Present Tense
Present Participle
bake
baked
baked
bakes
baking
tap
tapped
tapped
taps
tapping
tidy
tidied
tidied
tidies
tidying
mimic
mimicked
mimicked
mimics
mimicking
Irregular Verbs
Irregular Verb
Past Simple Tense
Past Participle
Third Person Singular Present Tense
Present Participle
ride
rode
ridden
rides
riding
see
saw
seen
sees
seeing
give
gave
given
gives
giving
swim
swam
swum
swims
swimming
The exception to this is the verb be, which conjugates the present tense irregularly for first, second, and third person, as well as for singular and plural:
Verb
Past Simple Tense
Past Participle
Present Tense
Present Participle
be
was/were
been
is/am/are
being
For this reason, be is known as a highly irregular verb. Note, however, that it still forms the present participle following the same conventions as all other verbs.
Quiz

1. Which of the following is a regular verb?





2. Which of the following is an irregular verb?





3. Identify whether the verb in the following sentence is regular or irregular:
“The family hiked over the mountain.”



4. Identify the irregular verb in the following sentence:
“She gave me a bunch of potatoes, which she harvested herself, to cook for dinner later.”





5. In which of the following ways do regular and irregular verbs conjugate differently?







6. In which of the following ways do regular and irregular verbs conjugate in the same way?







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