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English irregular verbs

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Regular verbs in English have four forms:

  • the base, which is equivalent to the infinitive without 'to' and most forms of the present tense (for example, wâit, to wâit, Î wâit) (The accents, which are not part of the language, are included to show stress and pronunciation: see English spellings for a table and English phonemes for the IPA. There is also a key at the foot of this page. Words in italics suggest meaning, and an equals sign is placed between homophones)
  • the -s form, which is used for the third person singular of the present tense (hê wâits, shê wâits)
  • the -íng form, used for the present participle and gerund (Î'm wâiting, wâiting ís bŏring; in most cases the base sheds any final e: compare sínging sing with síngeing singe, pronounced *sínjing)
  • the past form, which is used for both the past tense and the past participle, and which consists of adding -ed to the base (from wâit, I wâited, shê has wâited, *wâitid; from loòk, loòked *lùkt; from sêem, sêemed *sêemd), or, in the case of verbs ending in -e, -d only (from fâde, fâded *fâidid)

Irregular verbs also have these forms, and form the -s and -ing forms regularly: béar, béars, béaring. But the past tense and/or past participle are not formed regularly: to béar, has the principal parts béar, bŏre, bŏrn/bŏrne, which means that there is no form *beared; instead, an example of the past tense is shê bŏre hím and of the past passive hê was bŏrn.

A number of verbs that are irregular in British English are regular in American English, such as spéll: both past forms are spélt in BrE, but the regular form spélled is usual in AmE; both variants are listed here. Contrariwise, dîve usually has past tense dôve in AmE, but this form is not used in BrE.

A number of irregular verbs also have associated passive adjectives, as for example súnken, from sínk, sánk, súnk (súnken chêeks) and as in såwn-óff shótgun and neŵ-môwn låwns. These are included here in cases where their form is different from that of the past participle (regular verbs with this feature are also included, and these forms are sometimes used in place of the regular past participle). Not all the forms listed are in common use: for example, people are still described as being behôlden to others, but the verb itself, behôld, meaning 'look at', is nowadays only used poetically or in jest.

Table of irregular verbs

Too irregular to fit completely into the table is the verb :

  • Present tense indicative: Î ám, hê/shê/ít ís (*íz), wè/yoû/thèy àre
  • Present tense subjunctive (mainly AmE)
  • Present participle (formed regularly): bêíng
  • Past tense: singular indicative ẁas (*wóz), plural and subjunctive wëre
  • Past participle bêen (= bêan eat, or = bín rubbish)
base past tense past participle adjective
bê (see above) ẁas, wëre bêen
béar birth (= bãre naked[1]) bŏre bŏrn bïrth[2]
béar suffer, carry bŏre[3] bŏrne
bêat bêat bêaten
becòme becâme becòme
begín begán begún
behôld behéld behéld behôlden
bénd bént bént
berêave berêaved berêaved beréft
besêech besŏught besŏught
bíd for bíd bíd
bíd question, farewell báde (= bád wrong) bídden
bînd bòund bòund
bîte bít bítten
blêed bléd bléd
bléss bléssed bléssed = blést bléssed, pronounced *bléssíd
blôw bleŵ (= blûe colour) blôwn
breâk brôke brôken
brêed bréd bréd
bríng brŏught brŏught
brŏadcast brŏadcast brŏadcast
buíld buílt buílt
bürn bürnt, bürned bürnt, bürned
bürst bürst bürst
buŷ bŏught bŏught
cāst cāst[4] cāst
cátch (-s form cátches) cåught cåught
chîde chîded, chíd chîded chídden
choôse chôse chôsen
clêave clôve clôven clôven hoof, cléft palate
clíng clúng clúng
clôthe clôthed clôthed clád
còme câme còme
cóst intransitive[5] cóst cóst
crêep crépt crépt
cút cút cút
dêal déalt déalt
dîe (-ing form dŷing) dîed dîed déad
díg dúg dúg
dîve dîved (AmE also has dôve, cf. dòve bird) dîved
do (*doô; -s form dòes *dúzz) díd dòne (= dún colour)
dråw dreŵ dråwn
drêam dréamt, drêamed dréamt, drêamed
drínk dránk drúnk drúnken
drîve drôve dríven
dwéll dwélt dwélt
êat âte AmE, BrE *ét êaten
fåll féll fållen
fêed féd féd
fêel félt félt
fîght fŏught fŏught
fînd discover fòund[6] fòund
fít fítted, fít fítted, fít fítted
flêe fléd fléd
flíng flúng flúng
flŷ (-s form flîes) fleŵ flôwn
forbéar forbŏre forbŏrne
forbíd forbáde, forbâde, forbád forbídden
forsâke forsoòk forsâken
frêeze frôze frôzen
frîghten (*frîtən) frîghtened (*frîtənd) frîghtened frîght (*frîte) noun
frít adjective
gét gót BrE gót, AmE gótten
gíld gílded gílded gílt
gíve gâve gíven gíft noun
gô (-s form gôes) wént góne
grînd gròund gròund
grôw greŵ grôwn
háng húng húng (except for hánged dead)
háve (-s form hás) hád hád
hêar hëard hëard
hêat hêated hêated hét[7]
hêave hêaved, hôve hêaved, hôve
heŵ heŵed heŵed heŵn
hîde híd hídden
hít hít hít
hôld héld héld
hürt hürt hürt
kêep képt képt
knêel down (= Nêil person) knélt (*nélt) knélt
knôw knowledge (= nô not) kneŵ ( = neŵ fresh) knôwn
lây put cf. lîe lâid lâid
lêad léd léd[8]
lêan léant, lêaned léant, lêaned
lêap léapt, lêaped léapt, lêaped
lëarn lëarnt, lëarned lëarnt, lëarned
lêave léft léft
lénd lént lént
lét lét lét
lîe down[9] lây lâin
lîght lít, lîghted lít, lîghted
lôad lôaded lôaded lâden
lose (= loôs toilets, cf. loôse insecure *lûce) lóst lóst lóss[10]
mâke mâde mâde
mêan méant méant
mêet mét mét
môw môwed môwed môwn
pāss pāssed pāssed = pāst
pây pâid pâid
pén pénned pénned pént[11]
plêad BrE plêaded, AmE pléd BrE plêaded, AmE pléd
prècìs (*prâycêe) prècis’d (*prâycêed) prècis’d
prove (oô) proved (oô) proved (oô), prôven (or oô) prôven (or oô)
pùt pùt pùt
quít quít, quítted quít, quítted
rêad réad (= réd colour) réad
rénd rént rént
rîde rôde (= rôad street) rídden
ríng ráng rúng
rîse[12] rôse rísen
rîve rôve ríven
rót rótted rótted rótten
rún rán rún
såw såwed såwed, såwn såwn
sây said (é) said (é)
sêe såw sêen
sêek sŏught (= BrE sŏrt) sŏught
séll sôld sôld
sénd sént sént
sét sét sét
sew (ô) needle sewed (ô) sewed, sewn (ô)
shâke shoòk shâken
shâve shâved shâved shâven
shêar shêared shêared shŏrn
shéd shéd shéd
shîne BrE shóne, AmE shône (= shôwn) shóne
shoe (= shoô away) shód shód
shoôt shót shót
shôw shôwed shôwn
shrínk shránk shrúnk
shrîve shrôve shríven shríft[13]
shút shút shút
síng sáng súng sóng[14]
sínk sánk súnk súnken
sít sát sát
slây sleŵ slâin
slêep slépt slépt
slîde slíd slíd
slíng slúng slúng
slínk slúnk slúnk
slít slít slít
sméll smélt, smélled smélt, smélled
smîte smôte smítten
snêak snêaked (AmE also has snúck) snêaked
sôw seed sôwed sôwn, sôwed
spêak spôke spôken spêech[15]
spêed spêd, spêeded spéd, spêeded
spéll spélt, spélled spélt, spélled
spénd spént spént
spíll spílt, spílled spílt, spílled
spín spún, spán spún
spít spát spát
splít splít splít
spŏil spŏilt, spŏiled spŏilt, spŏiled
spréad spréad spréad
spríng spráng sprúng
stánd stoòd stoòd
stêal stôle stôlen
stíck stúck stúck
stíng stúng stúng
stínk stánk stúnk
streŵ streŵed streŵn
strîke strúck strúck, strícken
stríng strúng strúng
strîve strôve stríven
swéar swŏre swŏrn
swêep swépt swépt
swéll swélled swélled, swôllen
swím swám swúm
swíng swúng swúng
tâke toòk tâken
têach tåught tåught
téar tŏre tŏrn
téll tôld tôld
thínk thŏught thŏught
thrôw threŵ thrôwn
thrúst thrúst thrúst
tréad tród tródden, tród
wâke wôke wôken
wéar wŏre wŏrn
wêave transitive wôve wôven
wêep wépt wépt
wín wòn wòn
wînd round (cf. wínd blow) wòund (cf. woûnd injury) wòund
wrêak make (= rêek smell) wrêak wrêaked, wrŏught wrŏught
wríng wrúng wrúng
wrîte wrôte wrítten

History

Originally, in Proto-Indo-European, the strong verb, now the main irregular type, was the regular one. Proto-Germanic created many denominative verbs from nouns and adjectives, but did not create strong past tenses for them. Instead it used a periphrastic construction, following the verb with an auxiliary verb equivalent to "did", which gradually became elided to "-ed". Over time, more and more strong verbs adopted weak forms by analogy. Thus "holp" became "helped". This process is still to some extent going on, so that recently, for example, one not infrequently finds "slayed" instead of the "correct" "slew". This process is not entirely in one direction, however. The old form "digged" has now been entirely replaced by the 18th century "dug", and the late 19th century "snuck" is now generally accepted in America, except by the elderly, who still tend to regard it as facetious.

Notes

  1. Regular, past tense bãred.
  2. A noun, usable as an adjective: bïrth pángs.
  3. There is another, regular, verb bŏre boring, past bŏred.
  4. Past tense and participle forms cāsted may be used in an acting context.
  5. Regular when transitive.
  6. There is another, regular, verb fòund establish, past fòunded.
  7. In hét up
  8. The forms of this verb, to lêad, are easily confused with the metal léad, which has the same pronunciation as the past tense léd, but the same spelling as the base form.
  9. There is another, regular, verb lîe untruth, past lîed.
  10. A noun, usable as an adjective: lóss leâder.
  11. As in pént úp.
  12. There is also râise, a regular verb, and American equivalent of the British noun rîse money.
  13. A noun, used in the expression shǒrt shríft.
  14. A noun, usable as an adjective: sóng thrúsh.
  15. A noun, usable as an adjective: spêech therapy.
  • The accents show stress and pronunciation (see English spellings): A: sát, mâde, pàrk, cāst (cást/càst), åll, ãir; E: ére, êar, vèin, fërn; I: sít, mîne, skì, bïrd; O: sóng, môde, lòve, wörd, ŏr; OO: moôn, foòt; U: sún, mûse, fùll, pürr; W: neŵ, ẁant; Y: gým, mŷ, keỳ, mÿrrh.