April 14, 2016

Regular and Irregular Verbs – What’s the Difference?

2 minute read

You probably already know that verbs can be in regular or irregular forms – but do you really know what these terms actually mean?

Simply put – it’s a way of describing the way different groups of verbs can be used and how they are changed. Read on to find out more about them to make sure you know how to use them correctly!

Verbs and the past tense

How do verbs change when you use them in the past tense?

The ending you use can give you a big clue about whether it’s a regular or irregular verb. Regular verbs have a fixed and set pattern for verb endings when they are used in the past tense. If the verb ends in a vowel, then you would only need to add a ‘d’ to the end to change the verb’s tense. And if the verb ends in a consonant, you would usually add ‘ed’.

For example:

Present tense: “I work in this company”

Past tense: “I worked at a school”

Past participle: “I have worked in a lot of different places.”

When you are dealing with an irregular verb, it’s a different story! The endings for irregular verbs can change a lot according to the tense. In fact, as well as the ending, the entire word might change completely, making it very confusing.

For example, “run” is changed to “ran”, “eat” changes to “ate” and “think” changes to “thought.”

In some cases, some irregular verbs will not change at all – even in the past tense or as a past participle. For example “cut” will stay the same however you use it.

So how can you actually learn to use irregular verbs correctly?

Strong and weak verbs

One way to help you organise irregular verbs is by dividing them into two groups: strong verbs and weak verbs.

You can spot a strong verb easily. These are the ones where the verb does not usually have a different ending – but only changes the vowel sound in a different tense.

For example, “give” changes to “gave” in the past tense.

In some cases, strong verbs might have “n”, “en” or “ne” added when using the past participle.

For example, the past participle of “give” is “given.”

Weak verbs by contrast, have “d”, “ed” or “t” at the end when the verb changes tense, and do not change the vowel sound.

For example, “keep” changes to “kept” is the past tense, while “say” changes to “said”.

By learning to separate verbs into weak or strong forms, it can be much easier to remember how they change in the past tense!

Your turn

Irregular verbs are very common, and you’ll come across lots of them as you develop your English skills. It’s important to practice using them as much as you can so that you get more familiar with the correct endings!

Try writing a few sentences to learn a new verb every day – soon you’ll have an impressive list of irregular verbs to use!