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The irregular verbs of English are a hindrance to those learning English as a second or later language and they provide opportunity for confusion and mistakes by native speakers as well. There are nearly 100 irregular verbs in English, but they are not entirely irregular. To begin with, the only parts of the verbs that are out of pattern are the past form and the past participle form, and there are regular patterns within those differences. Many irregular verbs also have regular forms. American English generally favors the regular forms.

The irregulars are a closed set; verbs that are newly invented or borrowed from other languages are cast into regular forms.

The irregulars can be classified into the three broad groups listed below.

These three groups are further subdivided to give the seven major regular patterns described below.

All forms identical (AAA)

bet (R)   bid (R)   burst     cast      cost      cut

hit       hurt      knit (R)  let       put       quit (R)

rid (R)   set       shed      shit      shut      slit

split     spread    sweat (R) thrust    wed (R)   wet (R)

Past is regular and past participle has both regular and nasal forms (ABB+)

hew       hewed     hewn (hewed)

mow       mowed     mown (mowed)

saw       sawed     sawn (sawed)

sew       sewed     sewn (sewed)

shear     sheared   shorn (sheared)

show      showed    shown (showed)

sow       sowed     sown (sowed)

strew     strewed   strewn (strewed)

swell     swelled   swollen (swelled)

Past and past participle same, but have 't' devoicing added (ABB+)

a. American English prefers the regular -ed inflection for this group, but British English uses the following irregular inflection.

burn      burnt     burnt (also regular)

dwell     dwelt     dwelt (also regular)

learn     learnt    learnt (also regular)

smell     smelt     smelt (also regular)

spell     spelt     spelt (also regular)

spill     spilt     spilt (also regular)

spoil     spoilt    spoilt (also regular)


b. 

bend      bent      bent

build     built     built

lend      lent      lent

rend      rent      rent

send      sent      sent

spend     spent     spent


c.

have      had       had

make      made      made

Past and past participle are same, but the base vowel is different

a.

bleed     bled      bled

breed     bred      bred

feed      fed       fed

hold      held      held

lead      led       led

meet      met       met

read      read      read

speed     sped      sped


b.

cling     clung     clung

dig       dug       dug

fling     flung     flung

hang      hung      hung

sling     slung     slung

slink     slunk     slunk

spin      spun      spun

stick     stuck     stuck

sting     stung     stung

strike    struck    struck

string    strung    strung

swing     swung     swung

win       won       won

wring     wrung     wrung


c.

bind      bound     bound

find      found     found

grind     ground    ground

wind      wound     wound


d.

light     lit       lit

slide     slid      slid


e.

sit       sat       sat

spit      spat      spat (or spit, spit; particularly in Am. Eng.)


f.

get       got       got (or got, gotten in Am. Eng.)

shine     shone     shone (sometimes regular in the transitive sense, esp. in Am. Eng.)

shoot     shot      shot


g.

fight     fought    fought


h.

stand     stood     stood


i.

stride    strode    strode

Past and past participle are same, but the base vowel is different and voicing changes

a.

bereave   bereft    bereft (also regular)

cleave    cleft     cleft

creep     crept     crept

deal      dealt     dealt

dream     dreamt    dreamt (also regular)

feel      felt      felt

flee      fled      fled

keep      kept      kept

kneel     knelt     knelt (also regular)

lean      leant     leant (also regular)

leap      lept      lept (also regular)

leave     left      left

mean      meant     meant

sleep     slept     slept

sweep     swept     swept

weep      wept      wept


b.

beseech   besought  besought

bring     brought   brought

buy       bought    bought

catch     caught    caught

seek      sought    sought

teach     taught    taught

think     thought   thought


c.

lose      lost      lost

sell      sold      sold

tell      told      told

hear      heard     heard

say       said      said

shoe      shod      shod  (also regular)

Past and past participle have vowel change; the participle has a nasal suffix (ABC)

a. Past and past participle have the same vowel

break     broke     broken

choose    chose     chosen

freeze    froze     frozen

speak     spoke     spoken

steal     stole     stolen

wake      woke      woken (also regular)

weave     wove      woven



bear      bore      borne (transitive sense) or born (passive sense)

swear     swore     sworn

tear      tore      torn

wear      wore      worn



bite      bit       bitten

hide      hid       hidden



forget    forgot    forgotten

tread     trod      trodden



lie       lay       lain



b. Base and participle have the same vowel

blow      blew      blown

grow      grew      grown

know      knew      known

throw     threw     thrown



forsake   forsook   forsaken

shake     shook     shaken

take      took      taken



bid       bade      bidden 

forbid    forbade   forbidden

give      gave      given



draw      drew      drawn



fall      fell      fallen



eat       ate       eaten



see       saw       seen



slay      slew      slain


c. Different vowels in all three parts

drive     drove     driven

ride      rode      ridden

rise      rose      risen

strike    struck    stricken

strive    strove    striven (also regular)

write     wrote     written



fly       flew      flown



do        did       done

go        went      gone


d. Same vowel in all three parts

beat      beat      beaten


e. Same vowel in base and participle, but no nasalization

dive      dove*     dived (also regular in Amer. Eng.)

thrive    throve    thrived (also regular)

*Credit to Tiefling, who pointed out that "'dove' is more often heard in Scots or American English than in Standard, which prefers 'dived'."

Vowel change, but no suffix

a.

begin     began     begun

drink     drank     drunk

ring      rang      rung

shrink    shrank    shrunk (also shrink, shrunk, shrunk)

sing      sang      sung

sink      sank      sunk

spin      span      spun*

*This pattern is archaic according to the American Heritage Dictionary and some other sources, although Don Jaime reports that at least some British speakers still use this pattern and examples are found in current literature, including the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the Harry Potter books.

spring    sprang    sprung

stink     stank     stunk

swim      swam      swum


b.

come      came      come

run       ran       run

Be

The verb be is unique in that it has eight different parts.

Present

1st person, singular    am

2nd person, singular    are

3rd person, singular    is

Plural (all persons)    are

Past

1st person, singular    was

2nd person, singular    were

3rd person, singular    was

Plural (all persons)    were

Past participle

been