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English irregular verbs

English has dozens of irregular verbs that you have to learn by heart. However, there are some connections that you can use to your advantage when you study.

There are irregular verbs also in other languages, such as German (DE), Spanish (ES) and others, which we’re not going to cover here.

Use of irregular verbs in English

Each verb (either regular or irregular) has three basic forms:

  • infinitive (the base form)
  • the past form
  • past participle

Regular verbs take the -ed ending, which is identical both for the past form and past participle, and that’s it.

Unlike regular verbs, English irregular verbs are a different story. This is where it starts to get tricky and you simply have to memorize them.

An example of an English regular verb:

  • Infinitive: cook
  • Past simple: cooked
  • Past participle: cooked

An example of an English irregular verb:

  • Infinitive: be (present simple is / am / are)
  • Past simple: was / were
  • Past participle: been

English irregular verbs with regular endings

Sometimes there are multiple forms of a particular English verb, all grammatically correct. That means that in fact irregular verbs might have both regular and irregular forms.

It pays off to know both forms. While it’s true you may actively use just the regular form, you still need to understand the irregular form when you hear or see it.

An example of such an irregular verb learn.
You can use the regular forms: learn / learned / learned

But there are also irregular ones: learn / learnt / learnt

More information about using learnt vs learned is described in the linked article.

The same but different

Some irregular verbs look the same in all three forms, e.g. read / read / read. All three forms of this verb are spelt in exactly the same way. However, they differ in pronunciation and the base form is pronounced differently from the past form and past participle: [ri:d] / [red] / [red].

How do I learn irregular verbs?

There are several successful tricks to make your brain remember something. These mental tricks can be very easily applied to learning just about anything, not just irregular verbs. Here are just a few.