What are irregular verbs?

What are irregular verbs?

Irregular verbs are "not regular verbs." If you listened to your vocabulary teacher when you were a kid, you know that the prefix ir- means not, which would help you remember that these are not regular.

But, before you learn about these not regular verbs, you need to learn about simple verb tenses and regular verbs. Let's get started!

Quick Refresher

A verb is a word that names an action or a state of being.

Verb Tenses

The first thing we need to talk about is verb tenses. Tense indicates time. Every time that we use a verb, we are using a particular verb tense to indicate when that verb occurred. There are three simple verb tenses that are the most basic verb tenses.

1. Past Tense: These verbs take place in the past.

ran, walked, swam, kicked

2. Present Tense: These verbs take place in the present.

run, walk, swim, kick

3. Future Tense: These verbs take place in the future.

will run, will walk, will swim, will kick

Past tense and present tense are the two tenses that are important for this discussion, so those are the two that we are going to focus on.

Look at these examples of past and present tense verbs.

Present Tense Past Tense
kick kicked
talk talked
move moved
push pushed
swim swam
cost cost
sit sat
wear wore

Regular Verbs

If you are a very observant person, you would have noticed that the verbs in the first part of the chart above followed a pattern and the verbs in the second part of the chart did not follow a pattern.

The verbs that followed a pattern are examples of regular verbs.

Regular verbs add either a -d or an -ed to the present tense form to create the past tense form.

This chart shows how regular verbs are formed:

Present Tense + -d or -ed arrow Past Tense
kick + -ed arrow kicked
talk + -ed arrow talked
move + -d arrow moved
push + -ed arrow pushed

Irregular Verbs

Now we can finally talk about irregular verbs!

These are the ones that don't end in -d or an -ed in their past tense.

Present Tense + ? arrow Past Tense
swim + ? arrow swam
do + ? arrow did
have + ? arrow had
freeze + ? arrow froze
break + ? arrow broke
steal + ? arrow stole
cost + ? arrow cost

As you can see, these verbs don't follow a pattern. It's because of this that they are not regular.

So, if they don't follow a pattern, how do you know how to form the past tense form of an irregular verb?

Luckily, you'll find this information in a dictionary. When in doubt, look it up.

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