Rules for Using Irregular Verbs
Understand the problem.
The difference between a regular and an irregular verb is the formation of the simple past and past participle. Regular verbs are dependably consistent—the simple past ends in ed as does the past participle.
Check out this chart:
Infinitive Simple Present Simple Past Past Participle Present Participle to laugh laugh(s) laughed laughed laughing to start start(s) started started starting to wash wash(es) washed washed washing to wink wink(s) winked winked winking
In contrast, the simple past and past participle of irregular verbs can end in a variety of ways, with absolutely no consistent pattern.
Here are some examples:
Infinitive Simple Present Simple Past Past Participle Present Participle to drive drive(s) drove driven driving to feel feel(s) felt felt feeling to put put(s) put put putting to swim swim(s) swam swum swimming
Writers make two frequent errors with irregular verbs. They either add an incorrect ed to the end of an irregular verb or accidentally interchange the simple past and past participle.
Read this sentence:
Olivia feeled like exercising yesterday, so she putted on her bathing suit and drived to the YMCA, where she swum so far that only an extra large pepperoni pizza would satisfy her hunger.
What are the problems with this sentence? First, feeled should be felt. Next, putted needs to be put. The correct past tense of drive is drove. And we must change swum to swam.
Know the solution.
To avoid making mistakes with irregular verbs, learn the very long chart below or bookmark this page in your web browser.
Comprehensive List of Irregular Verbs Infinitive Simple Present Simple Past Past Participle Present Participle to arise arise(s) arose arisen arising to awake awake(s) awoke or awaked awaked or awoken awaking to be am, is, are was, were been being to bear bear(s) bore borne or born bearing to beat beat(s) beat beaten beating to become become(s) became become becoming to begin begin(s) began begun beginning to bend bend(s) bent bent bending to bet bet(s) bet bet betting to bid [to offer] bid(s) bid bid bidding to bid [to command] bid(s) bade bidden bidding to bind bind(s) bound bound binding to bite bite(s) bit bitten or bit biting to blow blow(s) blew blown blowing to break break(s) broke broken breaking to bring bring(s) brought brought bringing to build build(s) built built building to burst burst(s) burst burst bursting to buy buy(s) bought bought buying to cast cast(s) cast cast casting to catch catch(es) caught caught catching to choose choose(s) chose chosen choosing to cling cling(s) clung clung clinging to come come(s) came come coming to cost cost(s) cost cost costing to creep creep(s) crept crept creeping to cut cut(s) cut cut cutting to deal deal(s) dealt dealt dealing to dig dig(s) dug dug digging to dive dive(s) dived or dove dived diving to do do(es) did done doing to draw draw(s) drew drawn drawing to dream dream(s) dreamed or dreamt dreamed or dreamt dreaming to drink drink(s) drank drunk drinking to drive drive(s) drove driven driving to eat eat(s) ate eaten eating to fall fall(s) fell fallen falling to feed feed(s) fed fed feeding to feel feel(s) felt felt feeling to fight fight(s) fought fought fighting to find find(s) found found finding to flee flee(s) fled fled fleeing to fling fling(s) flung flung flinging to fly flies, fly flew flown flying to forbid forbid(s) forbade or forbad forbidden forbidding to forget forget(s) forgot forgotten or forgot forgetting to forgive forgive(s) forgave forgiven forgiving to forsake forsake(s) forsook forsaken forsaking to freeze freeze(s) froze frozen freezing to get get(s) got got or gotten getting to give give(s) gave given giving to go go(es) went gone going to grow grow(s) grew grown growing to hang [to suspend] hang(s) hung hung hanging to have has, have had had having to hear hear(s) heard heard hearing to hide hide(s) hid hidden hiding to hit hit(s) hit hit hitting to hurt hurt(s) hurt hurt hurting to keep keep(s) kept kept keeping to know know(s) knew known knowing to lay lay(s) laid laid laying to lead lead(s) led led leading to leap leap(s) leaped or leapt leaped or leapt leaping to leave leave(s) left left leaving to lend lend(s) lent lent lending to let let(s) let let letting to lie [to rest or recline] lie(s) lay lain lying to light light(s) lighted or lit lighted or lit lighting to lose lose(s) lost lost losing to make make(s) made made making to mean mean(s) meant meant meaning to pay pay(s) paid paid paying to prove prove(s) proved proved or proven proving to quit quit(s) quit quit quitting to read read(s) read read reading to rid rid(s) rid rid ridding to ride ride(s) rode ridden riding to ring ring(s) rang rung ringing to rise rise(s) rose risen rising to run run(s) ran run running to say say(s) said said saying to see see(s) saw seen seeing to seek seek(s) sought sought seeking to send send(s) sent sent sending to set set(s) set set setting to shake shake(s) shook shaken shaking to shine [to glow] shine(s) shone shone shining to shoot shoot(s) shot shot shooting to show show(s) showed shown or showed showing to shrink shrink(s) shrank shrunk shrinking to sing sing(s) sang sung singing to sink sink(s) sank or sunk sunk sinking to sit sit(s) sat sat sitting to slay slay(s) slew slain slaying to sleep sleep(s) slept slept sleeping to sling sling(s) slung slung slinging to sneak sneak(s) sneaked or snuck sneaked or snuck sneaking to speak speak(s) spoke spoken speaking to spend spend(s) spent spent spending to spin spin(s) spun spun spinning to spring spring(s) sprang or sprung sprung springing to stand stand(s) stood stood standing to steal steal(s) stole stolen stealing to sting sting(s) stung stung stinging to stink stink(s) stank or stunk stunk stinking to stride stride(s) strode stridden striding to strike strike(s) struck struck striking to strive strive(s) strove striven striving to swear swear(s) swore sworn swearing to sweep sweep(s) swept swept sweeping to swim swim(s) swam swum swimming to swing swing(s) swung swung swinging to take take(s) took taken taking to teach teach(es) taught taught teaching to tear tear(s) tore torn tearing to tell tell(s) told told telling to think think(s) thought thought thinking to throw throw(s) threw thrown throwing to understand understand(s) understood understood understanding to wake wake(s) woke or waked waked or woken waking to wear wear(s) wore worn wearing to weave weave(s) wove or weaved woven or wove weaving to weep weep(s) wept wept weeping to wring wring(s) wrung wrung wringing to write write(s) wrote written writing
Know the difference between the simple past tense and the past participle.
In addition to learning the chart above, you must also understand the difference between the simple past tense and the past participle.
Simple Past Tense
A simple past tense verb always has just one part. You need no auxiliary verb to form this tense.
Look at these examples:
Because dinner time was near, my dog Oreo bit the spine of Moby-Dick and pulled the novel off my lap.
Since Denise had ignored bills for so long, she wrote out checks for an hour straight.
Despite the noise, jolts, and jerks, Alex slept so soundly on the city bus that he missed his stop.
Many multipart verbs, however, require the past participle after one or more auxiliary verbs.
Read these sentences:
Raymond had bitten into the muffin before Charise mentioned that it was her infamous chocolate-broccoli variety.
had = auxiliary verb; bitten = past participle
Once Woody has written his essay for Mr. Stover, he plans to reward himself with a packet of Twinkies.
has = auxiliary verb; written = past participle
Cynthia might have slept better if she hadn't watched The Nightmare on Elm Street marathon on HBO.
might, have = auxiliary verbs; slept = past participle
For regular verbs, knowing the distinction between the simple past and past participle is unnecessary because both are identical.
Check out these two sentences:
Diane giggled as her beagle Reliable pushed his cold wet nose into her stomach, searching for cookie crumbs.
giggled = simple past
Until the disapproving Mrs. Whitman elbowed Latoya in the ribs, the young girl had giggled without stop at the toilet paper streamer attached to Principal Clemens's shoe.
had = auxiliary verb; giggled = past participle
When you choose an irregular verb for a sentence, however, the simple past and past participle are often different, so you must know the distinction.
Here are two examples:
Essie drove so cautiously that traffic piled up behind her, causing angry drivers to honk their horns and shout obscenities.
drove = simple past
Essie might have driven faster if she hadn't forgotten her glasses and saw more than big colored blurs through the windshield.
might, have = auxiliary verbs; driven = past participle
Past Participles as Adjectives
In addition, past participles can function as adjectives, describing other words. When you use a past participle in this manner, you must choose the correct form.
Read these sentences:
The calculus exams given by Dr. Ribley are so difficult that his students believe their brains will burst.
Delores discovered the stolen bologna under the sofa, guarded fiercely by Max, her Chihuahua.
The written reprimand so shamed poor Pablo that he promised his boss never again to throw a scoop of ice cream at a customer.