Difference Between a Weak and Strong Verb

The difference between a weak and robust verb is determined by how the word is conjugated in the past tense. Weak verbs, also known as regular verbs, change their basic form from the present tense into the past tense by adding the suffixes -ed, -d, or -t. Examples of such verbs are call, called, and walk, walked.

Strong verbs, also known as irregular verbs, may change the vowel in the present tense form to create the past tense, past participle, or both. Examples are to give, gave, and stick, stuck.

Strong vs. Weak

Bryan Garner, the author of “Garner’s Modern American Usage,” defines the distinction between strong and weak verbs as follows:

In some instances, irregular verbs are regarded as “strong” verbs since they seem to create the past tense on their own.  Many of today’s irregular forms are descended from typical old English verbs, and the adjective “strong” has been carried over from old English grammar. These irregular verbs, the majority of which are just one syllable in length, are among the most widespread in the language, even though less than 200 current English verbs are strong.

Examples of Weak Verbs

With weak verbs in the past or past participle tense, the stem vowel does not change. Consider the word “walk,” for instance. The stem vowel does not change. Therefore, this verb’s past tense and participle would be walked. Work is another example where the verb changes in the past tense and past participle. The following verbs are instances of weak or regular verbs; the verb is listed on the left, and the past tense or past participle is mentioned on the right:

  • Add > added
  • Beg > begged
  • Call > called
  • Damage > damaged
  • Earn > earned
  • Mark > marked
  • Taste > tasted
  • Yell > yelled

Because, as said, the stem vowel does not change, these verbs’ past tense or past participle has a similar appearance to their present tense.

Strong Verbs Examples

In contrast, the stem vowel of strong verbs often changes in the past or past participle. For instance, brought is the past tense and past participle of bringing. Other times, a robust verb‘s stem vowel could change in the past tense but not in the past participle. For example, the word “arises” changes to arose in the past tense but arisen in the past participle (as in he has arisen.) Other instances of powerful verbs include:

  • Blow > blew (past tense), blown (past participle)
  • Break > broke (past tense), broken (past participle)
  • Do > did (past tense), done (past participle)
  • Feed > fed (past tense and past particle)
  • Lie (down) > lay (past tense), lain (past participle)
  • Speak > spoke (past tense), spoken (past participle)

As you can see, there is no set formula for identifying a verb‘s strength. The ideal strategy is to learn how to utilize less than 200 strong verbs in English in the past tense and past participle.

Choose your Reaction!