An irregular verb doesn’t follow the regular inflection or ending to the word; that happens when putting it into the past tense or past participle.
The expected ending to a regular verb when put into the past tense is either ‘-d’, ‘-ed,’ or ‘-ied’. For example, the verb ‘follow’ becomes ‘followed’ in the simple past tense.
The difference between regular and irregular verbs is all to do with these tricky spellings in verb tenses that don’t quite follow the pattern we expect.
These words often have to be learned with patience and practice, and this is perhaps best done through example. Below, you’ll learn about some examples of these irregular verbs and how they are used in sentences.
How many irregular verbs are there in English?
There are nearly 200 irregular verbs used in the English language.
Examples of Past Tense Irregular Verbs
Here are some examples of past simple irregular verbs (and their present and past particle counterparts) that are important for children to know when they’re learning to read and write in English.
|Present (Infinitive)||Past Simple||Past Participle|
Examples of Past Tense Irregular Verbs in Sentences
- I swam a whole mile during my last swimming lesson.
- I took a chocolate bar with me in my lunch box.
- She went to the library to read a new book.
- She grew sunflowers in her garden.
- He sang in the school talent show.
- He wrote past simple irregular verbs in sentences.
- They were having dinner with their friends.
- They rode on the rollercoaster.
- You took a shortcut on the way home from school
- You knew how to answer the last question on your homework task.
Verbs with Regular and Irregular Forms
Some verbs can be regular or irregular, depending on the form you decide to write.
|Verb||Past Simple||Past Participle|
|burn||burned OR burnt||burned OR burnt|
|learn||learned OR learnt||learned OR learnt|
|dream||dreamed OR dreamt||dreamed OR dreamt|
|hang||hung and hanged||hung and hanged|
|spell||spelled or spelt||spelled or spelt|
|smell||smelled or smelt||smelled or smelt|
While both are correct, the ‘t’ ending is most common in British English, and the ‘ed’ ending is most common in American English.
Irregular Verbs that Don’t Change
Some verbs don’t change form when we use them in the past simple or past participle. These verbs are:
For an example in context, here are two past tense irregular verbs in a sentence:
I couldn’t let the door shut on the old lady.
When will children learn about irregular verbs?
Children are introduced to verbs and forming the past tense of regular verbs in year one and year two. It involves teaching children how to add the suffixes ‘-d’, ‘-ed,’ or ‘-ied’ to a regular verb to create the past tense.
Interestingly, irregular verbs aren’t included anywhere in the national curriculum for English and are mostly learned through everyday speech, as irregular verbs are so common in English.