Regular and irregular verbs

regular verb is any verb whose conjugation follows the typical pattern, or one of the typical patterns, of the language to which it belongs. Verbs whose conjugation follow a different pattern are called irregular verbs.

In English, for example, verbs such as playenter, and like are regular since they form their inflected parts by adding the typical endings -s-ing and -ed to give forms such as playsentering, and liked. On the other hand, verbs such as drinkhit and have are irregular since some of their parts are not made according to the typical pattern: drank and drunk (not "drinked"); hit (as past tense and past participle, not "hitted") and has and had (not "haves" and "haved").

In the context of verbs, we use the term inflection to talk about the process of changing a verb form to show tense, mood, number (i.e. singular or plural), and person (i.e. first person, second person, or third person). This section deals with inflecting verbs to show tenses and participles, and is divided into two main sections:

Regular verbs

Irregular verbs

Regular verbs

Many English verbs are regular, which means that they form their different tenses according to an established pattern. Such verbs work like this:

Verb 3rd person singular
present tense
3rd person singular
past tense
past participle present participle
laugh he/she laughs he/she laughed laughed laughing
love he/she loves he/she loved loved loving
boo he/she boos he/she booed booed booing

Present tense formation

In the present simple tense, the basic form of a regular verb only changes in the 3rd person singular, as follows:

Most verbs just add -to the basic form (e.g. take/takesseem/seems, look/looks).

Verbs that end with a vowel other than e add -es (e.g. go/goes, veto/vetoes, do/does).

Verbs that end with -s, -z-ch, -sh, and -x add -es (e.g. kiss/kissesfizz/fizzespunch/puncheswash/washesmix/mixes).

If the verb ends in a consonant plus -y, change the y to an i before adding -es (e.g. hurry/hurriesclarify/clarifies). But if the verb ends in a vowel plus -y, just add -s (e.g. play/playsenjoy/enjoys).

Past tense formation

Forming the past simple tense of regular verbs is mostly straightforward, and you use the same form for the first, second, and third persons, singular and plural:

If the basic form of the verb ends in a consonant or a vowel other than e, add the letters -ed to the end (e.g. seem/seemedlaugh/laughedlook/looked).

For verbs that end in -e, add -d (e.g. love/lovedrecede/recededhope/hoped).

If the verb ends in a consonant plus -y, change the y to an before adding -ed (e.g. hurry/hurriedclarify/clarified). But if the verb ends in a vowel plus -y, just add -ed (e.g. play/playedenjoy/enjoyed).

Forming participles

To form the past participle of regular verbs, follow the same rules as for the past simple tense above.

To make the present participle of regular verbs:

If the basic form of the verb ends in a consonant or a vowel other than e, add the ending -ing (e.g. laugh/laughing, boo/booing).

If the verb ends in e, drop the e before adding -ing (e.g. love/loving, hope/hoping).

If the basic form ends in y just add -ing (e.g. hurry/hurrying, clarify/clarifying).

Irregular verbs

There are many irregular verbs that don’t follow the normal rules. Here are the forms of some of the most common irregular verbs:

Verb 3rd person singular
present tense
3rd person singular
past tense
past participle present participle
be is was been being
begin begins began begun beginning
bite bites bit bitten biting
break breaks broke broken breaking
buy buys bought bought buying
choose chooses chose chosen choosing
come comes came come coming
dig digs dug dug digging
do does did done doing
drink drinks drank drunk drinking
eat eats ate eaten eating
fall falls fell fallen falling
feel feels felt felt feeling
find finds found found finding
get gets got got getting
go goes went gone going
grow grows grew grown growing
have has had had having
hide hides hid hidden hiding
keep keeps kept kept keeping
know knows knew known knowing
lay lays laid laid laying
lead leads led led leading
leave leaves left left leaving
lie lies lay lain lying
lose loses lost lost losing
make makes made made making
meet meets met met meeting
put puts put put putting
read /ri:d/ reads read /red/ read /red/ reading
ride rides rode ridden riding
ring rings rang rung ringing
rise rises rose risen rising
run runs ran run running
say says said said saying
see sees saw seen seeing
sell sells sold sold selling
set sets set set setting
sing sings sang sung singing
sit sits sat sat sitting
stand stands stood stood standing
stick sticks stuck stuck sticking
take takes took taken taking
teach teaches taught taught teaching
think thinks thought thought thinking
wake wakes woke woken waking

Note that sometimes the spelling doesn’t change but the pronunciation does (e.g. read). There are many more irregular verbs in English than those listed here. If you aren’t sure how a verb behaves, it’s best to look it up. All irregular verb forms are given in full at the main dictionary entry.

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