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Regular and irregular verbs

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/takes, seem/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/kisses, fizz/fizzes, punch/punches, wash/washes, mix/mixes).

 

If the verb ends in a consonant plus -y, change the y to an i before adding -es (e.g. hurry/hurries, clarify/clarifies). But if the verb ends in a vowel plus -y, just add -s (e.g. play/plays, enjoy/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/seemed, laugh/laughed, look/looked).

 

For verbs that end in -e, add -d (e.g. love/loved, recede/receded, hope/hoped).

 

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

 

For more detail, see Verb tenses: adding-ed-and-ing.

 

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).

 

For more detail, see Verb tenses: adding-ed-and-ing

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.

 

Go back to Word classes (or parts of speech).

 

Read more about:

Verb tenses

Participles

Phrasal verbs

 

See more from Verbs