Past Tense: Irregular Verbs

Lisa C. Newcomer Information Leave a Comment

Last week, we learned a few basic rules to change regular verbs into the past tense. In today’s English Learning Tips for Newcomers, we will tackle irregular verbs.

There’s no easy way to learn them. You may need to memorize them one by one! However, in this article, we will try to group them into categories and in the process help you find some sort of system for converting irregular verbs to their simple past forms.

Note that this might not be an exhaustive list. Feel free to leave a comment and let us know your thoughts!

Irregular verbs that look completely different in their past tense forms
  • am/ is – was
  • are – were
  • go – went
Irregular verbs that look exactly the same in their past tense forms
  • For example: bet, beat, broadcast, cast, cost, cut, hit, hurt, let, put, read, set, shut, spread, upset, web, …
  • For most of these verbs, the pronunciation stays the same, except for “read”. “Read” when it’s in the past tense is pronounced as “red”.
Change “a” “i” to “u”
  • For example: dig – dug, hang – hung, stick – stuck, sting – stung, swing – swung,…
Change “i” to “a”
  • For example: begin – began, drink – drank, give – gave, sit – sat, sing – sang, spit – spat,…
Change “i” to “o” or “ou”
  • Change “i” to “o”: for example, drive – drove, ride – rode, write – wrote, win – won, …
  • Change “i” to “ou”: for example, find – found, bind – bound, wind – wound, …
Change the last letter to “t” or “d”
  • For example: bend – bent, build – built, flee – fled, lend – lent, lose – lost, spend – spent, send – sent, spell – spelled, …
Shorten the original verb by removing a letter
  • For example: choose – chose, hide – hid, feed – fed, lead – led, meet – met, shoot – shot, slide – slid, …
Past tense ending with “t”
  • Directly add “t”: deal – dealt, mean – meant, learn – learnt, …
  • Remove a letter then add “t”: feel – felt, keep – kept, sleep – slept, sweep – swept, weep – wept, …
Change the ending to “ought” or “aught”
  • For example: bring – brought, buy – bought, catch – caught, think – thought, teach – taught, fight – fought, seek – sought, …
Change “ow” or “aw” to “ew”
  • For example: blow – blew, draw – drew, know – knew, grow – grew, throw – threw,…

Before you go, also check out our previously published English Learning Tips articles!

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Word of the Day:

Exhaustive: complete, comprehensive, including every possibility

References:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/irregular-verbs

https://web.archive.org/web/20040110031745/http://www.gsu.edu/~wwwesl/egw/verbs.htm

https://www.eslcafe.com/resources/grammar-lessons/simple-past-tense/simple-past-tense-3

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