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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 -s 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 i 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

 

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