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Encyclopedia > English irregular verbs
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English has a large number of irregular verbs. Almost all irregular English verbs do not conform to standard methods of forming past participles and/or past tenses. With these verbs other conjunctions and inflections — such as the present 3rd person singular -s or -es, and present participle -ing — broadly follow the same rules of spelling as the regular verbs. In contrast to regular verbs, irregular verbs are those verbs that fall outside the standard patterns of conjugation in the languages in which they occur. ... Note: This page contains IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. ... In linguistics, a participle is an adjective derived from a verb. ... The past tense is a verb tense expressing action, activity, state or being in the past. ...

The exceptions are the verb to be and also defective verbs which cannot be conjugated into certain tenses. A defective verb is a verb with an incomplete conjugation. ...

All English irregular verbs are native, originating in Old English. They also tend to be the most commonly used verbs. The ten most commonly used verbs in English are all irregular. Jump to: navigation, search Old English (also called Anglo-Saxon) is an early form of the English language that was spoken in parts of what is now England and southern Scotland between the mid-fifth century and the mid-twelfth century. ...

Steven Pinker's book Words and Rules discusses how mistakes made by children in learning irregular verbs throw light on the mental processes involved in language acquisition. Steven Pinker Steven Pinker (born September 18, 1954, in Montreal, Canada) is one of the most prominent cognitive scientists today. ... Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language (ISBN 0060958405) is a 1999 popular linguistics book by Steven Pinker on the subject of regular and irregular verbs. ...

All loanwords from foreign languages are regular. So are verbs that have been recently coined and all nouns used as verbs use standard suffixes. Almost all of the least commonly used words are also regular, even though some of them may have been irregular in the past.


Most irregular verbs exist as remnants of historical conjugation systems. What is today an exception actually followed a set, normal rule long ago. When that rule fell into disuse, some verbs kept the old conjugation. An example of this is the word kept, which before the Great Vowel Shift fell into a class of words where the vowel in keep (then pronounced kehp) was shortened in the past tense. Similar words, such as peep, that arose after the Vowel Shift, use the regular -ed suffix. Groups of irregular verbs include: The Great Vowel Shift was a major change in the pronunciation of the English language, generally accomplished in the 15th century, although evidence suggests it began as early as the 14th century. ...

  • The remaining strong verbs, which display the vowel shift called ablaut and sometimes have a past participle in -en or -n: e.g., ride/rode/ridden. This verb group was inherited from the parent Germanic language, and ultimately from Indo-European, and was originally an entirely regular system. In Old English and in modern German it is still more or less regular, but in modern English the system of strong verb classes has almost entirely collapsed. For the history of these, see the article West Germanic strong verb.
  • Weak verbs that have been subjected to sound changes over the course of the history of English that have rendered them irregular. Many of these acquired a long vowel in the present stem, but kept a short vowel in the preterite and past participle; e.g., hear/heard/heard.
  • Weak verbs that show the vowel shift sometimes called "Rückumlaut" in the present tense eg. think/thought. On these, see the articles umlaut and Germanic weak verb.
  • Weak verbs that end in a final -t or -d that made the addition of the weak suffix -ed seem redundant; e.g., cost/cost/cost.
  • A handful of surviving preterite present verbs. These can be distinguished from the rest because their third person simple present singular (the he, she, or it form) does not take a final -s. These are the remnants of what was once a fairly large Indo-European class of verbs that were conjugated in the preterite or perfect tense with present tense meaning. All of the surviving verbs of this class are modal verbs, that is, a class of auxiliary verbs or quasi-auxiliaries; e.g., can/could/could.
  • Verbs that contain suppletive forms, which form one or more of their tenses from an entirely different root. Be is one of these, as is go/went/gone (where went is originally from the verb to wend). On the history of their paradigms, see: go (verb) and Indo-European copula.

Other verbs have been changed due to ease of pronunciation so that it is shorter or more closely corresponds to how it is spelt. A strong inflection is an irregular inflection, in which the stem of a word changes. ... In linguistics, the term ablaut (from German ab- in the sense down, reducing + Laut sound) designates a system of vowel gradations in Proto-Indo-European and its far-reaching consequences in all of the modern Indo-European languages. ... In linguistics, a participle is an adjective derived from a verb. ... Proto-Indo-European Indo-European studies The Germanic languages form one of the branches of the Indo-European (IE) language family, spoken by the Germanic peoples who settled in northern Europe along the borders of the Roman Empire. ... Proto-Indo-European Indo-European studies Indo-European is originally a linguistic term, referring to the Indo-European language family. ... Jump to: navigation, search Old English (also called Anglo-Saxon) is an early form of the English language that was spoken in parts of what is now England and southern Scotland between the mid-fifth century and the mid-twelfth century. ... In the Germanic languages, strong verbs are those which mark their past tenses by means of ablaut. ... In Germanic languages, weak verbs are those verbs that have a regular inflection, in which the stem of a word is not changed by ablaut. ... Listen to this article · (info) This audio file was created from the revision dated 2005-07-18, and does not reflect subsequent edits to the article. ... Ä ä Ö ö Ü ü The term umlaut is used for two closely related notions: a special kind of vowel modification and a particular diacritic mark. ... In Germanic languages, weak verbs are those verbs that form their preterites and past participles by means of a dental suffix, an inflection that contains a /t/ or /d/ sound. ... The preterite-present verbs are a small group of anomalous verbs in the Germanic languages. ... The perfect tenses are verb tenses showing actions completed at or before a specific time. ... The present tense is the tense (form of a verb) that is often used to express: Action at the present time A state of being A habitual action An occurrence in the near future An action that occurred in the past and continues up to the present // English present tense... The English modal auxiliary verbs are will and would shall and should may and might can and could must ought to Modal auxiliary verbs help other verbs express a meaning or an idea but have no meaning by themselves. ... In linguistics, an auxiliary or helping verb is a verb whose function it is to give further semantic information about the main or full verb which follows it. ... In linguistics and etymology, suppletion is the use as an inflected form of a word of an entirely different word that is not cognate to the uninflected form. ... The word copula originates from the Latin noun for a link or tie that connects two different things. ... The verb go is highly irregular, and is the only suppletive verb in English apart from be. ... A feature common to all Indo-European languages is the presence of a verb corresponding to the English verb to be. ...

  • A number of verbs whose irregularity is chiefly due to the peculiarities of English spelling; e.g., lay/laid/laid.
  • Past tense ending -ed written phonetically when devoiced to -t; e.g., burn/burnt/burnt (which also has a regular conjugation with a [d] pronunciation).
  • Weak verbs that have been the subject of contractions; e.g., have/had/had.

There are fewer strong verbs and irregular verbs in modern English than there were in Old English. Slowly over time the number of irregular verbs is decreasing. The force of analogy tends to reduce the number of irregular verbs over time. This fact explains why irregular verbs tend to be the most commonly used ones, verbs that are more rarely heard are more likely to switch to being regular. For instance, a verb like ablate was once irregular but today ablated is the standard usage. Today irregular and standard forms often coexist, a sign that the irregular form may be on the wane. For instance, seeing spelled instead of spelt or strived instead of strove is common. English spelling (or orthography), although largely phonemic, has more complicated rules than many other spelling system used by languages written in alphabetic scripts and contains many inconsistencies between spelling and pronunciation, necessitating rote learning for anyone learning to read or write English. ... Jump to: navigation, search Old English (also called Anglo-Saxon) is an early form of the English language that was spoken in parts of what is now England and southern Scotland between the mid-fifth century and the mid-twelfth century. ... An analogy is a comparison between two different things, in order to highlight some form of similarity. ...

On the other hand, contraction and sound changes can increase their number. Most of the strong verbs were regular, in that they fell into a conventional plan of conjugation, in Old English; there are so few of them left in contemporary English that they seem irregular to us. In traditional grammar, a contraction is the formation of a new word from two or more individual words. ...

Common irregularities

Common irregularities include:

  • Change whatever existing vowel to a "short O" (/ɔ/), orthographically represented by ou or au, e. g.
    • beseechbesought
    • bringbrought
    • buybought
    • catchcaught
    • seeksought
    • teachtaught
    • thinkthought
  • Change whatever existing vowel to a "long O" ([oʊ] or [əʊ] depending on which dialect is spoken), orthographically represented by o with a word-final e, e. g.
    • breakbroke
    • choosechose
    • freezefroze
    • speakspoke
    • stealstole
    Then, to form past participle, add nasal suffix -en, e. g., brokebroken.
  • No change, e. g., bet, bid, burst, cast, cost, cut, fit, hit, hurt, knit, let, put, quit, rid, set, shed, shut, split, spread, sweat, thrust, wed, wet.

See also

  Results from FactBites:
Irregular verb - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (846 words)
In contrast to regular verbs, irregular verbs are those verbs that fall outside the standard patterns of conjugation in the languages in which they occur.
In Old English, by contrast, the strong verbs are usually not considered irregular, at least not only by virtue of being strong verbs: there were several recognised classes of strong verbs, which were regular within themselves.
Truly irregular verbs in Latin are a rather small class; they include esse ("to be"); dare and its derivatives ("to give"); êsse ("to eat"); ferre and its derivatives ("to carry"); velle and its derivatives ("to wish"); ire and its derivatives ("to go"); and fieri ("to become").
Susan Jones's Verb List (358 words)
The principal parts of the English verb are the base form, the simple past, and the past participle.
Verbs in English can be classified according to three different criteria: tense (present, past), aspect (perfect, progressive), and modality.
Following are the rules for using the principal parts of a verb, as well as a list of the irregular verbs showing all 3 parts, and a complete list of all the verb 'tenses' in English.
  More results at FactBites »



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