Learning the past forms of irregular verbs isn’t most people’s idea of an enjoyable language activity. However, if you can commit some of the more common ones to memory, it will help you to avoid making mistakes. The more you use the right words, the more they will stay in your memory.
I’ve put together a list of 100 common irregular verbs and their past forms as a quick reference guide that can be used to check if you’re not sure of the right word. You can request your copy of the 100 verbs spreadsheet by filling out the form at the end of this article.
Most of the time it’s easy. You just add “ed” to the verb:
I walk – I walked – I have walked
I look – I looked – I have looked.
However, there are a couple of things to watch out for, even with regular verbs.
If the verb already ends with an “e”,, you only need to add the “d”:
I share – I shared – I have shared.
I revise – I revised – I have revised.
If the verb ends with “y”, you usually remove the “y” and replace it with “ied”:
I carry – I carried – I have carried.
I try – I tried – I have tried.
Irregular verbs can be annoying because at first, it looks as though there is no pattern or logic to them. However, there are groups of them that follow similar patterns, and if you want to learn some, it might help to group them into verbs that behave in a similar way.
1. Verbs that don’t change
Some verbs are irregular because they don’t change at all:
I cut the grass every week.
I cut the grass yesterday.
I have already cut the grass.
Other verbs that behave in this way are cost, hit, spread, put, shut, set and split.
(2. The simple past and past participle are the same
Some verbs do change, but you only have one new word to learn, because the simple past and the past participle are the same:
I leave the office at 5 o’clock.
She left the office 5 minutes ago.
They have already left the office.
In both cases, we need the word “left”.
Other verbs that behave like this are
Bring – brought – brought
Build – built – built
Feed – fed – fed
Make – made – made.
3. I A U
Some verbs with an “I” as the main sound swap the I for an “A” in the past tense, and a “U” in the past participle:
Drink – drank – drunk
Begin – began – begun
Sing – sang – sung
Ring – rang – rung
4. Adding an n
Some verbs add an “n” to the past participle instead of a “d”.
Forgive – forgave – forgiven
Ride – rode –ridden
Overtake – overtook – overtaken.
5. Words that end in a verb you already know
If you know how the verb “hear” behaves:
Hear – heard – heard
You will also know how overhear works:
Overhear – overheard – overheard.
If you know how “understand” works:
Understand – understood – understood
You will also know how misunderstand works:
Misunderstand – misunderstood – misunderstood.
Give – gave – given
Forgive – forgave – forgiven.
Learning the verbs
Everyone has different ways of learning new vocabulary, and verbs are no different in this respect. It’s good to learn the ones that come up most often, and I advise my learners to have a quick reference table to check at times when they are not sure. Most dictionaries provide this information as well. As you become more familiar with the words, you won’t need to look them up.
If you would like a copy of my table, fill in the form and I’ll send it to you as an Excel spreadsheet that you can either access on your computer or print out. There are more than 100 irregular verbs, but I have chosen 100 of the most common ones.