Irregular verbs

Irregular verbs in the English language

The English language has a large number of irregular verbs, around 200 in normal use. There are no clear rules to explain most English verb irregularities, you simply have to memorise them.

In most cases, the irregularity pertains to the simple past tense of the verb, also called the preterite.

Here are just some of the most common irregular verbs in the English language. The words are in the following order: base form – past tense form – past participle

be – was/were – been
become – became – become
begin – began – begun
bring – brought – brought
come – came – come
do – did – done
eat – ate – eaten
feel – felt – felt
find – found – found
get – got – got (or gotten in American English)
give – gave – given
go – went – gone
grow – grew – grown
hear – heard – heard
keep – kept – kept
know – knew – known
leave – left – left
lie – lay – lain
make – made – made
mean – meant – meant
say – said – said
see – saw – seen
show – showed – shown
speak – spoke – spoken
take – took – taken
tell – told – told
think – thought – thought
write – wrote – written
fall – fell – fallen
break – broke – broken
rise – rose – risen
drive – drove – driven
buy – bought – bought
wear – wore – worn
choose – chose – chosen

Irregular verbs in non-English languages

Irregular verbs in French, Spanish, German and Italian also concern the past tense or preterite.

Irregular verbs in French

Some of the most common verbs in French are irregular, such as être (to be), avoir (to have), aller (to go) and faire (to do). French irregular verbs are often referred to as IR verbs, referring to the two letters at the end of many of the infinitive or base form verbs. Examples include venir (to come), voir (to see), tenir (to hold/keep) and dormir (to sleep).

Irregular verbs in Spanish

In Spanish, the most common verbs are all irregular. Here are some examples:

ser – to be (permanent state)
estar – to be (temporary state)
tener – to have
hacer – to do/make
poder – to be able/can
decir – to say, tell
ir – to go
venir – to come
salir – to leave/go out
ver – to see
dar – to give
saber – to know (information)
querer – to want/love
llegar – to arrive/come

Irregular verbs in German

Irregular verbs in German are referred to as “strong” verbs, distinguishing them from so-called “weak” or regular verbs. As with any language, learning these verbs is difficult as they change their stem vowel in the past tense and perfect tense.

Here are a couple of examples.

Weak or regular verbs keep the same stem vowel:

LERNEN – to learn

Lernen (infinitive) – lernte (past tense) – golernt (participle perfect)

Strong or irregular verbs change that vowel:

NEHMEN – to take

Nehmen (infinitive) – nahm (past tense) – genommen (participle perfect)

Irregular verbs in Italian

Italian also has some highly irregular verbs. Here are examples of some of the most commonly used ones:

essere – to be
avere – to have
andare – to go
dare – to give
fare – to do
stare – to be
sapere – to know
volere – to want
dire – to say