10 Lists to Help You Learn
Common Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs make the English past tense difficult to use. (MOST verbs are regular, but 20 or 30 of the most common verbs and another 60 or so fairly common verbs are not.) Use the irregular verb lists below to learn them. Then you can speak and write confidently in the past tense. Almost any other verb you want to use will be regular. (To learn how to form the past tense of regular verbs, see The Simple Past Tense.)

There aren't clear rules to explain most English verb irregularities. You just have to memorize them. Use all the memory tricks you know for the forms that you have trouble remembering.

If you’re a kinesthetic learner (you learn best while moving), write the present, past, and past participle of ‘”today’s” verbs ten times each, saying them as you write them. Even better, write present and past sentences with them.

If you’re an auditory learner like me, recite or sing them over and over. Practice them whenever you can, with a friend, or a game, or flash cards.

The good news is that there is only one form of each verb in the simple past (except for the verb ‘be’*), as well as a past participle form that is often the same as the simple past form. If you can memorize five verbs a day, you can learn the most common irregular verbs in a week and all the commonly used verbs in less than three weeks. Since you probably already know many of them, much of that time would just be for review.

*The simple past forms of 'be' are 'was' and 'were.' The past participle is 'been.'

  • Use 'was' with I, he, she, or it: "I was tired, but she (or Mary, or my mother) was still energetic. Actually, I have been tired for two days now." 
  • Use 'were' with you or any plural nouns or pronouns. "You were in Denver last week, weren't you? Were your sisters there too?" "Yes, they were. We were all together for the weekend."

 List #1 of the top 20 Irregular Verbs

These lists will help you learn the verbs you don’t know yet by arranging them into groups with similar patterns. (Often you will know at least one of a group: link the others to it to learn several “for the price of one.”) After the ‘top twenty’ most useful irregular verbs, the lists group rhyming or other similar forms together. Note that more than half of these, like regular English verbs, end in ‘d’ or the related ‘t’ sound.

All regular-- and the majority of irregular-- past participles are the same as the simple past form. You might notice that most of the past participles that are different end in ‘n’ or ‘en’-- the old form. All the past participles, whether the same or different from the simple past form, are included in these lists to leave no doubts.

For each of the following irregular verbs, the first form is the present (and base), the second is the simple past, and the third is the past participle.

List #1: 20 of the Most Common Irregular Verbs (Learn these first if you don’t already know them):

PRESENT-- PAST-- PAST PARTICIPLE (used after ‘have,’ or as an adjective)

1. be (am/is/are)-- was/were-- (have, has, or had) been

2. do-- did-- (have...) done

3. eat-- ate-- eaten

4. feel-- felt-- felt

5. find-- found-- found

6. get-- got-- gotten

7. give-- gave-- given

8. go-- went-- gone

9. have (3rd person sing.: has)-- had-- had

10. hear-- heard-- heard

11. know-- knew-- known

12. leave-- left-- left

13. make-- made-- made

14. read-- read (pronounced ‘red’)-- read

15. say-- said-- said

16. see-- saw-- seen

17. take-- took-- taken

18. tell-- told-- told

19. think-- thought-- thought

20. write-- wrote-- written

Lists 2- 4: Copycats, No changes, and "Oughts"

List #2 "Copycat" Verbs created by adding a prefix to another irregular verb usually follow the same form for their pasts and past participles. For example:

come-- came-- come / become-- became-- become

draw-- drew-- drawn/ withdraw-- withdrew-- withdrawn

get-- got-- gotten / forget-- forgot-- forgotten

give-- gave-- given / forgive-- forgave-- forgiven

stand-- stood-- stood / understand-- understood-- understood

write-- wrote-- written /rewrite-- rewrote-- rewritten

List #3 Many verbs that end in ‘t’ are the same in the present and the past (except for 3rd person singular present, which still ends in ‘s.’) So this list isn’t too hard to learn:

cost-- cost-- cost

cut-- cut-- cut

hit-- hit-- hit

hurt-- hurt-- hurt

let-- let-- let

put-- put-- put

quit-- quit-- quit

set-- set-- set

shut-- shut-- shut

Note that ‘eat,’ ‘fight,’ ‘get’ (and ‘forget’) and ’sit,’ are exceptions: eat-- ate-- eaten, fight--fought-- fought, get-- got-- gotten, and sit--sat--sat.

List #4 The aught/ought irregulars are another pattern, although there is no obvious reason why any particular verb has these pasts (with identical past participles.) It may help to learn them together, though:

bring-- brought-- brought

buy-- bought-- bought

catch-- caught-- caught

fight-- fought-- fought

seek-- sought-- sought

teach-- taught-- taught

think-- thought-- thought

Lists 5-9 Common Patterns 

List #5 These verbs that end in ‘end’ change to a‘t’ ending in the past (note that ‘end’ and ‘mend’ do not follow the pattern, but are regular-- ended/ mended):

bend-- bent-- bent

lend-- lent-- lent

send-- sent-- sent

spend-- spent-- spent

List #6 There are several verbs that form pasts similar to ‘know’:

blow-- blew-- blown

grow-- grew-- grown

know-- knew-- known

throw-- threw-- thrown

but show-- showed-- shown OR showed

List #7 Verb form changes like ‘write,’ with a vowel change from long ‘i’ to long ‘o’ to short ‘i’- consonant(s)- ‘en:’

drive-- drove-- driven

ride-- rode-- ridden

rise-- rose-- risen

write-- wrote-- written

List #8 shows a consistent short vowel change: i> a> u:

begin-- began-- begun

drink-- drank-- drunk

ring-- rang-- rung

sing-- sang-- sung

swim-- swam-- swum

List #9 Long to short ‘e’-- eep> ept> ept:

keep-- kept-- kept

sleep-- slept-- slept

sweep-- swept-- swept

#10: List of Other Common Irregular Verbs

List #10 This is an alphabetical listing of the most common irregular verbs not given above: You might notice that several in this list (like feel, leave, read, and say in the top 20 and keep, sleep, and sweep in list 9), change from a long vowel in the present tense to a short vowel in the past; most often ee or ea>e, but also long 'i' to short in hide, and long 'a' to short in say. It's not a rule but a common  pattern that might help you recognize past tenses. 

bite-- bit-- bitten

break-- broke-- broken

build-- built-- built

choose-- chose-- chosen

fall-- fell-- fallen

feed-- fed-- fed

fly-- flew-- flown

freeze-- froze-- frozen

hang-- hung-- hung

hide-- hid-- hidden

hold-- held-- held

lead-- led-- led

lose-- lost-- lost

mean-- meant-- meant

meet-- met-- met

pay-- paid-- paid

run-- ran-- run

sell-- sold-- sold

shake-- shook-- shaken

sit-- sat-- sat

speak-- spoke-- spoken

steal-- stole-- stolen

strike-- struck-- struck (or stricken: “he was stricken with polio.”)

tear-- tore-- torn

wake-- woke (first choice-- or waked)-- woken (or waked or awakened)

wear-- wore-- worn

win-- won-- won

This page has listed more than 95 common irregular verbs-- the ones you would be  most likely to need. There are a few much other less common forms. You can find a link to those forms, as well as a review alphabetical list of the 50 most common irregulars and 2 exercises to practice them, on the List of Irregular Verbs-- the Top 50. Practice is really important if you want to remember them. Here's another gap-fill practice, this time also reviewing American history.  


Return from Irregular Verbs to English Verb Tenses. 

Return from Irregular Verbs to Learn English Online (home.)

Top Of Page

Sign-up for our free newsletter, English Detective for interesting reading, vocabulary practice, puzzles, and more in your inbox every 2 weeks. 

For information (and a free bonus), see Building Vocabulary 

Enter Your E-mail Address
Enter Your First Name (optional)
Then

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you English Detective.

New! Comments

What do you think about what you just read? Leave me a comment in the box below.

Didn't find what you needed? Try explaining what you want in a few words in the search box below. (For example, cognates, past tense practice, or 'get along with.')