Learn Irregular Verbs: 
12 Lists to Help

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 more easily, by the patterns they follow. 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. If you would rather see one alphabetical list of common irregular verbs, try the Top 50 Irregular Verbs List, which also has practice activities.)

How to Study Irregular Verbs

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,’ below), 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 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."

Using the Lists

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 (pp).

When one of the top 20 fits another pattern, it's repeated there.

 List #1: the top 20 Irregular Verbs

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

girls talking about a date, using the irregular pasts did, took, went, ate, made, was, & knew

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. ‘Fit’ is most often used as a  regular verb (fit—fitted—fitted) but is also used with an unchanged past: fit—fit—fit. 

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 5-8 Common Patterns:
Different Past Participles (PP) Ending in ‘N’ 

List #5 There are several verbs that form pasts similar to ‘know’:

blow-- blew—blown

fly-- flew-- flown

grow-- grew-- grown

know-- knew—known (top 20)

throw-- threw-- thrown

but show-- showed-- shown OR showed

List #6 Verb form changes like ‘write,’ with a vowel change from long ‘i’ to long ‘o’ (except bite and hide) to short ‘i’+ consonant(s) + ‘en:’

bite-- bit-- bitten

drive-- drove—driven

hide—hid-- hidden

ride-- rode-- ridden

rise-- rose-- risen

(as well as write-- wrote—written from the top 20)

List #7 is like list 6 except with various vowels (note that ‘strike’ and ‘wake’ often use a past participle that doesn’t end in –en, and ‘wake’ is sometimes used as a regular verb):

break-- broke-- broken

choose-- chose-- chosen

fall-- fell-- fallen

freeze-- froze-- frozen

shake-- shook-- shaken

speak-- spoke-- spoken

steal-- stole—stolen

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

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

(as well as three from the top 20, and their 'copycats'):

 eat-- ate-- eaten

 get-- got-- gotten; forget-- forgot-- forotten

give-- gave—given; forgive-- forgave-- forgiven

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

Lists 9-11:‘T’ endings; Same Past & PPs 

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

keep-- kept—kept 

sleep-- slept-- slept

sweep-- swept-- swept

weep-- wept—wept

List #10 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 #11 Other pasts ending in ‘t’ with the same past participles:

build-- built-- built

lose-- lost-- lost

mean-- meant-- meant

meet-- met-- met

sit-- sat—sat 

(& from the top 20: feel-- felt—felt; leave-- left—left)

#12: List of Other Common Irregulars

List #12 This is an alphabetical listing of the most common irregular verbs not given above: 

feed-- fed-- fed

hang-- hung—hung

hold-- held-- held

lead-- led—led

pay-- paid-- paid

run-- ran-- run

sell-- sold-- sold

tear-- tore-- torn

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.  

If you teach English (ESL or EFL), see Grammar Worksheets and Printable ESL Classroom Games for inexpensive printable lessons, games, and other activities to help students practice and learn irregular past tense verbs.

Home > English Verb Tenses > 12 Lists for Common Irregular Verbs.

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