Learn Irregular Verbs:
12 Lists to Help You

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.)

Learn irregular verbs the easy way: group similar pasts together-- with pictures for thought, bent, spent (or bought or lent) &   grew.Learn one in a group & the rest are easy!

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 prefer one alphabetical list of common irregular verbs, try the Top 50 Irregular Verbs List. It also has practice activities.)

How to Study Irregular Verbs

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

If you learn best while moving, write the present, past, and past participle of ‘”today’s” verbs ten times each, saying them as you write. 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). Also, past participle forms are 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. Then in two more weeks you can learn the rest of the commonly used verbs. 

Since you probably already know many of them, much of that time would be for review.

Past Tense Rules for Be:

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

Examples from each of 12 irregular verb lists to help you remember similar endings: from list 4 (bought, thought), list 5 (grow> grew> grown; know> knew> known), to list 10 (bend> bent; send> sent.)

Learn the verbs you don’t know yet by studying these groups with similar patterns.

(Often you will know at least one of a group: link the others to it in your mind to learn several “for the price of one.”)

Start with the ‘top twenty’ most useful irregular verbs. The other lists group rhyming or 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 (Middle English) form.

I included all the past participles, whether the same or different from the simple past form. That way you don't need to wonder. 

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

2 young women chatting about a date. They use lots of irregular verbs from the top 20 list below: did, went, took, ate, made, was, & knew.The top 20 irregular verbs are so common!

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-- got (UK) or gotten (US)

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"

Jim told us quite a fish story. He said he had just caught a large trout when a bear came by and got it (since Jim had left fast!)

List#2 "Copycat" Verbs made by adding a prefix to an irregular verb usually follow its form. (They have the same past and past participle endings as the verb they come from.)

For example:

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

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

get-- got-- got or gotten / forget-- forgot-- forgot (UK) or forgotten (US)

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. (Exception: 3rd person singular present, which still ends in ‘s.’) So this list isn’t too hard to learn:

cost-- cost-- cost (For 3rd person singular, note "the toy costs $2.00 now. Last week it cost $1.50.)

cut-- cut-- cut (Mary cuts Bill's hair each week. Last week she cut it on Friday.)

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. There is no obvious reason why any particular verb has these pasts. (They have 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-- forgotten

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

Photo of swimmers & text:"The pool was crowded, so people swam in groups. They began to swim as soon as the last group had all gotten out of the pool. They swam until the bell rang..."

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: End in‘T’; 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-- all the ones you would be likely to need.

There are a few other (much 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!

This word search puzzle lets you find the past tense forms for most of the verbs on this page. It's another good review. Its answers are here.

Here's another gap-fill practice, this time also reviewing American history.

More Related Pages

Picture of a farm with text: 'Examples: For much of the past, people lived on the land. They hunted, fished, or farmed. They often worked together or used animals, but they rarely relied on machines.'

The simple past tense of regular verbs ends in -ed. It's easy to form, and not hard to spell or pronounce if you learn a few easy rules.

English Gramar Worksheets:
a desk or other surface with several binder worksheets and a pen

Pdfs with grammar games &  exercises for verb tenses (especially irregular past tense verbs), practice with sentence structure, etc.

Print & Play ESL Classroom Games
Picture of 2 irregular-past-tense bingo boards (with words like 'was', 'felt', 'did', 'had', etc.) & green tokens over words that have been called out.

Games are so useful in ESL classes! Get free printable puzzles, vocabulary matching games, and inexpensive packets of games to practice irregular verbs.

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

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