English Grammar Review
Verbs and Verbals
To help you learn how to use verbs in all their forms, teachers often show you lists of words:
present . past . present participle . past participle
offer . offered . offering . offered
occur . occurred . occurring . occurred
talk . talked . talking . talked
try . tried . trying . tried
They do the same for verbs with irregular forms:
forgive . forgave . forgiving . forgiven
make . made . making . made
mean . meant . meaning . meant
understand . understood . understanding . understood
These lists are more useful than the lists for regular verbs, because they help us see how each irregular verb is constructed—and they are all different.
However, we don't just remember words we see; we remember sounds that we hear.
And remembering sound patterns is even easier:
[ee] . [eh] . [eh]
lead . led . led
read . read . read
Note: The present participle is always the present tense with an ing added at the end. So why bother memorizing the words when we know the constant rule?
Similarly, we have:
say . said . said
lend . lent . lent
bring . brought . brought
These are irregular verbs for which the past tense sounds like, and is usually spelled like, the past participle.
For a few of these verbs, the past tense might not seem natural in sound or in spelling. Memory aids can help:
The most common sound pattern for irregular verbs is an n sound at the end of the past participle:
begin . began . begun
choose . chose . chosen
do . did . done
forget . forgot . forgotten
get . got . gotten
give . gave . given
know . knew . known
see . saw . seen
speak . spoke . spoken
take . took . taken
write . wrote . written
Of course, this being English, there are verbs so irregular that they refuse to change their sounds and their spelling:
bet . bet . bet
bid . bid . bid
cost . cost . cost
cut . cut . cut
quit . quit . quit
set . set . set
Now let's talk about the most common errors we make with irregular verbs.
(1) We use the past tense when we should have used the past participle.
Mwangi has began commuting to Nairobi. [wrong]
Mwangi has begun commuting to Nairobi. [right]
(2) We use the past participle when we should have used the past tense.
I run all around Mombassa yesterday. [wrong]
I ran all around Mombassa yesterday. [right]
(3) We make a wrong choice between present tense and past tense.
Rehema found it difficult to chose the best plan. [wrong]
Rehema found it difficult to choose the best plan. [right]
This is often more than just a spelling error. It can also be an error in remembering the proper sound patterns of the irregular verb:
[uze] . [oze] . [oze]
choose . chose . chosen
(4) We adopt a colloquialism but forget to correct it in our writing at work.
I seen it with my own eyes!
I saw it with my own eyes.
Lesson: Irregular Verbs
Module: Verbs and Verbals
Course: English Grammar Review