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How to Teach Irregular Verbs (With Examples)

Teaching irregular verbs to students can be a fun and interesting part of learning English. Irregular verbs are special because they don’t follow the normal rules for changing into the past tense. It can be tricky on how to teach irregular verbs to learners, but with the right methods, it’s possible to master them.

In this resource, we’ll share some effective ways to teach these verbs, with examples to help you understand. Whether you’re a teacher or a student, these tips will make learning irregular verbs simpler and more fun. Keep reading to find out how to get good at these important parts of English.

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What are Irregular Verbs?

In order to find an easy way on how to teach irregular verbs to students, we must first understand what regular verbs are. Regular verbs are verbs that follow the standard rule of conjugation. That rule states that in order to form the past tense or past participle of a verb, the addition of the suffixes “-ed” or “-d” to the base form of the verbs is needed to show the past tenses on which these verbs are in.

Here’s an example:

How to teach irregular verbs to

In contrast, irregular verbs don’t follow such a rule. The past tense or past participle of these verbs transform the verb into a totally different word from its base form. These new forms are normally memorized because of the total change of word structure they undergo due to the change of tenses.

Here’s an example:

How to teach irregular verbs to

Note: In Old English, irregular verbs are also called strong verbs because of the transformation that takes place to classify their tenses, where as regular verbs are called weak verbs because of the simple way of adding the suffixes “-ed” or “-d” to classify their tenses. Using these terminologies to describe irregular verbs and regular verbs is a great way to easily determine what verb is irregular, and which is regular.

Who can benefit in learning Irregular Verbs?

Understanding these irregular verbs is beneficial for everyone, as it improves grasp of how sentences are formed and their meanings in the language. Here are groups of people who can greatly benefit from knowing about irregular verbs:

ESL/EFL Students

Learning irregular verbs is really important for people who are learning English as a new language. These verbs don’t follow the usual rules, so knowing them helps you make sentences the right way and talk better. When you understand irregular verbs, you can say what you want to say more clearly. This helps a lot in learning English because you can use these verbs to express yourself better and understand others more easily. It’s a key part of getting good at English.

ESL Teachers

Teachers who teach English as a second language really need to know irregular verbs well. Doing so would also make it easy for them to teach irregular verbs. These verbs are special because they don’t follow normal rules, and they can be tricky for students to learn. Teachers need to understand these verbs so they can explain them clearly, show how to use them in sentences, and help students practice. When teachers know irregular verbs well, they can make learning easier and more fun for their students. This helps students get better at English and feel more confident when they use these verbs in talking and writing.

New and Seasoned Students

School students, especially those who are learning English grammar, reading books, or writing, really need to know irregular verbs. These verbs are special because they don’t follow the usual rules. Knowing them helps students write the right way and understand what they read much better. When students learn these verbs, they can write essays, stories, and answers in class more correctly. It also makes reading books and stories easier because they can understand the words better. For students studying English, knowing irregular verbs is a big help in doing well in school.

Writers and Journalists

Understanding irregular verbs well can make your writing skills better. This is really helpful for telling stories or reporting news. When you know these verbs, you can write in a way that sounds right and follows grammar rules. This means your stories or reports will be clearer and more enjoyable to read. Knowing the correct usage of irregular verbs lets you choose the best words to express your ideas. It’s a key part of being a good writer, whether you’re telling a story or sharing news.

Professionals in International Business

In any job where it’s important to talk or write clearly, knowing irregular verbs is really helpful. These verbs help you write emails, reports, and presentations the right way. When you use these verbs correctly, your writing is easier to understand. This is important in work because it helps you share your ideas and information clearly with others. Whether you’re emailing your boss, writing a report for work, or making a presentation, using irregular verbs correctly makes your writing look professional and clear. It’s a big part of good communication in any job.

Non-native English Speakers

People who live in places where most people speak English, or who work in places where English is the main language used, can really benefit from learning irregular verbs. These verbs are important for everyday talking and writing. When you know these verbs, it’s easier to have conversations, understand others, and be understood. This helps in daily life, like shopping, talking to friends, or doing your job. Using irregular verbs the right way makes communication smoother and helps you feel more confident when you’re speaking or writing in English. It’s a helpful skill for anyone in an English-speaking environment.

Anyone looking to improve their English language skills, whether for personal, academic, or professional reasons, can benefit from studying irregular verbs.

Teaching Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs don’t follow the regular pattern when forming their past tense or participle forms. In writing and in normal conversations these can be tricky, especially if English isn’t your first language. Since some memorization is needed to fully understand how these verbs work, here’s a list of the most common irregular verbs used in the English language:

List of irregular verbs used in the English language:

Base form of the verb Simple Past Tense form of the verb Past Participle form of the verb
arise arose arisen
awake awoke awoken
be was/were been
bear bore borne
beat beat beaten
become became become
begin began begun
bend bent bent
bet bet bet
bind bound bound
bid bid bid
bite bit bitten
bleed bled bled
blow blew blown
break broke broken
breed bred bred
bring brought brought
broadcast broadcast broadcast
build built built
burst burst burst
buy bought bought
cast cast cast
catch caught caught
choose chose chosen
cling clung clung
come came come
cost cost cost
creep crept crept
cut cut cut
deal dealt dealt
dig dug dug
dive dove/dived dived
do did done
draw drew drawn
dream dreamed (sometimes “dreamt”) dreamed (sometimes “dreamt”)
drink drank drunk
drive drove driven
eat ate eaten
fall fell fallen
feed fed fed
feel felt felt
fight fought fought
find found found
flee fled fled
fling flung flung
fly flew flown
forbid forbade forbidden
forget forgot forgotten
forgive forgave forgiven
freeze froze frozen
get got got
give gave given
go went gone
grind ground ground
grow grew grown
hang hung (sometimes “hanged”) hung (sometimes “hanged”)
have had had
hear heard heard
hide hid hidden
hit hit hit
hold held held
hurt hurt hurt
keep kept kept
kneel knelt knelt
know knew known
lay laid laid
lead led led
leave left left
lend lent lent
let let let
lie (as in “lie down”) lay lain
light lit/lighted lit/lighted
lose lost lost
make made made
mean meant meant
meet met met
mistake mistook mistaken

Continuation of list of irregular verbs used in the English language:

Base form of the verb Simple Past Tense form of the verb Past Participle form of the verb
mow mowed mown/mowed
overtake overtook overtaken
pay paid paid
proofread proofread proofread
put put put
quit quit quit
read read read
reset reset reset
ride rode ridden
ring rang rung
rise rose risen
run ran run
say said said
see saw seen
seek sought sought
sell sold sold
send sent sent
set set set
sew sewed sewn/sewed
shake shook shaken
shave shaved shaven
shed shed shed
shine shone shone
shoot shot shot
show showed shown
shrink shrank shrunk
shut shut shut
sing sang sung
sink sank sunk
sit sat sat
slay slew slain
sleep slept slept
slide slid slid
sling slung slung
sneak snuck (can also be “sneaked“) snuck (can also be “sneaked”)
sow sowed sown/sowed
speak spoke spoken
speed sped sped
spend spent spent
spill spilt/spilled spilt/spilled
spin spun spun
spit spat spat
split split split
spread spread spread
spring sprang sprung
stand stood stood
steal stole stolen
stick stuck stuck
sting stung stung
stink stank stunk
strike struck struck
string strung strung
strive strove striven
swear swore sworn
sweep swept swept
swell swelled swollen/swelled
swim swam swum
swing swung swung
take took taken
teach taught taught
tear tore torn
think thought thought
throw threw thrown
thrust thrust thrust
tread trod trodden
understand understood understood
upset upset upset
wake woke woken
wear wore worn
weave wove worn
weave wove woven
weep wept wept
wet wet/wetted wet/wetted
win won won
wind wound wound
wring wrung wrung
write wrote written

If you had noticed, there are several words on the list that although they changed forms, the same word is used in different tenses. And yes, since they don’t follow the normal rules, they’re also considered irregular verbs as well.

List of common irregular verbs that use the same word in different tenses:

bet bid
burst broadcast
cast cut
cost hurt
hit let
put proofread
read reset
set shed
shut split
spread thrust
upset wet

Note: The key in mastering irregular verbs directly depends on how good someone’s vocabulary is. How can someone improve their vocabulary? By reading!

Making it easy for students to have access to these lists (print them out!) and providing them exercises (which you can find in the next section) would greatly benefit their journey towards success in mastering the English language focused on irregular verbs.

Activities for Teaching Irregular Verbs

To better understand how irregular verbs function, here are some activities for teaching them.

How to teach irregular verbs activity 1: Fill in the blanks irregular verbs exercise

Instructions: Fill in the blanks with the appropriate irregular verb.
1.) Yesterday, I ________________ (go) to the store and bought some groceries.
2.) She ________________ (begin) her new job last month.
3.) We ________________ (see) a great movie at the cinema last night.
4.) He ________________ (eat) all of his dinner, including the vegetables.
5.) They ________________ (take) a long hike in the mountains over the weekend.
6.) I ________________ (break) my favorite coffee mug this morning.
7.) She ________________ (drive) to work even though it was raining heavily.
8.) The children ________________ (choose) their favorite books from the library.
9.) He ________________ (give) a beautiful bouquet of flowers to his girlfriend.
10.) Last summer, we ________________ (swim) in the ocean every day.
Answer key:
1.) Yesterday, I went to the store and bought some groceries.
2.) She began her new job last month.
3.) We saw a great movie at the cinema last night.
4.) He ate all of his dinner, including the vegetables.
5.) They took a long hike in the mountains over the weekend.
6.) I broke my favorite coffee mug this morning.
7.) She drove to work even though it was raining heavily.
8.) The children chose their favorite books from the library.
9.) He gave a beautiful bouquet of flowers to his girlfriend.
10.) Last summer, we swam in the ocean every day.

How to teach irregular verbs activity 2: Identifying irregular verbs exercise

Instructions: Circle the irregular verb(s) in each given list.
1.) Write, Go, Took, Ate
2.) Sing, Sat, Speak, Laugh,
3.) Drink, play, climb, listen
4.) Run, Play, Said, Buy
5.) Drive, Danced, Climbed, Taught
6.) Jump, Catch, Find, Speak
7.) Swim, Sleep, Watch, Wash
8.) Think, Win, Open, Wrote
9.) Take, Tell, Fall, Hold
10.) Give, Bring, Yell, Smell
Answer key:
1.) Write, Go, Took, Ate
2.) Sing, Sat, Speak
3.) Drink
4.) Run, Said, Buy
5.) Drive, Taught
6.) Catch, Find, Speak
7.) Swim, Sleep
8.) Think, Win, Wrote
9.) Take, Tell, Fall, Hold
10.) Give, Bring

Final Thoughts on Teaching Irregular Verbs to Your Students

Thank you for reaching this part of the blog post on how to teach irregular verbs to students. Teaching irregular verbs to your students is an essential part of helping them master English. It’s important to remember that while these verbs can be challenging, they are crucial for fluent and accurate communication.

Utilizing resources like EnglishLearningByPro, which offers accessible and flexible materials, enables teachers to customize their teaching strategies to suit the varied needs of their students. The ultimate aim is to enable students to confidently utilize helping verbs, thereby enhancing their communication skills in both spoken and written English.

EnglishLearningByPro helps English teachers around the world better serve their students. Our English worksheets (Editable, Fillable, Printable PDFs) are perfect for English students (ESL, ESOL, ELL, and more) and teachers (TESOL, TESL, TEFL, and more). Our English worksheets can be downloaded and used for proficient English learning, giving you or your students the ability to fill them out on a digital device or print them out. If you have an English teaching business, add your listing free to let potential students find you. Thank you for supporting EnglishLearningByPro!

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John Bart
Author: John Bart

I am the co-owner of englishlearningbypro.com, a community built specifically for English teachers around the world trying to make a living teaching English. I have lived in Brazil for four years and had previously taught private English classes for three years. I am passionate about helping others, and making English teaching and learning easier.

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