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To Be, To Do & To Have: Irregular Verb Forms

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In English, there are a number of verbs that do not follow regular verb patterns. In this lesson, you will learn about three such verbs: to be, to do, and to have.

Irregular Verbs

In English, verbs typically follow a pattern. For past tense, you add '-ed' to the end of the verb, such as 'walked.' For singular third person present tense, you add an '-s,' such as 'he walks.' Verbs that follow these rules are called regular verbs. However, there are also quite a few verbs in English that do not follow this pattern at all. These are called irregular verbs. Irregular verbs have unpredictable forms, and they do not follow a set pattern. For this type of verb, you simply have to learn the different forms and when to use them. Three examples of irregular verbs are 'to be,' 'to do,' and 'to have.' We are going to look at the different forms all of these verbs take when they are being used as the main verb in a sentence.

To Be

The verb 'to be' has several different forms, depending on the tense (such as present, past, or future), and the subject of the sentence.

Present Tense

'To be' has three different forms in present tense. The first is 'am.' This is the form the verb takes when used in a first person singular sentence. That is, when it is used with 'I.' For example, you would say 'I am twelve years old.'

The next form is 'are.' This is used with 'you,' 'they,' and 'we.' In other words, it is used when the subject is plural, or when it is second person ('you'). The following sentences show how 'to be' looks in this form.

You are my best friend.

You all are my closest friends.

We are all students.

They are not students.

Finally, in singular third person present tense, 'to be' becomes 'is.' 'Is' is what you would use with 'he,' 'she,' or 'it.' You can see this in the sentence: 'He is a third grader.'

Past Tense

In past tense, 'to be' has two forms: 'was' and 'were.' 'Was' is used with singular first person ('I') and singular third person ('he,' 'she,' 'it'):

I was on my way to the store yesterday.

She was on her way to the store yesterday.

'Were' is used with second person ('you'), and all plural forms ('we,' 'they'):

They were seven years old last year.

You were much nicer two weeks ago.

We were both six years old when that happened.

To Do

Just like 'to be,' 'to do' is an irregular verb. However, it's a little easier to remember, as it only has three forms for simple present and past tense.

Present Tense

In present tense, this verb actually retains its 'do' form when used with 'I,' 'we,' 'you,' and 'they.' Take a look at the example sentences below:

We do the dishes every day.

I do the laundry on Saturdays.

You do nothing all day!

They always do their homework on time.

When it is used with third person singular names or pronouns (such as 'he,' 'she,' or 'it'), 'do' becomes 'does':

She does her homework right after school.

Past Tense

'Do' only has one form for simple past tense: 'did.' This form is used with all types of subjects, as you can see in the sentences below.

He did the dishes yesterday.

I did my homework on time.

We did the project together.

You did the project on your own.

They did their homework yesterday.

To Have

Finally, another irregular English verb is 'to have.' This one is similar to 'to do' in that it also has only three main forms for simple present and past tense.

Present Tense

Again, just like 'to do,' 'to have' retains its original form in present tense when used with 'I,' 'we,' 'you,' and 'they':

I have a car.

You have three cats.

We have a lot of homework.

They have very little homework.

When it is used with third person singular subjects, 'have' becomes 'has':

She has two dogs.

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