What Are Irregular Past Tense Verbs?

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  • 0:04 Regular Past Tense
  • 0:27 Irregular Past Tense Verbs
  • 1:17 History
  • 1:39 Common Examples
  • 2:23 Learning Irregular Verbs
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
The past tense of verbs are actions that have already been completed. Usually, verbs take the same form when they are in the past tense. Sometimes they take an irregular form. Some of these irregular past tense forms are easier to remember than others.

Regular Past Tense

In English, most verbs are the action that is going on in a sentence. Most regular verbs are turned into the past tense, showing the action is finished, by adding '-ed' to the end of a base form of the verb. Let's look at an example with 'to jump' ('jump' is the base form of 'to jump'):

  • I jump. (present tense)
  • I jumped. (past tense)

Irregular past tense verbs are verbs that are formed in a different way that does not fit the '-ed' pattern. Some are easier than others:

  • She eats. (present tense)
  • She ate. (past tense)

Sometimes irregular past tense verbs are very difficult. Even after teaching the difference of 'lie' and 'lay', many times teachers still have to look up the correct irregular past tense before writing it!

Irregular Past Tense Verbs

Let's take the verb 'to be' for example. In the present, past, present plural, and past plural, 'to be' is formed as follows:

Present Past Present Plural Past Plural
I am I was we are we were
you are you were you are you were
he/she is he/she was they are they were


English is a mixture of influences from Old English, Latin, Greek, German, French, and Scandinavian languages. With so many languages and grammar systems, there are irregular parts of grammar, like irregular past tenses.

In fact, while there are thousands of verbs in English, there are several hundred irregular past tense verbs. However, some of them are rarely used.

Common Irregular Past Tense Verbs

Let's take a look at some of the more common irregular past tense verbs that you may come across. First we'll say the present tense version, then the past tense before moving on:

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