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Simple Past Tense of Irregular English Verbs

Simple Past Tense of Irregular English Verbs

The simple past tense is a verb form that expresses discrete, completed, non-continuous actions or states that occurred in the past. Most English verbs take an ­-ed suffix in the simple past; for example, to like becomes liked, to watch becomes watched, and to doze becomes dozed. However, unlike regular English verbs, irregular English verbs undergo stem, consonant, and other phonological changes that do not follow any real pattern in the simple past tense. The following sections explain how to form the simple past of irregular verbs in English. Irregular verbs are verbs in Germanic languages that express the simple past tense by means of changes to the stem vowel (ablaut). Irregular verbs are also referred to as strong verbs.

Forming Irregular Simple Past Tense Verbs

For some irregular English verbs, the simple past form is identical to the base form. For example:

  • Infinitive – Base – Simple Past
  • to bet – bet – bet
  • to cost – cost – cost
  • to rid – rid – rid
  • to shut – shut – shut
  • to wet – wet – wet

Other irregular English verbs experience a vowel change from the base form to the simple past form. For example:

  • Infinitive – Base – Simple Past
  • to bite – bite – bit
  • to dive – dive – dove
  • to hold – hold – held
  • to ring – ring – rang
  • to write – write – wrote

Other irregular English verbs experience a consonant change from the base form to the simple past form. For example:

  • Infinitive – Base – Simple Past
  • to bend – bend – bent
  • to built – build – built
  • to dwell – dwell – dwelt
  • to have – have – had
  • to make – make – made

Some irregular English verbs finally experience both a vowel and a consonant change from the base form to the simple past form. For example:

  • Infinitive – Base – Simple Past
  • to buy – buy – bought
  • to catch – catch – caught
  • to go – go – gone
  • to hear – hear – heard
  • to leave – leave – left

Other irregular English verbs are simply irregular, or anomalous. Anomalous verbs are verbs whose conjugations do not follow the patterns of other verbs, regular or irregular. For example:

  • Infinitive – Base – Simple Past
  • to be – be – was/were
  • to do – do – did
  • to go – go – went

The simple past tense is a conjugated verb form in English that expresses discrete, completed, non-continuous actions or states occurring in the past. Most English verbs in the simple past tense are formed by affixing the -ed suffix to the base form of the verb. Unlike regular verbs, however, irregular verbs in English require vowel, consonant, or other changes in the simple past tense.

Summary

The simple past tense describes completed actions, describes past habits and routines, states past facts and truths, and expresses past thoughts and feelings.

Irregular English verbs undergo stem, consonant, and other phonological changes that do not follow any real pattern in the simple past tense.

References

Kilby, David. 1984. Descriptive syntax and the English verb. Dover, New Hampshire: Croom Helm.
Leech, Geoffrey N. 2004. Meaning and the English verb. Harlow, English: Pearson Longman.

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