ABE English Tutorials/simple sentences/Irregular Verbs

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Introduction to Irregular Verbs

Irregular Verbs

Tutorial.png Simple Sentences 

Intro to writing skills | Intro to a sentence | Helping verbs | Adding modifiers | Kinds of sentences | Writing simple sentences | Finding objects and phrases | Here and There | Spelling: Part 1 | Spelling List 1 | Writing with objects and phrases | Verbs that change with Number | Verbs that change with Time | Irregular Verbs | Verb Participles | Writing with verb tenses | Compound Subjects | Subject-Verb Agreeement | Understanding sentence lists | Sentence Fragments | Writing sentence lists | Review for Unit 1 |

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In the last lesson, we were introduced to verb tenses -- the way that verbs change with time. To form the past tense, many verbs just add the suffix -ed to the "root" verb. Other verbs, however, do not follow the "regular" rules. Although they make their future tense in the usual way, these verbs form their past tense in different ways.

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Look at these examples:

Present Tense Past Tense
I buy I bought
They see They saw
Louise runs Louise ran
You drive You drove
The dog is.... The dog was....
The dogs are.... The dogs were.....

There are many of these irregular verbs. Most of them are already familiar to you, and you probably use the right tense (most of the time!) without even thinking about it. For a more detailed list of irregular verbs,click here for more info.

When you look at the list of irregular verbs, you may notice that some "groups" of verbs form their past tense in the same sort of way:

    • Some change to -ought: think / thought; bring / brought
    • Some change their -d to a -t: send / sent; lend / lent
    • Some change an -i- to an -a- :begin / began; sing / sang
    • Some change an -ay to an -aid: lay / laid; say / said
    • Some change an -ow to an -ew: blow / blew; grow / grew

.... and then there are some irregular verbs whose past tense is exactly the same as their present tense:

  • I hit the ball today / I hit the ball yesterday
  • You put that book away right now! / You put that book away last week.

Other irregular verbs don't seem to follow any sort of pattern when they form their past tense. These ones just have to be memorized, and practiced.

A present tense verb is shown at the beginning of each of the following sentences.

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Write the correct past tense of the verb in the blank for each sentence. (You can check the list of irregular verbs if you are not sure which word to use.)
  1. (choose) I hope that I __________ the right answer on the test.
  2. (get) Michele _________ a bouquet of flowers for her birthday.
  3. (bring) Sylvia __________ her pet snake to the New Year's party.
  4. (swim) Hundreds of people _________ in the Polar Bear Swim event last month.
  5. (let) Last year, Mac _______ his son try "extreme snowboarding".


  1. chose
  2. got
  3. brought
  4. swam
  5. let

Some verbs are very similar to other verbs. These "similar-sounding pairs" are often confused:

Present Tense Past Tense Meaning:
lie lay to rest
lay laid to put something down
rise rose to get up
raise raise to lift something up
sit sat to take a seat
set set to place something down

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Key points
Notice that the verbs lie, rise and sit are all things that we do to ourselves. The verbs lay, raise and set are all things that we do to something else. Many people make mistakes using these verbs. (And did you notice that the past tense of lie is the same as the present tense of lay?) Here are a few examples:

  1. Kendra rose out of bed at eight o'clock. We choose rose because she rose herself (got herself up).
  2. Kendra raised the birdcage out of reach of the cat. We choose raised because she is raising something else (the birdcage).
  1. Joseph wanted to lie down before dinner. We choose lie because he is lying himself down.
  2. Joseph needed to lay out the silverware before the guests came. We choose lay because he was laying out something else (the silverware).

Can you see that lie, rise and sit don't take an object, while lay, raise and set do need an object?

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See if you can decide which verb to use in each of the following:
  1. Martha (lay, laid, lie, lied) her baby in his crib.
  2. The puppy (set, sit, sat) down on the newspaper.
  3. The workers (raised, rose) the roof in only five hours.


  1. laid is the right answer. First we choose the verb "lay", because this is an action that Martha is doing to someone else (her baby). Then we choose the past tense of lay.
  2. sat is the right answer. The puppy is sitting itself down; and sat is the past tense of sit.
  3. raised is the right answer. The workers are raising something else (the roof), so we are looking for the past tense of raise.

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Self Assessment

If you're ready for the homework, see verb homework.

Recommended next lesson: Verb Participles