How many times have you been speaking in English and got stuck when you had to think of the past form of a verb? Regular or irregular? What’s the irregular past form? Are the past simple and past participle forms irregular too?

If these are the sort of questions that stop you from sleeping at night, then this is the lesson for you! This lesson is aimed at students learning English at Pre-Intermediate level or higher.

In English there are thousands of verbs you can use, but just over 350 of these are irregular. Even though it looks like a lot, it’s not that many in comparison to the thousands of verbs out there. The problem is that most of these irregular verbs are high frequency verbs (common verbs which we use every day). This article will give you all the tips you need on how to learn and memorise them. Don’t forget to check out the videos too!

  • All irregular verbs are equal, but some are more equal than others

Start with the most common verbs first. Above all, start with be (was / were, been); have (had, had); do (did, done) and go (went, gone). The first three are especially important since besides their function as main verbs, they’re also auxiliary verbs and therefore are used to build different forms in English. Other common verbs include make (made, made); eat (ate, eaten), get (got, UK: got / US: gotten), come (came, come) and give (gave, given). More common verbs are listed in the Irregular Verbs – Part 2 video above.

  • Check the verb form

When learning new verbs, always check if a verb is regular or irregular and if it’s irregular, learn its past simple and participle form. As Abbie mentioned in the Irregular Verbs – Part 1 video, put your irregular verbs into sentences or short stories so that you can memorise them.

I eat apples every day.
I ate a burger for dinner last night.
I’ve never eaten sushi.

  • So many great memories..

If you’re serious about learning irregular verbs, you’re going to need to do some memory work. You should learn slowly and memorise irregular verbs. Eventually, they will become second nature to you and you won’t have to think about the different forms when you use them. As discussed in the Irregular Verbs – Part 2 video, this doesn’t need to be boring or hard work. Make it fun and memorable. Here are a few tips mentioned in the video:

  1. Test a partner who’s also studying English or ask them to test you
  2. Find online games and activities
  3. Make your own ‘flashcards’ with the infinitive verb on one side and the past simple / past participle on the other side, then test yourself or a friend
  4. Write irregular verb infinitives and past simple / participles on cards, cut them up and play matching games to improve your memory
  5. Test yourself constantly, practice makes perfect
  • Learn to say it right

Pronunciation can really help you. It might seem like there’s no order or logic behind irregular verbs. However, there are categories of verbs that go together. This is either for spelling or phonemic reasons, meaning their past simple and/or participle forms look or sound similar. In the Irregular Verbs – Part 2 video, three main categories are mentioned:

  1. Verbs that don’t change form
    • cut, let, put
  2. Verbs that have the same past simple form and past participle form
    • feel (felt), hear (heard) and bring (brought)
  3. Verbs that have a different past simple form and past participle form
    • break (broke, broken), write (wrote, written), drink (drank, drunk)


  • Change it all around

Take some of the most common irregular verbs and turn them into phrasal verbs. Phrasal verbs are extremely common in English, you find them everywhere. A way to do this is by looking up an irregular verb in the dictionary and looking at which phrasal verbs can be formed from that verb by adding a preposition or prepositions, for example:

The plane took off half an hour ago. (take off)
I decided to take up football as a hobby. (take up)
I took out the rubbish last night. (take out)

Now that you have a better understanding of irregular verbs and their irregular rules,  if you have any comments, tips or tricks on how you learn and memorise irregular verbs, make sure you leave a comment below. Make sure to check out our videos for a fuller explanation, given by our CELTA-qualified teachers.

Discover more of Maltalingua’s free English lessons. Explore more about passive forms here.

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