b. Irregular Verbs

Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs do not use the same rules as regular verbs to create past tense. Here are some examples.

Example 1

Present Tense: Lauren keeps all her letters.

Past Tense: Lauren kept all her letters.

Future Tense: Lauren will keep all her letters.


The videos below will give you some general ideas of how to identify and memorize irregular verbs.

Nessy Writing Strategy: Irregular Verbs. by Nessy. License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube License.

Irregular Verbs: All Irregular Verbs in One Song. by Lingportal Online School of English. License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube License.



Some of the most common irregular verbs are also the most common verbs in English: “to be,” “to do,” and “to have.”

To Be, To Do, and To Have

The following table shows the past, present, and future forms of these common irregular verbs.

Base Form Past Tense Form Present Tense Form Future Tense Form
be was/were am/is/are will be
do did do/does will do
have had have/has will have

Memorize the present tense forms of to be, to do, and to have. A song or rhythmic pattern will make them easier to memorize.

Review these examples of to be, to do, and to have used in sentences.

Past Present Future
To Be
Yesterday I was angry. Today I am angry. Tomorrow I will be angry.
To Do
I did my best yesterday. I do my best today. I will do my best tomorrow.
To Have
Yesterday I had ten dollars. Today I have ten dollars. Tomorrow I will have ten dollars.

Remember the following uses of to be, to have, and to do:

To Be To Have To Do
I → am/was/will be I/you/we/they → have/had/will have I/you/we/they → do/did/will do
you/we/they → are/were/will be he/she/it → has/had/will have he/she/it → does/did/will do
he/she/it → is/was/will be

Exercise 1: On a separate sheet of paper, complete the following sentences by circling the correct form of the verbs to be, to have, and to do in the three simple tenses.

  1. Stefan always (do, does, will do) his taxes the day before they are due.
  2. We (are, is, was) planning a surprise birthday party for my mother.
  3. Turtles (have, had, has) the most beautiful patterns on their shells.
  4. I always (do, did, will do) my homework before dinner, so I can eat in peace.
  5. You (is, are, was) so much smarter than you think!


Study the table below, “Irregular Verbs”, which lists the most common irregular verbs.

Simple Present Past Simple Present Past
be was, were lose lost
become became make made
begin began mean meant
blow blew meet met
break broke pay paid
bring brought put put
build built quit quit
burst burst read read
buy bought ride rode
catch caught ring rang
choose chose rise rose
come came run ran
cut cut say said
dive dove (dived) see saw
do did seek sought
draw drew sell sold
drink drank send sent
drive drove set set
eat ate shake shook
fall fell shine shone (shined)
feed fed shrink shrank (shrunk)
feel felt sing sang
fight fought sit sat
find found sleep slept
fly flew speak spoke
forget forgot spend spent
forgive forgave spring sprang
freeze froze stand stood
get got steal stole
give gave strike struck
go went swim swam
grow grew swing swung
have had take took
hear heard teach taught
hide hid tear tore
hold held tell told
hurt hurt think thought
keep kept throw threw
know knew understand understood
lay laid wake woke
lead led wear wore
leave left win won
let let wind wound


The best way to learn irregular verbs is to memorize them. With the help of a classmate, create flashcards of irregular verbs and test yourselves until you master them.

Exercise 2: Complete the following sentences by selecting the correct form of the irregular verb in simple present, simple past, or simple future tense. Copy the corrected sentence onto your own sheet of paper.

  1. Marina finally (forgived, forgave, will forgive) her sister for snooping around her room.
  2. The house (shook, shaked, shakes) as the airplane rumbled overhead.
  3. I (buyed, bought, buy) several items of clothing at the thrift store on Wednesday.
  4. She (put, putted, puts) the lotion in her shopping basket and proceeded to the checkout line.
  5. The prized goose (layed, laid, lay) several golden eggs last night.
  6. Mr. Batista (teached, taught, taughted) the class how to use correct punctuation.
  7. I (drink, drank, will drink) several glasses of sparkling cider instead of champagne on New Year’s Eve next year.
  8. Although Hector (growed, grew, grows) three inches in one year, we still called him “Little Hector.”
  9. Yesterday our tour guide (lead, led, will lead) us through the maze of people in Times Square.
  10. The rock band (burst, bursted, bursts) onto the music scene with their catchy songs.

Exercise 3: On your own sheet of paper, write a sentence using the correct form of the verb tense shown below.

  1. Throw (past)
  2. Paint (simple present)
  3. Smile (future)
  4. Tell (past)
  5. Share (simple present)Maintaining Consistent Verb Tense

Verb Tense Consistency

Consistent verb tense means the same verb tense is used throughout a sentence or a paragraph. As you write and revise, it is important to use the same verb tense consistently and to avoid shifting from one tense to another unless there is a good reason for the tense shift. In the following box, see whether you notice the difference between a sentence with consistent tense and one with inconsistent tense.

Inconsistent tense:  The crowd starts cheering as Melina approached the finish line.

Consistent tense:  The crowd started cheering as Melina approached the finish line.

Consistent tense:  The crowd starts cheering as Melina approaches the finish line.


In some cases, clear communication will call for different tenses. Look at the following example:

  • When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a firefighter, but now I am studying computer science.

If the time frame for each action or state of being is different, a tense shift is appropriate.

Exercise 8: Edit the following paragraph by correcting the inconsistent verb tense. Copy the corrected paragraph onto your own sheet of paper.

In the Middle Ages, most people lived in villages and work as agricultural laborers, or peasants. Every village has a “lord,” and the peasants worked on his land. Much of what they produce go to the lord and his family. What little food was leftover goes to support the peasants’ families. In return for their labor, the lord offers them protection. A peasant’s day usually began before sunrise and involves long hours of backbreaking work, which includes plowing the land, planting seeds, and cutting crops for harvesting. The working life of a peasant in the Middle Ages is usually demanding and exhausting.



“Irregular Verbs” was adapted from “6.14.6: Verbs and Verb Tense” of  Writing, Reading, and College Success: A First-Year Composition Course for All Learners (Kashyap and Dyquisto), used according to creative commons CC BY-NC.


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UNM Core Writing OER Collection Copyright © 2023 by University of New Mexico is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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