How to Teach and Learn Regular and Irregular Verbs Better

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A regular verb is defined as a class of lexical verb containing the final ‘-ed’ in the past form and participle form. Regular verbs are realised as follows:

Base(s) Past forms Participle forms
Sack

Mark

Pick

Call

Divide

Carry

Discuss

Sacked

Marked

Picked

Called

Divided

Carried

Discussed

Sacked

Marked

Picked

Called

Divided

Carried

Discussed

In the table above, you can realise the same ‘ed’ form. We shall use them in different ways.

Uses of Regular Verbs

To know how regular verbs are classified is not enough but how they are used in the sentences. Study the following sentences:

  1. Regular verbs can be used as past forms in the sentences. For example:

(i)         The Senate President addressed Nigerians yesterday.

(ii)        A panel interviewed the applicants.

(iii)       That Senator tabled the issue in the parliament.

  1. Regular verbs can be used to express participle form or perfective form in the sentences. For example:

(i)         The boy has answered me satisfactorily.

(ii)        Some politicians have squandered the public money.

(iii)       That small boy had manned his father’s property.

  1. Regular verbs are used to indicate the future perfective forms. For example:

(i)         I will have called you.

(ii)        You shouldn’t have banked with that Bank.

(iii)       My father would have discussed it with you.

  1. Regular verbs are used as passive forms. For example:

(i)         An indolent employee has been fired.

(ii)        The missing money was searched for.

(iii)       Irrelevances were removed from the passage.

In the sentences above, regular verbs are used differently. In 1, regular verbs are past forms. They are used independently.

In 2, regular verbs are participle form or perfective form. They are used with auxiliaries – has, have and had.

In 3, regular verbs are future perfective forms. They are used with will have, shouldn’t have and would have.

In 4, regular verbs are passive forms because they are used in passive transformation

 Description of Irregular Verbs

An irregular verb is described as a type of lexical verb that conveys main meanings in well-formed sentences. Irregular verbs do not contain the final ‘ed’ but change according to the tenses.

In regular verbs, decide can change to decided in both past form and participle form. However, in irregular verbs, bite can change to bit in the past form and bitten in the participle form. For the reason above, regular and irregular verbs are differently formed.

Features of Irregular Verbs

There are various features of irregular verbs:

  1. Both past form and participle form of the irregular verbs vary, they change as they are used in the sentences. Consider the following table:
Present forms (Base) Past forms Participle forms
Shake

Eat

Drive

Tear

Blow

Bite

Hide

Lie

Grow

Write

Rise

Draw

Go

Give

Fly

Do

Shook

Eat

Drove

Tore

Blew

Bit

Hid

Lay

Grew

Wrote

Rose

Drew

Went

Gave

Flew

Did

Shaken

Eaten

Driven

Torn

Blown

Bitten

Hidden

Lain

Grown

Written

Risen

Drown

Gone

Given

Flown

Done

The question is this: Are past and participle forms the same in usage? Let’s examine the sentences below.

(i)         That boy hid himself behind the shelf. (Past form)

(ii)        Bola has carelessly torn her cloth. (Participle form)

In the examples above, the verb hid is used independently without being preceded by any other verbs. But the verb torn is preceded by the auxiliary has. You should understand that the participle forms or perfective forms are used with one or more auxiliaries while the past forms of verbs are not.

It is, therefore, wrong to say:

(i)         ‘That boy has hid himself …’

(ii)        ‘Bola has carelessly tore/tear/teared her cloth.

‘Tear’ is the present tense; it cannot follow or be used with auxiliary – ‘has’, ‘have’ and ‘had’. Also ‘teared’ does not exist as the past form or participle form.

  1. Both past form and participle form of the following irregular verbs are similar or identical but they are used differently in the sentences. Consider the following table:
Present forms (Base) Past forms Participle forms
Meet

Flee

Deal

Lay

Catch

Bend

Tell

Leave

Teach

Bleed

Build

Buy

Met

Fled

Dealt

Laid

Caught

Bent

Told

Left

Taught

Bled

Built

Bought

Met

Fled

Dealt

Laid

Caught

Bent

Told

Left

Taught

Bled

Built

Bought

The question is this: Are past and participle forms similar in form? Let us consider their uses in the sentences.

(i)         I bought a 505 Peugeot car yesterday. (Past form)

(ii)        We have bought our school bags. (Participle form)

Bought in the first sentence is not used with the auxiliary verb but bought in the second sentence is used with the auxiliary – have. Hence, the first bought indicates the past form through the adverbial – ‘yesterday’. The second bought indicates the participle form using the auxiliary – ‘have’. But, don’t say:

‘We have bought a 505 Peugeot car yesterday.

Take note of the following table:

Present forms (Base) Past forms Participle forms Meanings
Lie

Lay

Lay

Laid

Lain

Laid

To lie (man)

To lay (eggs)

Consider the examples below.

(i)         I lay on the mat reading yesterday. (Past form)

(ii)        We have lain on bed to rest. (Participle form)

(iii)       My hen lays an egg daily. (Present form)

(iv)       My hen laid two eggs yesterday. (Past form)

(v)        My hen has laid ten eggs. (Participle form)

When we are talking about man who lies down or other things whether on the mat or on the bed to ‘sleep’ or ‘rest’, then lay as the past form and lain as the participle form should be used. But when we are talking about a hen or a bird who lays eggs, then ‘lay’ as the present form and ‘laid’ as both past form and participle form should be used.

But, it is wrong to say:

(i)         *My hen has lain ten eggs.

(ii)        *I laid on the mat yesterday.

(iii)       *He has laid on bed to rest.

(iv)       *That dove had lain four eggs.

(v)        *The woman lied on bed to rest.

The past form lied means ‘not to tell the truth’. It does not mean to put herself in a vertical or horizontal position to sleep or rest.

  1. Here both present form (base) and participle form of the following irregular verbs are similar or the same, but past form differs. Look at the table below.
Present forms (base) Past forms Participle forms
Come

Run

Become

Came

Ran

Became

Come

Run

Become

Though present forms and participle forms are similar, they perform different functions in the sentences.

Examine the following sentences:

(i)         The man comes to Ibadan every week. (Present)

(ii)        They have come from Abuja. (Participle)

(iii)       She will come tomorrow. (Future) 

As said earlier, the verb come occurs in the three sentences above but they perform different functions. In sentence 1, come functions as the present tense; in sentence 2, come functions as the perfective or participle tense and in sentence 3, come functions as the future tense.

  1. The present (base) form, the past form and the participle form of the following verbs are similar or identical. Therefore, there is no change whatsoever until they are used in the sentences. Look at the table below.
Present forms (Base) Past forms Participle forms
Cast

Set

Shed

Put

Cost

Broadcast

Cut

Split

Burst

Cast

Set

Shed

Put

Cost

Broadcast

Cut

Split

Burst

Cast

Set

Shed

Put

Cost

Broadcast

Cut

Split

Burst

Although, the three forms are the same, they perform different functions in the sentences. Consider the features below.

  1. Irregular verbs are used as present tense, future tense and continuous tense. For example:

(i)         I cut my finger now. (Present)

(ii)        Sola will cut your finger. (Future)

(iii)       She is cutting his finger. (Continuous)

2. Irregular verbs are used as past tense in the sentences. For example:

(i)         I put the book on the table last night. (Past)

(ii)        That woman cast the news yesterday. (Past)

The verbs ‘put’ and ‘cast’ cannot be used with ‘ed’ as the past tense. It is wrong to say:

(i)         I putted the book on the table last night.

(ii)        That woman casted the news yesterday.

3. Irregular verbs are also used as participle tense or perfective tense in the sentences. For example:

(i)         I have set my English language questions. (Participle or Perfective)

(ii)        He has split it into different ways. (Participle)

Note that ‘set’ and ‘split’ cannot also be used with ‘ed’ as the participle tense.

Hence, it is wrong to say:

(i)         ‘I have setted …’

(ii)        ‘He has splitted …’

4. Irregular verbs are used as the future perfective tense in the sentences. For example:

(i)         If not the chairman, it would have cost more than that.

(Future perfective form)

(ii)        The thugs will have not shed the blood if it is not because of you.

(Future perfective form)

The verbs ‘cost’ and ‘shed’ cannot be used with ‘ed’

It is wrong to say:

(i)          ‘… it would have costed …’

(ii)        ‘The thugs will have not sheded …’

5. Irregular verbs are used as the passive tense in the sentences. For example:

(i)         The news was broadcast.

(ii)        The students I flogged have been burst into tears.

The verbs ‘broadcast’ and ‘burst’ cannot be used with ‘ed’.

So, it is wrong to say:

(i)         ‘The news was broadcasted’.

(ii)        ‘… have been bursted …’

5. Here, both past form and past participle form of the verbs below may be regular and irregular. If the past form and past participle form are used as regular verbs, they are correct. Even if they are used as irregular verbs too, they are still correct. Consider the table below.

Present forms (base) Past forms Participle forms
Dream

Learn

Dwell

Leap

Wet

Wed

Smell

Spoil

Plead

Quit

Shit

Spell

Spill

Dreamt/dreamed

Learnt/learned

Dwelt/dwelled

Leapt/leaped

Wet/wetted

Wed/wedded

Smelt/smelled

Spoilt/spoiled

Pled/pleaded

Quit//quitted

Shat/shitted

Spelt/spelled

Spilt/spilled

Dreamt/dreamed

Learnt/learned

Dwelt/dwelled

Leapt/leaped

Wet/wetted

Wed/wedded

Smelt/smelled

Spoilt/spoiled

Pled/pleaded

Quit//quitted

Shat/shitted

Spelt/spelled

Spilt/spilled

Consider the following sentences:

(i)         Last night, I dreamt/dreamed.

(ii)        The parents have spoilt/spoiled the child.

(iii)       Our education system smelt/smelled bad odour.

(iv)       I have learnt/learned some passages before you come.

(v)        Some of my employees have quit/quitted the work.

(vi)       The word ‘pronunciation’ is spelt/spelled correctly by the students.

  1. In this case, past participle forms can be regular and irregular verbs but past forms are only regular verbs. Look at the table below.
Present forms (base) Past forms Participle forms
Show

Sow

Sew

Showed

Sowed

Sewed

Shown/showed

Sown/sowed

Sewn/sewed

You should note that regular verbs that contain ‘ed’ can be used as both past tense and participle tense, but irregular verbs cannot be used as the past tense but as the participle tense. Examine the following sentences:

(i)         He has shown/showed me great things.

(ii)        Have you sewn/sewed your torn uniform?

(iii)       I sowed twenty bags of maize last week.

(iv)       That girl sewed her cloth yesterday.

But don’t say:

  • I sewn twenty bags of maize last week.
  • That girl sown her cloth yesterday

The verbs ‘showed’, ‘sowed’ and ‘sewed’ are rare as the past participle tense but they are still correct.

Evaluation

  1. Distinguish between regular and irregular verbs.
  2. With examples, discuss the uses of regular verbs in the sentences.
  3. Complete the spaces in the following table:
Present forms Past forms Participle forms
Shake

____________

Bite

____________

____________

____________

Set

____________

Spill

____________

____________

____________

____________

____________

____________

Dealt

Became

____________

____________

____________

____________

Shat/Shitted

____________

Blown

____________

Flown

____________

____________

____________

Broadcast

____________

Lain

____________

4. Correct the following wrong sentences:

(i)         That bird has lain four eggs.

(ii)        When I arrived, I layed on bed to rest.

(iii)       You have striken my car.

(iv)       These clothes costed N4000.00

(v)        Have linguists shedded light on the problems of ‘concord’.

5. Use the following verbs correctly in sentences:

(i) pled/pleaded (ii) sown (iii) dwelt/dwelled (iv) cut

(v) bend (vi) grew (vii) earmarked (viii) carried.

Author: Deola Adelakun

READ ALSO:  Better Way to Classify and Learn Adverbs
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