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Aaaaah! Irregular verb forms!

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irregular verbsIf you are studying English, you are certainly well aware of the fact that the language has many irregular verbs. They are often named as one of the main reasons English is a difficult language to learn!

The majority of the irregular verbs already existed in an early form of the language, known as Old English or Anglo Saxon (spoken between the 5th and 12th centuries), and are part of an ancient, disused conjugation system.

There are actually more than 470 irregular verbs in the English language, but don’t worry, the good news is that a lot of them are archaic or obsolete and can quite easily be avoided. Around 200 of them are classified as common but even quite a few of these are not used very frequently, so you can be selective, at least early on in your studies.

Most of the regular verbs that are currently used in English, with some exceptions, have since been adopted from various other languages in later periods of development of the English language.

Irregular verbs are called this way because they do not follow a regular or logical conjugation system and, unfortunately, the only thing you can do is to gradually memorize or learn them by rote.

face-73401_640Israeli-born linguist Guy Deutscher, wrote a poem while he was learning English to illustrate his frustration with irregular verb forms! [from…The Unfolding of Language (2005)]

Read the poem below and see if you can identify any of the verbs that Deutscher has conjugated incorrectly by trying to follow conjugation patterns of other verbs.

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The teacher claimed it was so plain,
I only had to use my brain.
She said the past of throw was threw,
The past of grow – of course – was grew,
So flew must be the past of fly,
And now, my boy, your turn to try.

But when I trew,
I had no clue,
If mow was mews
Like know and knew.
(Or is it knowed
Like snow and snowed?)

The teacher frowned at me and said
The past of feed was – plainly – fed.
Fed up, I knew then what I ned:
I took a break, and out I snoke,
She shook and quook (or quaked? or quoke?)

With raging anger out she broke:
Your ignorance you want to hide?
Tell me the past form of collide!
But how on earth should I decide

If it’s collid (Like hide and hid),
Or else – from all that I surmose,
The past of rise was simply rose,
And that of ride was surely rode,
So of collide must be collode?

Oh damn these English verbs, I thought
The whole thing absolutely stought!
Of English I have had enough,
These verbs of yours are far too tough.

Bolt upright in my chair I sat,
And said to her ‘that’s that’ – I quat.

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You can download a list of the most common irregular verbs and some games to practice some of the forms under DOWNLOADS.

Enjoy learning!

Fiona

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"A different language is a different vision of life." - Federico Fellini