Learn English Irregular Verbs the Clever Way

Learn Irregular Verbs the right way

We don't learn a lot of stuff by heart when we learn English. We mostly try to understand how the grammar works. Irregular verbs is one of the few things we need to actually memorise (there aren't many, comparing to other languages, believe me). Yet every time we come to mastering the verb forms and my students look at the long list of them, I can read desperation in their eyes. So, how can we deal with them effectively? We need to find a way to remember them once and for good.

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Irregular Verbs Factsheet

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    A verb is the most important part of an English sentence. It organises your message and makes it clear or unclear.
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    If you refer to the dictionary, you see verbs in it in V1 (bare infinitive). This is the form you will be changing to use in a sentence.
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    Form with 'to' (full infinitive, e.g. to do, to work) can't be used as main verb of the sentence. It needs a tense form.
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    Each verb has a past form (V2) used in Past Simple tense and past participle (V3) used for Passives and Perfect tenses.
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    There are regular and irregular verbs in English. Regular verbs form V2 and V3 by adding -ed ending: want (V1) - wanted (V2) - wanted (V3). You will understand the difference in meaning from the context. 
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    But you need to remember the forms of irregular verbs by heart. For example, eat (V1) - ate (V2) - eaten (V3).

So, you need to know which verbs are irregular plus you need to learn their forms. And here, an effective system can help because at least 50-60 irregular verbs are necessary to communicate at Elementary level. For higher levels, you increase their number (up to 200-250).

apply a learning strategy

To stop being frustrated about irregular verbs, you need to develop a learning strategy which will work for you. Of course, you could use some other peoples' techniques if they work for you. Let me show some examples.

When I work with my students, I organise irregular verbs into groups for them. Yes, there is no one rule to remember them all. But some of them follow similar patterns. So, we group them according to these patterns.

Look at the example of the table we use with my students.

Learn Irregular Verbs in groups | Learn English Online

Here, you have 100 most used irregular verbs for comfortable communication. There are 10 groups of them based on pronunciation and forms. The more similar they are, the clearer the system in your head will be! 

SO, WHICH GROUPS ARE THERE?

  • verbs that don't change at all (V1 = V2 = V3) - for example, cut - cut - cut; 
  • verbs that have the same V2 and V3 (V1 / V2 = V3) with different endings (-t ending, -d ending, or vowel change) - lend - lent - lent or bring - brought - brought; ​
  • all forms different (V1 / V2 / V3) with different vowel changes - like blow - blew - blown or take - took - taken; ​
  • totally irregular (V1 / V2 / V3) - verbs like be, do, go and lie (be placed horizontally) don't follow any patterns, they are unique; ​
  • verbs with the same V1 and V3, but different V2 (V1 = V3; V2) - just two of them here: come - came - come and become - became - become

The great thing about this system is that any new verbs you will learn you will be adding to these groups. So, you remember them by similarity inside the group - this is an easier way. It works very well, just try. Don't forget that it is very important to say the verbs out loud when learning them. You will be using them in speaking that's why be sure you pronounce them correctly.

listen to the irregular verbs in groups and practise with me!

more fun ways to learn English irregular verbs

I have also picked 2 fun resources you could use in your learning. They are entertaining, not just useful. I am sure they will work for you too!

Try this game from Macmillan Dictionary. The creators promise it is highly addictive!

And of course, I can't skip the amazing rap song from Fluency MC. This video was a social media hit and still is. Just relax and repeat! Have fun! And he also has a training video, not just a song. After listening to the song, practise here

How do you memorise irregular verbs? Please share your ideas with us! Comment below and tell us how you have been learning irregular verbs in English or any other language.

Pinterest | Irregular Verbs | Smart Language Learning
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