It’s time to tackle a very important—somewhat daunting—element of English grammar: irregular verbs. Learning these will definitely help you speak better English, and today we’re letting you in on how to learn them the easy way.
Irregular verbs are very important to learn because they are among the most frequently used verbs in the English language. Remember: regular verbs get their past forms by adding -ed to the end. Irregular English verbs have different endings for each of the past forms and there are hundreds of them… but don’t panic! There’s a smart and easy way to learn them and I’m going to explain it to you right now.
Watch: How to Learn English Irregular Verbs
Tips for Learning Irregular Verbs
Don’t worry about topic-specific verbs at first
The first thing you need to do is limit your list to only the most useful English irregular verbs. There are about 600 total, but most of them are quite specific so you don’t need to worry about learning them right away. For example, you probably don’t need to learn the past forms of the verb “to knit” right, when you first start learning English, right? (If you’re curious, it’s “knit” and “knit”!)
Group together irregular English verbs with prefixes
Another way to reduce your list is by eliminating words that just have a prefix added to them. For example: “to stand” and “to understand.” By doing this, you can easily reduce your list down to about 100 or so of the most useful verbs. That’s definitely more manageable than 600!
Use the chunking memory hack
The second trick is to use a memory hack called “chunking.” Chunking is the idea of breaking down your learning into small bits that are easy to memorize.
So how can you apply this hack to the English irregular verbs? Simple: Look for some similarities, and group together all of the verbs that share them. Here’s what you get:
- Verbs that do not change, like “to hit” and “to set.”
- Those that change only in the preterite, like “to come” and “to run.”
- Verbs that have the same form for both the preterite and the past participle, like “to dream” and “to keep.”
- Finally, verbs that have different forms for the preterite and the past participle, like “to rise” and “to swim.”
For a complete list, download our free eBook:
Download your FREE Guide to English Irregular Verbs
Our Guide to Irregular Verbs in English includes all the irregular verbs you need to know, plus how to use and conjugate them.
Group words together with similar spelling patterns
You’ll also be able to find similar spelling patterns. Grouping together words with similar spelling patterns is especially helpful for the last two categories. For example: when you learn the verb “to mean” you can also learn to deal, to keep, to spend, to learn, and to dream. Five verbs for the price of one! Not bad…
Do the same thing for the verb “to begin” and the five verbs that are similar: to drink, to wring, to sing, to sink, and to swim. For these verbs, you need to remember “i-a-u.” The “i” in the infinitive is replaced by an “a” in the preterite and a “u” in the past participle.
Break down your learning
Break down your learning and find groups of words that share similarities.
Try this exercise: draw a tree with each branch representing a different group and the leaves on the branch representing different verbs.
This is a great way to visualize the groups and commit them to memory by writing them down. If you learn the irregular verbs following these groups, you’ll find that it takes far less time than if you were to try to learn straight from a list.
Apply this hack to your learning by memorizing these verbs with the MosaLingua app. So what are you waiting for? Get started now!
To review: the 2 hacks we gave you today to learn the English irregular verbs the easy way are: limit your list to the words you will actually use and use chunking to group together similarly conjugated verbs. This creates links between these words in your memory and helps you remember them better.
Bonus tip #1: Be aware of irregular verb differences in British English and American English
Here’s a bonus tip: some words like “to dream” and “to spell” are irregular in British English but not in American English. So make your life even easier by cutting these words from your list.
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Bonus tip #2: Don’t waste your time on verbs you’ll never use
Like we said above, if you can narrow down the list of verbs you need to learn to only the most important ones, do it! It’ll make your life easier. Once you master the most useful irregular English verbs, you can focus on picking up others that interest you.
Check out this video on how to conjugate some of the most commonly used English irregular verbs. It’s in English, of course, but there are subtitles if you need them. You can watch it on our YouTube channel, or just scroll down:
And if you have questions about today’s lesson, don’t forget to add them in the comments below. We’ll be happy to help! Happy learning and see you next time!
If you’d like to go hands-free, you can also listen to this article on our MosaLingua Language Lab podcast: