Regular vs Irregular Verbs: Definitions, Differences, Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on April 21, 2023

Understanding regular vs irregular verbs is a great place to start if you want to get to know verbs better. In this article, we'll explore in depth the difference between the two.

In short:

  • Regular verbs follow typical and consistent conjugation rules, whereas irregular verbs are unpredictable and don't follow specific rules. 

This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.

Regular vs Irregular Verbs

I guess the best place to start is to establish what a verb is. And that's not as straightforward as you might think.

What is a Verb?

In school, we're often taught that verbs are doing words, and while there's some truth to that, it's not the whole truth.

  • Verbs always relate to the subject, and they describe what is happening or, simply, what is.

For example, when you say:

"The dog is pretty,"

The verb 'is' describes the dog's state and not what the dog is doing since the dog isn't doing anything.

There are also many different types of verbs - transitive, intransitive, auxiliary, helping... the list goes on. If you'd like to learn more about the different types of verbs, check out this article. For the purposes of this article, however, we'll just focus on regular vs irregular verbs.

I will say one more thing before we move on, though, and that's that verbs are the one and only thing that is always needed in a sentence. No other part of speech is indispensable the way a verb is, not even a subject. Here's an example of a full sentence using just one word:


What Are Regular and Irregular Verbs?

Okay, so now we're clear on what a verb is, let's get to the question at hand:

What are regular and irregular verbs, and what's the difference?

What you need to know first is that the three tenses that have regular and irregular verbs are:

Regular verbs are:

  • They are super straightforward because they follow a simple set of rules and never deviate from them.

Irregular verbs:

  • Have a mind of their own. They don't follow any rules at all and are all different. Therefore the only way to remember them is to practice... a lot.

Let's go over each tense and learn its regular and irregular forms.

Present Indefinite Verbs

The present indefinite tense - also known as the present simple - is used to talk about a general truth or fact. It doesn't necessarily mean that the thing is happening right now; it just means the statement is true today.

For example:

The 321 bus takes the Northern route through the city.

Now let's look at how to conjugate a verb in the present indefinite tense.

Present Indefinite Regular

The present indefinite tense is pretty easy to put together: it's identical to the root form of the verb for all pronouns except the third person singular, for which you add an -s.

Here's an example:

To eat

I eat
You eat
He/she/it eats
We eat
You eat
They eat

I'll show you another example so you can see the consistency.

To swim

I swim
You swim
She/he/it swims
We swim
You swim
They swim

Present Indefinite Regular Sentence Examples

Let's have a look at some sentence examples that use regular verbs in the present indefinite tense.

She always cycles to work in the summertime.

Those new sneakers look very comfortable.

I almost always wear black at work.

Present Indefinite Irregular

The good news is that it's just the third-person singular pronoun that's affected when a verb's irregular in the present indefinite tense.

In terms of irregular verbs, you've got two kinds:

  • The kinds that still follow a pattern (albeit a different pattern than the one regular verbs follow.) 
  • Those that follow no pattern at all.

With the present indefinite tense, we're dealing with the first kind.

  • The first one is that if a verb ends in -ch, -sh, -o, -z, -ss, or -x then you should add -es instead of just -s.

See the following example with the verb ‘to catch’:

I catch
You catch
It/she/he catches
We catch
You catch
They catch

  • The second one is that if a verb ends in consonant + y then you should change the -y to -ies.

For example, with the verb ‘to worry’:

I worry
You worry
She/he/it worries
We worry
You worry
They worry

Then you've got the verb 'be' whose first-person singular conjugation is also different and quite random.

I am
You are
He/she/it is
We are
You are
They are

And the verb 'have' for which the third person singular is 'have,' instead of what it should logically be if it were regular: 'haves.'

Present Indefinite Irregular Sentence Examples

Let's have a look at some sentence examples that use irregular verbs in the present indefinite tense.

Why do you always bury your bones, Rex?

She watches the boy cycle by and wishes she had a bike that big.

The house is for sale.

Past Tense Verbs

Now we'll look at how verbs are influenced by regularity or irregularity when they're in the past indefinite and past participle forms.

  • The past indefinite can be used to talk about events that happened in the past, moods or states of being in the past, and repeated actions in the past.

The past participle, when paired with an auxiliary verb, can form one of the following verb tenses:

  • Present perfect
  • Present perfect progressive
  • Past perfect progressive
  • Future perfect

Either way, both verb forms have a regular conjugation and an irregular one.

Past Tense Regular

To put a regular verb into past indefinite tense or past participle form, just follow this rule:

  • Take the root form of the verb and add -ed.

That's it! Super straightforward, right?

Let's see how that looks.

check → checked → checked

Let's test this in sentences. First in a past indefinite sentence:

Yes, I'm sure the door is locked because I double checked.

And now a sentence in the present perfect tense (which requires the auxiliary verb 'have' and the past participle of the verb 'check'):

They have already checked in. 

As you can see, it checks out! (pun intended)

Past Tense Regular Sentence Examples

Here are some sentence examples that use regular verbs in the past indefinite tense form.

She passed the ball to her teammate but it was intercepted.

We looked at each other with surprise.

The two boys played together every day after school.

And here are some examples of regular verbs in the past participle form.

We will have lived here 20 years next month.

I had been watching TV for hours when you arrived.

Where have you been? I was looking all over for you.

Past Tense Irregular

Now let's take a look at irregular verbs being transformed into the past indefinite tense or past participle form. Remember earlier when I said there are two types of irregular verbs, the ones that still follow a pattern and those that don't? With the past tense irregulars, you're dealing with both.

Here are the ones that follow a pattern.

Simply add -d if the verb already ends with an -e.

For example:

  • Balance → balanced
  • Dice → diced
  • Cuddle → cuddled

If the verb ends in the consonant y, change the –y to –i and add –ed:

  • Cry → cried
  • Defy → defied
  • Embody → embodied

If the verb ends in consonant + vowel + consonant, double the final consonant and then add -ed:

  • Plan → planned
  • Pin → pinned
  • Tap → tapped

For verbs ending in -c, add a –k, then –ed.

  • Mimic → mimicked
  • Panic → panicked
  • Frolic → frolicked

If the last syllable of a verb is stressed and ends [consonant-vowel-consonant], double the last consonant, then add -ed:

  • Blur → blurred
  • Chat → chatted
  • Stop → stopped

Except if the final consonant is w, x, or y, then don't double it:

  • Sew → sewed
  • Play → played
  • Fix → fixed

That's it for the irregular verbs that follow a pattern. As for those that don't follow a pattern, the only way to know these is to learn them and practice. This isn't something that will happen all at once, so you need to be patient. Lots of reading is key, as well as lots of writing, and keep coming back to this article to make sure you're getting it right (don't forget to bookmark it!).

Here's a list of just some irregular verbs (it goes root verb → past indefinite (V2) → past participle (V3)). You'll notice sometimes V2 and V3 are the same, and sometimes not.

  • beat → beat → beaten
  • mean → meant → meant
  • speak → spoke → spoken
  • write → wrote → written
  • bleed → bled → bled
  • break → broke → broken

Past Tense Irregular Sentence Examples

Here are some sentence examples that use irregular verbs in the past indefinite tense form.

I began reading this book just before Christmas.

The robbers stole all my jewelry.

Those roses grew really quickly.

And here are some examples of irregular verbs in the past participle form.

You don't have to keep your feelings hidden.

After a long and tiring day, she'd fallen asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.

Where have you been? I've been looking for you all over.

Concluding Thoughts on Regular vs Irregular Verbs

That concludes this article on regular vs irregular verbs. As I mentioned earlier, the best thing for you to do is to go out and practice so that these eventually become second nature to you.

Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • Regular verbs follow a pattern of rules when it comes to conjugation.
  • Irregular verbs do not follow those rules; they either have rules of their own, or are random.
  • The present and past indefinite tenses and past participle verb forms are the ones affected by irregular verbs. 

If you found this article helpful, head on over to our Grammar Book, a free online database where we simplify complex grammatical concepts.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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