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Irregular Verb

Term Definition
Irregular Verb

Representing the most common form of a verb tense, an irregular verb follows a different pattern of conjugation than the normal paradigm for verbs within a given language. 

Irregular Verbs - A common irregularity

Irregular verbs are quite common within the English language, and you'll likely recognize them as soon as they are pointed out to you. An irregular verb is a verb that follows a different pattern of conjugation than the normal paradigm for verbs within a given language. 

For example, the fact that the past tense of "say" is "said" and not "sayed" makes "say" an irregular verb. To an extent, whether a verb can be called an irregular verb is a subjective matter. This is because some verbs are more irregular than others, making the cut-off point somewhat fuzzy. Learn more about the unique conjugations of other verbs and tenses.

Conjugating irregular verbs correctly

Here is an example of the irregular verb being used correctly in a sentence. 

"His head felt really terrible earlier this morning, due to the fact that he drank too much at his friend's party last evening."

In this sentence, the verb "drank" is being used correctly as an irregular verb. It would have been a mistake to say "drinked" instead.

Now, here is an example of incorrect usage of the irregular verb. 

"Over the weekend, they wented to the beach in order to relax after all the studying they did for their final exams."

"Wented" is an incorrectly used irregular verb in this sentence. The correct form, of course, would be just "went". 

In case you are still unclear about the meaning of the irregular verb, here are a couple rules you can follow in order to make sure you have a handle on the concept.  

  1. The idea of the irregular verb is always relative to the dominant grammatical paradigm within a given language. An irregular verb is irregular because it deviates from this usual pattern. For example, in English, the norm for making a verb past tense is to add an "-ed" to the end of it. If the past tense of a verb were to be formed in some other way, then it would be an irregular verb. 
  2. Some verbs are more irregular than others. For example, the English verb "be" is the most irregular verb in the language, in the sense that it deviates strongly from the normal paradigm conjugation. Other verbs may deviate to a lesser extent. Usually, one becomes able to identify both a given irregular verb and its proper conjugations through simple experience.   

Origin of the term

The irregular verb may have emerged for any of several reasons. The most obvious one is that language itself emerges and evolves in an organic way, such that no perfect schema could have been followed beforehand by people inventing language. In this sense, it is inevitable that several verbs would in fact end up irregular. Moreover, extremely basic verbs such as "be" may be especially likely to be an irregular verb due to the fact that they emerged before more complex structures of language.     

The irregular verb in English may also have its roots in the fact that the English language has a very diverse heritage. In particular, although English is a Germanic language, it also draws heavily from Latin, which is the mother of the Romance languages. This could have potentially introduced alternative grammatical structures into English, including strange conjugations for certain verbs. 

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Synonyms: irregular-verb

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