Don’t be misled by the title of this post. We are not talking about verbs that are so exceptional that you should use them. We are talking about verbs that are exceptions to the rule. And often there are more exceptions than rules!

Specifically, we are talking about the forms of a verb. They are used to create various tenses, but we are not talking tenses here. For more information about when to use each tense, refer back to The Best Little Grammar Book Ever!

Verbs have several forms:

  • Present tense: for example, walk
  • Present participle: for example, walking
  • Past tense: for example, walked
  • Past participle: for example have walked (had walked, will have walked)

The “rule” (to put it loosely) is to add -ed to a present tense to make a past tense and a past participle: walked.

If the verb already ends in an e, all you have to do is add the d: bake/baked.

If the verb ends in a y, generally we turn the y into an i and add -ed: study/studied.

Many verbs do not follow this rule. Many of them have some type of “other” form that stays the same in both past and past participle forms. Here are some of those:

  • sit, sat, have sat
  • lead, led, have led
  • bring, brought, have brought (as a kid, I did think it was brang and brung!)
  • hang, hung, have hung
  • lay, laid, have laid
  • teach, taught, have taught
  • catch, caught, have caught
  • build, built, have built

You get the idea. And most of the time, people don’t have a problem with these. However, there are many verbs that have three different forms. The present is different from the past, which is different from the past participle. And with many of these verbs, people keep using the past tense form for the past participle. My seventh grade students were big offenders, but many educated adults I know — or have heard speak — do the same thing. 

You will know what I mean by this list. Here are some common of the more common mistakes:

  • I ate, but I have eaten. Not I have ate some cake already.
  • I began, but I have begun. Not I have began my speech.
  • I bit, but I have bitten. Not I have bit into the cookie.
  • I broke, but I have broken. Not I have broke the vase..
  • I chose, but I have chosen. Not I have chose that dress.
  • I drank, but I have drunk. Not I have drank all the water.
  • I forgave, but I have forgiven. Not I have forgave her for lying.
  • I froze, but I have frozen. Not I have froze the leftovers.
  • I rode, but I have ridden. Not I have rode a horse before.
  • I rang, but I have rung. Not I have rang the doorbell.
  • I ran, but I have run. Not I have ran a mile.
  • I sang, but I have sung. Not I have sangin front of an audience.
  • I sank, but I have sunk. Not I have sank when I tried to swim.
  • I spoke, but I have spoken. Not I have spoke to her about it.
  • I stole, but I have stolen. Not I have stole the letters.
  • I swam, but I have swum. Not I have swam every day this week.
  • I wrote, but I have written. Not I have wrote him a letter.
  • I went, but I have gone. Not I have went to work today.

Those are some of the common ones that people tend to misuse. And although I have used the pronoun I with all the examples, of course the verb is the same with you, he, she, they, them, it, and we.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week. Or the week after.