Teaching Irregular Verb Patterns

The easiest and simplest way to teach irregular verbs is to have students learn the nine different patterns. Once students have learned these patterns, they will classify new irregular verbs they encounter into a known pattern.

While learning common irregular verbs and their patterns are important, that is not the ultimate purpose. These patterns provide a foundation to build upon. The goal is for students to recognize the pattern of a new irregular verb and unconsciously connect it to one of these patterns. This builds both word and grammar skills in English.

The anchor chart below contains common beginning irregular verbs grouped by pattern. There are hundreds of irregular verbs in English so these are representative of the irregular verb pattern. English learners should learn one pattern at a time and then move to the next one. 

There are many ways to reinforce irregular verb patterns. Some students memorize them while others use manipulatives to practice them. Playing games is a fun way to encourage learning. Give time words for present, future, past and past perfect tenses and encourage students to form a sentence with it.  Comparing the meaning of these sentences helps students to understand the grammar. 

  • Time words
  • Present: today, every day, now
  • Future Tense: tomorrow, at time, in the future, next week / month / year
  • Past Tense: yesterday, last week / month / year 
  • Past Perfect: many times, before, previously
  • Sentences
  • Present: I hear the bell ring every day.
  • Future: Tomorrow I will hear the bell ring.
  • Past: I heard the bell ring yesterday.
  • Past Perfect: I have heard the bell many times.

Negative Sentences

In addition, students should practice making and using negative sentences with irregular verbs. The helping verb in the sentence shows the tense and the irregular verb uses its base form for the present, future, and past tenses. The past perfect uses a 'have' and the past participle. This is also a good way to encourage students to practice using negative contractions.

  • Present: I don't hear the bell ring today. (do not)
  • Future: I won't hear the bell ring in the future. (will not)
  • Past: I didn't hear the bell ring yesterday. (did not)
  • Past Perfect: I haven't heard the bell ring for a long time. (have not / never)


Students also need to practice creating questions with irregular verbs. The helping verb shows tense and the irregular verb uses its base form in the present, future and past tense. The past perfect tense uses 'have' and the past participle.

  • Present: Do you hear the bell?
  • Future: Will you hear the bell?
  • Past: Did you hear the bell ring yesterday?
  • Past Perfect: Have you ever heard the bell ring?

Irregular Verb Patterns 

Pattern 1: The base verb (bare infinitive), past tense, and past participle forms are all the same. This is the simplest pattern to learn.

  • No Change
  • cut, cut, cut
  • hit, hit, hit
  • hurt, hurt, hurt

Pattern 2: The past tense and past participle forms are the same, but slightly different from the base verb.

  • hear. heard, heard
  • read, read, read
  • tell, told, told
Pattern 3: The past tense and past participle forms are the same, but very different from the base verb.
  • bring, brought, brought
  • catch, caught, caught
  • think, thought, thought

Pattern 4: The past tense and past participle forms are the same and end with a "t".

  • feel, felt, felt
  • leave, left, left
  • lose, lost, lost

Pattern 5: The past tense and past participle forms are the same and end with a "d".

  • make, made, made
  • pay, paid. paid
  • stand, stood, stood

Pattern 6: Each verb form has a different vowel. This pattern is the one most teachers remember from their own schooling.

  • begin, began, begun
  • drink, drank, drunk
  • ring, rang. rung

Pattern 7: The past tense form has a vowel change from the base verb. The past participle form ends with the letter "n" and may have a vowel change.

  • draw, drew, drawn
  • grow, grew, grown
  • know, knew, known

Pattern 8: The past tense form has a different vowel from the base verb. The past participle form ends with "en" and may have a vowel change.

  • break, broke, broken
  • eat, ate, eaten
  • write, wrote, written

Pattern 9: This group contains common verbs that do not follow a particular pattern and must be memorized.

  • do, did, done
  • go went, gone
  • see, saw, seen

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