Category talk:English irregular verbs

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A proposal for which verbs should be counted as irregularEdit

All verbs which don't form their third person singular by adding -s, past tense and past participle by adding -ed, and present participle by adding -ing are included in this category unless one of the following rules applies:

Consonant doubling

If a verb fulfils the conditions

  1. The base (i.e. the infinitive without "to") ends in a single consonant sound represented by a single consonant letter or in -r preceded by a vowel sound,
  2. The final syllable of the base has a single-letter vowel,
  3. The base is stressed on its final syllable,

then the final consonant letter is doubled before the endings -es, -ed and -ing, unless the base ends in -l, in which case condition 3. is waived in British English.

  • The second condition in 1. (i.e. "... in -r preceded by a vowel sound") takes into account that base-final "r" is not pronounced in non-rhotic accents (unless the word is followed by another word beginning with a vowel). For example condition 1. holds for stir (as do condition 2. and 3., thus stir, with its inflected forms stirs, stirred and stirring, is a regular verb).
  • If a verb's base ends in a sibilant, then, by rule [to be added], its third-person singular ending is -es. Therefore doubling applies for example to the (thus regular) verb to quiz, quizzes, quizzed, quizzing.
  • The letters "h", "w", "y" and "x" are never doubled. This is because in base-final position in a word with stressed last syllable "h", "w" and "y" only ever occur as part of a vowel sound, e.g. -ah = /ɑː/ (to hurrah, hurrahed, hurrahing), -aw = /ɔː/ (to saw, sawed, sawing), -ay = /eɪ/ (to sway, swayed, swaying), oy = /ɔɪ/ (to toy, toyed, toying), and because "x" in base-final position in always pronounced /ks/ (to box, boxed, boxing).
  • Condition 3. applies to all one-syllable words, since these are always stressed on their one syllable.
  • The verb to bat satisfies all three conditions, hence in regularly inflected as bats, batted and batting.
  • The verb to equip satisfies 2. because the "u" is pronounced /w/. It also satisfies 1. and 3., so is a regular verb with inflected forms equips, equipped and equipping.
  • The verb to prevail (prevails, prevailed, prevailing) is regular because condition 2. doesn't hold: "ai" is not a single-letter vowel.
  • The verb to travel is regular; in British English with inflections travels, travelled and travelling, in American English with travels, traveled and traveling.

Verbs ending in -c

Verbs which end in -c preceded by a vowel sound form their past tense and past participle by adding -ked, and their present participle by adding -king. Examples are bivouac, frolic, havoc, magic, mimic, panic, physic, picnic, tarmac, traffic.


The E-deletion rules deal with base-final -e. They are as follows:

  1. Base-final -e is omitted before -ed and -ing if the -e is mute, i.e. not pronounced, or preceded by an "r" which itself follows a vowel sound.
  2. Case 1. does not apply and the base-final -e is preceded by one or two more letters with which it is pronounced as a (possibly composite) vowel. We then have the following possibilities:
    1. The verb's base ends in -ue: The -e is omitted before -ed and -ing, unless the base is monosyllabic, in which case omission is optional.
    2. The verb's base ends in -ee, -oe or -ye: The -e is omitted before -ed. Omission is optional with "eye".
    3. The verb's base ends in -ie: If the -ie is pronounced /ɪ/ then the -e is omitted before -ed, if the -ie is pronounced /aɪ/ then the -e is omitted before -ed and the -ie becomes a "y" before -ing.
  • The condition "... preceded by an "r" which itself follows a vowel sound" ensures that the standard E-deletion rule doesn't depend on whether one has a rhotic or non-rhotic accent. For example, to square, although pronounced /skwɛə/ in non-rhotic accents, is always regular with inflected forms squares, squared and squaring.
  • Having a mute -e, the verb to hope with conjugation hopes, hoped and hoping is regular.
  • The verb to catalogue has a mute -e (infact a mute -ue), hence is regularly inflected as catalogues, catalogued, cataloguing. Similarly to pique, piques, piqued, piquing is regular.
  • By 2.3 the conjugations to sortie, sorties, sortied, sortieing; to birdie, birdies, birdied, birdieing and to stymie, stymies, stymied, stymieing are regular. By the second half of the same rule also regular are to die, dies, died, dying, as well as to lie, to tie and to vie.


It is possible that a regular verb has different inflections: Examples are to travel which has inflections travels, travelled, travelling, and travels, traveled, traveling (both by consonant doubling, fist one being the exception for British English);


  • A Linguistic Study of the English Verb, F. R. Palmer, Longmans, 1965: Chapter 3
  • A Survey of English spelling, Edward Carney, Routledge, 1994
  • A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik, Longman, 1985: Major verb classes, 3.1-3.20, pages 98-120
  • The Cambridge Grammar on the English Language, Cambridge University Press, 2002: Chapter 18, paragraph 2.2 Spelling alternations, pages 1575-1580 and paragraph 5 Verbs, pages 1596-1610.
  • Webster's 3rd New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged, Merriam-Webster, 1986: SPELLING, pages 21a-24a

Comments on the proposalEdit

This is unnecesarily long-winded. It could be summarized in a single short paragraph. Eclecticology

How? Ncik 00:34, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

I've read through 3 times now and I cannot see any reference to -consonant+y ,-ies, ied, -ying. Eg. try, tries, tried, trying. And tally, tallies, tallied, tallying. Algrif 16:21, 5 June 2007 (UTC)

As agreed in WT:BP compound forms such as phrasal verbs are NOT to be included in this list, as their base forms are already there. This list is a useful resource if it is not cluttered with (literally) thousands of unnecessary entries.Algrif 15:54, 10 June 2007 (UTC)

Last modified on 10 June 2007, at 15:54