Grouping: The Most Effective Learning of the Irregular Verbs

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In this post, I would like to present you with a technique called grouping. This will help you group irregular verbs into categories. Firstly, I imagine you have accepted the fact that you need to learn them and you ask yourself. What do you do?

Simple, use practical ways to store them in your long term memory. This way any time you need to use some, you can recall them easily. One such technique is to group irregular verbs with similar patterns.

Time and time again students have referred to those verbs as “monsters”. In my ten years of experience as a Teacher of English, none of my students were fond of them.

You know me, my goal above all, is to always make my students’ life easier, therefore, I come up with a few tricks and tips on how to speed up their process of learning with the hopes of convincing my students to not view them in a negative light.

grouping irregular verbs quote

How to learn the irregular verbs in English?

One of the proven techniques is grouping. In this post, I mainly focus on that because it can get confusing. Here you will learn an efficient practical way to do that. So, shall we start with what grouping irregular verbs actually means?

How to group irregular verbs.

To begin with, all verbs have some similarities such as having the same form in the past simple and past participle, little or no change in any form, some vowels change and etc…. Those patterns will help you group irregular verbs into more doable sets of verbs when it comes to learning them.

Recent studies have shown that the brain learns best when things are put in groups. The fancy way to call this in cognitive psychology is chunking. When it comes to irregular verbs there are certain patterns that will help you learn them.

What is an irregular verb?

First, remember that irregular verbs are the ones that do not form the past tense by adding “ed” suffix.

Now that we got this out of the way, start grouping them. The first thing you need to do in order to help the brain to memorize these “monsters”.

Look at the long list of irregular verbs that I am sure you are holding on to for dear life. What patterns do you notice?

I can just hear you say “Wait a minute, there are some that do not change form.” Perfect, you are getting to understand this process.

Group irregular verbs with no change!

In the first category, you should put the “no change form irregular verbs”. They are the easiest to learn. Therefore, all you need to do is memorize the infinitive form and voila.

For example, take a look at the following:

InfinitivePast SimplePast participle

Minor change!

The next group is with the ones which have only one character change. In other words, they have the same form in the Past Simple and the Past Participle. This pattern makes them somewhat easy as well.

InfinitivePast SimplePast participle

The same spelling in two forms!

Time has come for the verbs which have similar spelling pattern. This usually appears again in the Past Simple and Past Participle form.

InfinitivePast SimplePast participle

Different spelling in two forms!

Simply put, those verbs have similar spelling but only in the Past Simple, the Past Participle form is different. The common suffix of their Past simple form is “ew” and ” own”/”awn” accordingly for the Past Participle form.

InfinitivePast SimplePast participle

Group irregular verbs with one difference!

These verbs have only one character which differs. Particularly this happens in the infinitive form is an “i” which in the Past Simple becomes an “a”, and a”u” in the Past Participle.

InfinitivePast SimplePast participle

Different forms!

Finally, this is probably the largest group of irregular verbs. To clarify, some are easy to learn since they might have some similarities with one form, either the infinitive with the Past Simple or the infinitive with the Past Participle. Note that all three forms are different which means that you need to learn them the traditional way. Pen and paper style.

InfinitivePast SimplePast participle
bewas/were been

To sum up about how to group irregular verbs

Here are the steps to remember!

  1. Use chunking
  2. Group the irregular verbs with minor change!
  3. Group the irregular verbs with the same spelling patterns!
  4. Group the irregular verbs with different spelling patterns!
  5. Group the irregular verbs with only one different letter change!
  6. Group the irregular verbs with totally different forms!

All in all, the patterns are seen in each category above are designed to “trick” your brain into remembering smaller similar parts of information. Most importantly, you will right away notice how much easier it is to actually learn and eventually remember the irregular verbs.

Not only is this technique fun to implement but it also has proven results.

Now you are ready to group them on your own. Begin learning one group at a time.

Happy learning!

For anyone interested in how to make new information stick I have written a book review of a famous book called “Make it stick”. Click here to check it out.

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What kind of ways have you used to learn the irregular verbs? Has this post been helpful to you?

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