Some of my students have been struggling with learning irregular verbs for a while now. And as you already imagined I wanted to make their life easier.
So, I right away came up with ways on how to make their learning experience trouble-free.
I simply cannot have negative feelings towards anything English related in my classroom.
Before I go into detail, let’s see what a verb is…
A verb in English can be regular or irregular. All verbs have five forms, the infinitive, simple present, past simple, past participle, and present participle.
The difference between both is the formation of the past simple and past participle. According to the grammar rules, we know that in the past simple we add “ed” as a suffix at the end of the regular verb.
The irregular verbs have their unique formation that you have to learn by heart if you want to use them correctly. Please, don’t stress out.
I know how sensitive the subject of learning all those verbs by heart can get but hey 70% of the verbs used daily in the English language are irregular. According to pasttences.com, there are 638 irregular verbs in total.
But do not panic only about 200 are used more frequently and if you exclude the prefix forms such as “stand” and “understand “then you are left with about 100 – 120. I think this number is more manageable, wouldn’t you agree?
1. Put the irregular verbs into groups.
First, you should try and spend some time grouping them in categories. Looking at the long list of irregular verbs different patterns can be observed. Such as similar endings, no change in any tense, minor change, etc. This way the learning is cut into chunks.
According to the Peak Performing Center
“Chunking breaks up long strings of information into units or chunks. The resulting chunks are easier to commit to memory than a longer uninterrupted string of information. Good chunking facilitates comprehension and retrieval of information.”
To help you do the chunking into categories I have written a post to do exactly that. Click here to read a full break down on those categories.
2. Make useful sentences.
Do not just simply repeat them in chunks “pay-paid-paid”. Include them in sentences of your own. Creating sentences that are taken from everyday speech will help you make them “stick”. The more you practice using them the more chances you have to remember their forms.
For example :
Alex went to the store.
Mary has broken her arm.
David wrote his essay.
3. Quiz yourself.
You can create simple flashcards by having a small piece of paper and writing on one side the infinitive form and on the other the Past simple + Participle forms.
Then quiz yourself to see which ones you remember.
A hand holding a card saying “sit” A hand holding a card saying “sat-sat”
Another great use of the flashcards is to ask someone to quiz you. It is so much fun.
4. Revise the difficult ones.
After doing the first 3 steps, grouping, creating sentences and self-quizzing you now have cleared the clutter and you have way fewer verbs that you don’t know. The next step is to revise the difficult irregular verbs frequently.
Science has concluded that when new information is spoken and written then it is easier for the brain to process and store it in the long term memory.
So, you can go beyond and write those “bad boy” verbs down on a sheet of paper and read them aloud. Read them in the car, bus, on the metro, while walking the dog, or simply while enjoying a delicious drink on the balcony. Don’t worry about sounding cray-cray, it will be worth it in the end.
Try to be as focused as possible while doing all the steps this way you have more chances of remembering the irregular verbs.
To recap on the effective strategies to learn the irregular verbs.
Use grouping to make the volume more manageable
Produce some written or oral speechto help you remember them.
Test your knowledge to check your progress.
Go over the remaining verbs by using different ways to review them.
Now all you have to do is start. Happy learning!
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How did you learn the irregular verbs? Have you tried these clues?