In the English language, we have fewer than 200 irregular verbs. (A fairly complete list appears in Garner Oxford, pp. 195-97.) Below are some causing the most trouble. Remember, use the past tense for statements showing that something happened in the past. Use the past participle to form the perfect tenses (with have) or the passive voice (with to be). I have included some regular verbs (sneak and dive) that either have developed some acceptable irregular forms (snuck and dove) or cause all sorts of arguments (loan as a verb). Review the list below.
|Verb||Past Tense||Past Participle|
|dive (irregular)||dove (OK inAmerica)||dived2|
|get||got||gotten, got (“I’ve got.”)3|
|hang (a picture)||hung||hung|
|hang (a criminal)||hanged||hanged|
|lay (to place)||laid||laid|
|lie (to recline)||lay||lain|
|sneak (irregular)||snuck (OK in America)||snuck5|
1 New Fowler refers to the network of forms for these words—awake, awaken, wake, waken—as a “philological nightmare.” New Fowler, p. 82.
2 The word dove can serve as the past tense of dive. Longfellow used it in 1855; F. Scott Fitzgerald used it in 1940; and the New Yorker used it in 1988 and 1989. New Fowler, p. 222. In your master’s thesis, however, you should used the older form of the past tense—dived. Please note, however, that the past participle of dive is always dived. Thus, you would not say, I have dove into the pond. Instead: I have dived into the pond.
3 See the list of “Problem Words” at Grammar.com. Click here for the section on Problem Words.
4 The word loan has been a verb in the English language for more than 800 years. Though some say its use should be restricted to financial settings, it means the same as lend. So you may loan money or loan clothing to the flood victims. In formal settings, you should use lend as a verb and loan as a noun. Random House, pp. 1126-27.
5 Acknowledging that snuck does not often appear in highly formal writing, Random House notes that it does appear in fiction and in journalism. Random House, p. 1807. Use sneaked in your master’s thesis.
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