Like “be” and “see”, there are a number of verbs in English grammar that don’t follow the standard tense-changing rules. Most of the time we’ll take a present-tense verb like “move”, add a “d” to create the past tense (moved) as well as the the part perfect tense (have moved). These, the vast majority of our verbs, are regular verbs.
But lately I’ve come across the use of this standard rule being applied to irregular verbs. I noticed it first in a best-selling mystery novel by a writer of high repute – she used “shined” as the past tense for shine. The first time I saw it, I was sure it was wrong. It’s “shone”, I said to myself. The sun shone down from the heavens.
The next time I saw it, in a different work by a different author, I had a slightly less definitive internal conversation. Isn’t it supposed to be “shone”?
And this morning, having seen it three times in about a month by different authors in different works, I finally threw up my hands and looked it up.
Shine, shone, have shone. There is the heart of the irregular verb.
We are so much in the habit of throwing a “d” or “ed” on the end of a verb to create past tense, it’s easy to make a mistake. But within that last few weeks, I’ve also come across “bursted”, “shaked” and “drinked”. I finally threw up my hands in disgust at “ladened”.
Irregular verbs are a very real part of English grammar, and the proper usage of them can keep an author from looking like an amateur. And while “burst” and “laden” remain the same all tense categories, they are both exceptions to the irregular verb rule as well.
So what do you do? The only way to get hold of the proper constructions is, I’m sorry to say, to memorize them. My recommendation is to start with a simple list of common irregular verbs, like the one provided on the Purdue Owl website and then move on from there.
But be aware that, even when they start out sounding the same, irregular verbs won’t all follow through in the same way:
Sink, sank, have sunk.
Drink, drank, have drunk.
Think, thank, have…
OK, so you get the idea!