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How to Teach Irregular Verb Tenses to Kids in English

By Kathryn Hatter ; Updated June 13, 2017

Verbs describe when an action occurs, will occur or has occurred. With regular verbs such as “rake” and “jump,” you can make them past tense by adding a “d” or “ed” to the end of the verb. Some words are irregular verbs, which means that the entire word changes with the past tense. Students often need extra help learning irregular verbs in English.

  1. Remind kids how regular verbs change from present tense to past tense to begin the lesson. Use verbs such as “walk,” “laugh” and “play” to show students that to change any of these regular verbs from present tense to past tense, all they must do is add an “ed” to the end of the words.

  2. Present irregular verbs for children to consider. Some examples of irregular verbs include “run,” “swim,” “take” and “write.” Tell kids the transition from present tense to past tense with the example irregular verbs -- run-ran; swim- swam-swum; take-took-taken and write-wrote-written.

  3. Explain that irregular verbs do not follow specific rules or guidelines for changing them between verb tenses. For this reason, students must learn them and memorize them in order to use them correctly, according to a web page on the St. Louis Community College website.

  4. Note to your children that often the tense change that occurs in an irregular verb involves the vowel in the middle of the word, according to a web page on the University of Redlands website. Provide examples such as come and came and blow and blew.

  5. Provide additional information about the present/past perfect tense of irregular verbs, which also involves the addition of the linking verbs "has," "had" and "have.” Sometimes an irregular verb does not change between the past and present/past perfect tense and other times it changes. For example, the irregular verb “weave” becomes “wove” in past tense and “woven” in present/past perfect tense. The irregular verb “teach” becomes “taught” in past tense and stays “taught" in present/past perfect tense.

  6. Encourage your child to practice irregular verbs to gain proficiency. You might make flash cards that contain various irregular verbs. Upon seeing each irregular verb, your child must tell you the various verb tenses of the verb. Another option: say a sentence containing an irregular verb in present tense and ask your child to convert it to past tense.

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