Monthly Archives: January 2021

Irregular Verbs

The simple answer is: Any verb that doesn’t follow standard rules of conjugation. Unfortunately, there are so many “irregular” verbs in the English language that the title doesn’t really make sense. These grammar anomalies have been lurking in plain sight for yearsand they might just come naturally to you, but we’re still going to take a closer look.

Irregular Verbs and the Past Tense

Typically, it’s correct (and easy enough) to say the past tense of a verb ends in an “-ed.” For example, “I drop the kids off in the morning” in the present tense becomes, “I dropped the kids off this morning.” Or, “I scrub the dishes,” in the present changes to “I scrubbed the dishes” in the past tense. Those two letters added to the end of a word are a pretty good indicator of past tense.

Then you come across a verb like “speak.” In the present tense, you’d say, “I speak.” In the past tense, you would not say, “I speaked.” Instead, you’d say, “I spoke.”

Boom. You’ve just found an irregular verb. As you might have guessed, irregular verbs break the standard rule of ending in “-ed” in the past tense.

To further confuse the issue, irregular verbs have no discernible pattern themselves. They’re just … irregular. These irregular verbs are some of the most commonly used in English — “go,” “say,” “see,” “think,” “make,” “take,” “come,” and “know.” These workhorse verbs take on different spellings in the past tense.

In general, irregular verbs are easy enough to spot in the past tense — if it doesn’t end in “-ed,” it’s irregular.

Spotting More Irregular Verbs

Test yourself: Which of these examples of irregular verbs are correct?

  1. She drunk the glass of water.
  2. The phone rung and rung.
  3. The pants shrunk in the dryer.

Answer: Only number three is correct. In one, the correct past tense is “drank,” and in number two, the phone “rang.”

It’s still quite easy to get confused by irregular verbs, especially when you look at the difference between simple past tense and past participles.

For example, “Stacy drived to the public pool where she swum for hours.” Hopefully this sounds wrong to your ears, because it’s just an irregular mess.

There are two irregular verbs in this example, but neither is correct. The first is obvious – “drived” attempts to follow the regular verb “-ed” ending. It sounds awkward, because it’s not a real word at all. The correct (irregular) past tense is “drove.”

The second one is a little trickier. “Swum” is in fact the past participle of the verb “to swim,” but it’s not the simple past, which is “swam.”

The correct version of Stacy’s day at the pool is, “Stacy drove to the public pool where she swam for hours.”

As confusing as irregular verbs may seem, they start to come naturally with practice. What irregular verbs do you still stumble over?

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The Dash Family’s Roles

From: Daily Writing Tips

The en dash is the oft-neglected middle sibling of the horizontal-line family of symbols that serve to connect words and numbers for various reasons.

The em dash (—) is the dashing member of the brood, used somewhat sparingly to indicate a sudden break in syntax—either to signal a shift in sentence construction, as here, or joining with a twin to frame a parenthetical word or phrase (just as a pair of commas would be used in the midst of a sentence or two parentheses would be employed anywhere).

The smallest, the hyphen (-), is the busiest, indicating connections between words, such as when the phrase “highest scoring” is hyphenated to signal its combined modification of the word that follows in the phrase “highest-scoring player” or to link two numbers in reference to a score or vote.

The en dash (–), however, sometimes steps in to take the place of the hyphen: It is employed when an open compound is part of the phrasal adjective, signaling that the entire compound, not just the last word in the compound, is linked to the next word, as in “Civil War–era artifacts” (rather than “Civil War-era” or “Civil-War-era”) or “Los Angeles–to–San Francisco flight” (rather than in “Los Angeles-to-San Francisco flight” or “Los-Angeles-to-San-Francisco flight”).

Note, however, that open compounds need not be proper nouns, as this quip about an advertising agency with a name consisting of a sequence of initials demonstrates: “This alphabet soup–named firm helps get clients on the gravy train.” If a hyphen were used in place of an en dash here, the reference would (confusingly) be to a soup-named agency of an alphabet nature. (Also, some publishers, presumably for aesthetic reasons, employ en dashes in place of em dashes.)

The other major function of an en dash, by the way, is to replace to to indicate a number range, as in “Answer quiz questions 1–10.” (Remember that because scores are not number ranges, a hyphen is the correct symbol for linking two totals.) In both types of usage, a hyphen is often erroneously employed in place of an en dash (though for the sake of simplicity, some publications, especially newspapers, deliberately avoid use of the en dash).

Also, note that although both hyphens and en dashes are employed as minus signs, the minus sign is technically a distinct symbol that in formal publishing is set using a distinct code. In informal usage, an en dash, more equivalent in size to plus and equal signs than a hyphen, is preferable.

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