Video-Fix: Why are verbs irregular in English?

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Why are some verbs irregluar

Why do we say swim-swam and not swim-swimmed? Have you ever wondered for what reason some verbs are irregular? In this week’s Video-Fix, we are looking into English verbs to solve this conundrum. The English language only has about 200 irregular verbs. That makes up 3 percent of the existing total verbs. Most verbs in English are regular, as for instance, happen-happened. Where do the verbs originate? Who invented them?

Irregular verbs are the oldest verbs we have. They originate from the parent tongue Proto-Indo-European. English belongs to the West Germanic languages of the Indo-European language family. The meaning and tense of words could be changed through a system where vowel sounds were swapped. This Indo-European system is called “Ablaut”. Later, the past tense was created by adding <-t> or <-ed> at the end in the time of Proto-Germanic. English grew from this Proto-Germanic language and newly added words became regular ones. The most frequently used verbs have the tendency to remain irregular. In modern English, for example, the verb ride has five forms (ride, rides, rode, riding, ridden), whereas the Old English verb ridan had 13 forms. Watch the video and let the creator of the video explain verbs in an entertaining way.


Victoria Milhan

Written by Victoria Milhan, Schuman Communication Trainee Terminology Coordination Unit. She holds master’s degrees in English Language (linguistics) and Medieval English Literature, Newer English Literature and Celtic Studies. Victoria is enrolled as a PhD student at Bonn University in Germany.