Sunday, February 3, 2008

Let's Hear It for the Irregular Verb

Irregular verbs are the illegal immigrants of grammar, sneaking across borders, cultures, and languages, working every bit as hard as the regular verbs, adding a sense of the notional and idiosyncratic to the sound of language. They are willing to listen to rules of grammar but seek to work out each in its own way a memorable set of conjugations. They are the hybrid, lyrical vigor of English. Italian has a built-in quality that makes it so apt for opera and song, but it better watch out; Brazillian Portuguese is mellifluous and as open to suggestion and borrowing from other languages as American English

Irregular verbs are often a reminder of the Saxon heritage of our language; in other languages they literally speak to the fact that a conjugation may scan logically but still may sound forced or awkward.

An irregular verb is doesn't take the -ed ending for the Past Simple and Past Participle forms. To add to the irregularity, some irregular verbs do not change; put put put, and to add a sense of hilarity to the calculus, yet other irregular verbss change completely; buy bought bought.

In modern American English and English English, irregular verbs are considered strong verbs, which means they don't have to mess with standardization rules. They literally speak for themselves.

It is good to have these guys around.

P.S. Write is an irregular verb.


R.L. Bourges said...

phew! so I can write either "disproven" or "disproved" after all. hurrah for the irregulars (thought I'd throw in a Brit variant to hurray while I was at it.) Oh, let's be reckless why not? here's a French hourrah while I'm at it.

tut-tut said...

Your post sent me to my little Harbrace College Handbook, where I found that Be is the most irregular verb in the English language, with 8 forms: be, am is, are, being, was, were, been!

Lori Witzel said...

Where were you when I was suffering through English classes full of the pain of diagrammed sentences?

Where was this post when I was mangling beginning French because the teachers taught parts of speech and grammar, rather than how to speak and how to listen?

Must. Build. Time. Machine.