Verbs that Function Both as Regular and Irregular

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One of the least talked about subjects in the English Language are verbs, whose conjugations are both regular and irregular. Some are probably thinking why that is the case. There are two arguments for why they are not even mentioned in the classroom:

1. The endings are different but the meanings are the same. This argument applies for the different endings between British and American, where the past and perfect endings have either a -t or an -ed at the end. In many cases they can be used interchangeably. Example of such include

Dream (present) Dreamed/ Dreamt (past simple) Dreamed/ Dreamt (perfect)

Smell (present) Smelled/Smellt (past simple) Smelled/Smellt (perfect)

The same applies for irregular tenses, where a verb both have a regular and irregular form but the meanings are the same and are sometimes used in both types of English. This includes:

Wet (present) Wet/Wetted (past simple) Wet/Wetted (perfect)

Dive (present) Dove/Dived (past simple) Dived (perfect)


2. People would understand the meaning of the words without having to make the difference in conjugation. Two examples come to mind that would counter this argument:

Lie: Lie has two different conjugations but also two different meanings. You can lie to the person to save yourself from trouble, but you cannot lay unless you’re speaking a “red neck” version of English. 😉 By the same token, one can lie down or lay down for taking a nap.

Find: Find has a past tense that has a conjugation of its own. You can found a company and establish it from the ground up, but when you say I find a company (or even finded), then you discovered the company either by research on the internet or by chance while playing hide and seek. 😉


Then there is the third argument which states that the numbers are so few that it would make no sense to learn them. English, like any other foreign language features vocabulary whose difference in pronunciation (including homophones) and lettering (including the affixes) produce different meanings. Therefore it is important to cover all the aspects of each word, including the meanings and the context. This is important especially when translating the words into your own language because each word has a different equivalent, regardless of how the English word is conjugated.

I did some research and asked some of the native speakers and experts who taught English and found that verbs with both types of conjugation can be divided up into different categories. The German translations for each word is marked in orange. They include the following:


American <=> British Type 1:  Word pairs that have the same meaning but the endings in past/perfect tenses are both –ed and –t. As a rule, the irregular forms are typically British English; the regular forms are typically American

VerbPresent + V-ingPast SimplePerfect FormMeaning/ Translation
dreamdreamingdreameddreamedTo think of something while sleeping
dreamdreamingdreamtdreamtGerman: schlafen
learnlearninglearnedlearnedTo collect knowledge for future use
learnlearninglearntlearntGerman: lernen
spoilspoilingspoiledspoiledTo ruin a food product or event
spoilspoilingspoiltspoiltGerman: verderben
burnburningburnedburnedTo apply heat to a surface sometimes causing a fire
burnburningburntburntGerman: brennen
leanleaningleanedleanedTo tilt against someone or something
leanleaningleantleantGerman: neigen
smellsmellingsmelledsmelledTo have a scent of an object or area
smellsmellingsmeltsmeltGerman: riechen
spillspillingspilledspilledTo empty the contents onto a surface
spillspillingspiltspiltGerman: verschütten oder verstreuen


American <=> British Type 2 Word pairings where even though the meaning is the same, the verb endings with –ed are used in British English; in American English they stay the same and are considered irregular verbs.

VerbPresent + V-ingPast SimplePerfect FormMeaning/ Translation
quitquittingquittedquittedTo discontinue doing
quitquittingquitquitGerman: aufhören
wetwettingwettedwettedTo add fluid to a surface to make it softer
wetwettingwetwetGerman: nass machen


Regular British and Irregular American Forms:  Word pairings that function both as a regular as well as an irregular verb form but have the same meaning; can be used in both British and American English.

VerbPresent + V-ingPast SimplePerfect FormMeaning/ Translation
lightlightinglightedlightedTo make glow
lightlightinglitlitGerman: beleuchten, anzünden, Feuer machen, u.A.
divedivingdiveddivedTo jump head first into the water; to drop rapidly
divedivingdovedivedGerman: Kopfsprung machen; fallen/ sinken


Present Pairs with Different Meanings: Word pairs where each verb in present simple tense has a different meaning per conjugated regular and irregular form

Verb Present + V- ing Past Simple Perfect Form Meaning/ Translation
ringringingringedringedForming a circle around something/ German: kreiseln
ringringingrangrungMaking a sound like a bell on a telephone/ German: ringen
shineshiningshinedshinedTo polish/ German: polieren
shineshiningshoneshoneTo glow or cast with light/ German: scheinen
slayslayingslayedslayedTo strongly impress someone/ German: beeindrücken
slayslayingslewslainTo kill or destroy/ German:  töten od. zerschlagen
hanghanginghunghungTo attach something high off the ground and allow to sway/ German: hängen
hanghanginghangedhangedTo be suspended by neck in mid-air, causing death/ German:  erhängen
abide abidingabidedabidedTo continue to live and act in a similar fashion/  German fortbestehen; ertragen
abideabidingabodeabodeTo live in a home/dwelling/residence   German: leben/wohnen


Past Pairs with Different Meanings: Word pairs whose past simple tense form has its own set of conjugations and meaning. The past tense version functions as a regular verb form.

VerbPresent + V-ing Past Simple Perfect Form Meaning/ Translation
findfindingfoundfoundLook for something/ finden
foundfoundingfoundedfoundedEstablishing a business or organization/   German: (be)gründen
windwindingwoundwoundWrap around something/   German: (auf)wickeln
woundwoundingwoundedwoundedTo injure someone’s feelings or through a knife-stab or gunshot/   German: verletzen
fallfallingfellfallenTo drop down to the ground from above/ German: fallen
fellfellingfelledfelledTo cut down a tree or tall object / German: fällen
feelfeelingfeltfeltTo sense something/ German: (sich) fühlen
feltfeltingfeltedfeltedTo try and perceive or twist/ German: wahrnehmen/ empfinden
seeseeingsawSeenTo look at something with the eyes/  German:  sehen
sawsawingsawedsawnTo cut apart a tree or object with a saw/ German:  segen
bearbearingborebornTo make into life; tolerate/    German: gebären; tolerieren
boreboringboredboredTo make uninteresting or tiring/   German: langweilen; langweilig machen


Despite having a list for each of the categories, I also concluded that there are more examples of such verbs in English that exist, yet they are at best seldomly mentioned. Furthermore there may be a little bit of leeway in terms of the word pairs and the meanings. Therefore I would like to ask you to mention any further examples that you know in the language that fit into one of the five abovementioned categories. Any missing verbs will be added including the conjugations and the German translations. You will do yourself, yours truly as well as teachers of English as a Foreign Language and the students (regardless of age and school) a big favor. 🙂

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