Write in Style: A Guide to Good English

By Richard Palmer | Go to book overview

19

INFLECTIONS
An inflection means a change in the form of a word according to the job it is doing. English is not highly inflected, especially compared to several European languages, but there are still many times when inflection is required. This section looks at all of them, although it is not an exhaustive treatment. Occasionally my remarks will be brief, as we have come across some of these instances of inflection during the previous chapter on Parts of Speech.
Irregular verbs
A regular verb is one whose forms are determined by rules and is thus predictable. If we take the three verbs look, listen and perform we find they all behave alike when changes are required:
1. They add -s to form the 3rd person present singular.
2. The past participle and simple past tense are formed by adding -ed.
3. The present participle is formed by adding -ing.

There are well over 300 verbs which do not obey one or more of these procedures. Space precludes listing them all; besides, I think that would be tedious rather than helpful-both to read and to write. What is worthwhile is to look at the various kinds of irregular verb, with examples of each.


The eight classes of irregular verb

A. A number of verbs seem to be entirely regular, but they incorporate a change of spelling in one or more of their forms. For example:

(a) stop takes a double p in both participle forms and in the simple past:

stopping

stopped

they stopped

(b) So does hop:

-274-

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