Problems with Irregularity?

The teacher was working on grammar with her class.  “If I say that I have went, is that correct or incorrect?”

“Incorrect!” the children responded.

“And why is it incorrect?” the teacher asked.

Little Timmy replied, “Because you haven’t went yet!”

Pity any person learning English as a second language.  Even we native speakers get tripped up by all the exceptions to the rules.  When not every past tense of a verb ends in some derivative of ed, it can take a few years during childhood to get the irregulars nailed down.

Such tots are often depicted as using words like bited or drawed, but a few usages do continue to plague some folks into adulthood.  Lay and lie are probably the biggest culprits.  There are people who still wonder “Do I lay down when I go to bed?”  Well, that depends.  Are you going to lie down now?  Or did you lay down last night?

Set and sit are their relatives, but less troublesome.  At least sit doesn’t have set as a past tense.

Since we’re in the holiday season, the most hilarious line in that song about the Grinch (the cartoon version) claims the three words that best describe him are stinkstankstunk.  But don’t get any ideas it’s correct to say thinkthankthunk.

Using the word hang in the past tense is also dependent on whether its subject is animate or inanimate.  Somebody hung that picture last century, but after he was caught horse thieving, he got hanged … which made him inanimate.

It seems fitting to wrap this up with another joke:

Father was disappointed after looking over his son’s report card.  “If you had a little more spunk, your grades would be better.  Do you know what spunk means?”

“Sure, Dad, it’s the past participle of spank.”

I’ve got a million of them, although quantity doesn’t mean quality….


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