Weak Verbs

by Craig Shrives

What Are Weak Verbs? (with Examples)

A weak verb is one that ends "-d" or "-t" for its past forms (i.e., its simple past tense and past participle).

A weak verb is not the same as a regular verb, which is a verb that complies with the normal rules forming its various forms. Some weak verbs are irregular verbs. If you're learning or teaching English, you should concentrate on regular verbs and irregular verbs. The terms "weak verb" and "strong verb" derive from the study of Germanic languages.

Ineffective Verbs

The term "weak verb" is not always reserved for the grammatical classification of Germanic verbs. It is often used to mean an "ineffective verb." Here is an example of a weak (i.e. ineffective) verb:
  • He looked at his rival angrily.
  • (Here, the verb "looked" is ineffective. It needs the word "angrily" to work.)
  • He glared at his rival.
  • (The verb "glared" is effective. We can now dispense with "angrily.")
Read more about choosing the right verb to dispense with adverbs (see Issue 1).

Examples of Weak Verbs

Here are some examples of weak verbs. Note the end column, which states whether the verb is regular or irregular.
Weak VerbSimple Past TensePast ParticipleComment
lovelovedhas lovedregular verb
playplayedhas playedregular verb
creepcrepthas creptirregular verb
shootshothas shotirregular verb
putputhas putirregular verb
The term "weak verb" incorporates all regular verbs but also a lot of irregular verbs.

Types of Weak Verb

There are four types of weak verb:

(Type 1) Past form adds "-d", "-ed", or "-t" without a change of vowel sound.

For example:
Weak VerbSimple Past TensePast ParticipleComment
lovelovedhas lovedregular verb
hatehatedhas hatedregular verb
movemovedhas movedregular verb

(Type 2) Past form adds "-d", or "-t" with a change of vowel sound.

For example:
Weak VerbSimple Past TensePast ParticipleComment
telltoldhas toldirregular verb
keepkepthas keptirregular verb

(Type 3) Past form retains the "-d", or "-t" ending and shortens the vowel sound.

For example:
Weak VerbSimple Past TensePast ParticipleComment
meetmethas metirregular verb
bleedbledhas bledirregular verb

(Type 4) Past form is the same as the base form.

For example:
Weak VerbSimple Past TensePast ParticipleComment
putputhas putirregular verb
setsethas setirregular verb

Regular Verbs Are Weak Verbs

A regular verb is a type of weak verb.

The terms "regular verb" and "weak verb" are not synonyms (i.e., they do not mean the same). Similarly, the terms "irregular verb" and "strong verb" are not synonyms.

Here is an infographic explaining how verbs are classified:
strong, weak, regular, irregular verbs
If you disagree with this classification, please tell us using this form. If you're learning or teaching English, you do not need to worry about the term "weak verb." You should go now to the page on regular verbs.

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See Also

200 irregular verbs in English 130 regular verbs in English What are regular verbs? What are irregular verbs? What is the simple past tense? What are past participles? What is the base form of a verb? What are stative verbs? What are copular verbs? What are modal verbs? Glossary of grammatical terms

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