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Top 10 most used verbs in English? What do they have in common?

Here are the ten most heavily used verbs in the English language: be, have, do, say, make, go, take, come, see, get. 

The feature they have in common is that they are all irregular. That means that they do not have the regular endings found in verbs such as paint (I paint, I painted, he painted). 

Why are irregular verbs so heavily used?

There are around 180 irregular verbs in English. This is a small fraction of the many thousands of regular verbs. Nonetheless irregulars make up 70% of the verbs in everyday use.

So how have these tricky customers evolved? And why are they so central to English?
See this post I wrote for the OUP blog.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for the post. I am interested in the suffix -ought. Like in bought, brought, thought and etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a curious one. Here is a definition of the stem word:
      ught (v.)
      Old English ahte "owned, possessed," past tense of agan "to own, possess, owe" (see owe). As a past tense of owe, it shared in that word's evolution and meant at times in Middle English "possessed" and "under obligation to pay." It has been detached from owe since 17c., though he aught me ten pounds is recorded as active in East Anglian dialect from c.1825. As an auxiliary verb expressing duty or obligation (late 12c., the main modern use), it represents the past subjunctive.
      ought (n.)
      "zero, cipher," 1844, probably a misdivision of a nought (see nought; for misdivision, see N); meaning probably influenced by aught "anything." From http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=ought

      Delete
  2. what about the 'f' word?:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not as a verb and not in polite company - on this blog, for example. But I take your point.

      Delete

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