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Consider these verbs in past tense:

faxed, emailed, googled

they are all regular verbs made out of new nouns.
Are there any new irregular verbs that I'm not aware of?

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executive summary: possible, but very unlikely given the trend to regularize -and- given universal instruction and media. –  Mitch Jan 4 '12 at 18:06
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Who voted to close as "not constructive" without the even the courtesy of a comment? Even if "shat" turns out to be a red herring, there seems to be a question mark over "tweeted/twit/twat", and there may well be other marginal cases deserving of a mention. –  FumbleFingers Jan 4 '12 at 19:10
    
@FumbleFingers - I don't know who voted to close, or why (this question about new irregular verbs seems to me to be a good question) but as I understand it, your comment is off-topic here, and belongs in meta. –  jwpat7 Jan 4 '12 at 21:42
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@jwpat7: The basic issue has been raised on meta several times (here, for example). But I was hoping the downvoter might actually respond - obviously the chances of that are pretty low anyway, but they'd be about zero if I'd raised the matter in meta. –  FumbleFingers Jan 4 '12 at 23:16
    
I am going to create one... brb –  ajax333221 Apr 19 '12 at 23:48

5 Answers 5

up vote 20 down vote accepted

I think it's unlikely a new irregular verb will catch on today, given the marked tendency to modify/discard even the ones we still have.

Of the 312 [irregular verbs] which were operative in Old English, only 66 (ie 34%) remain irregular in the twentieth century. And frankly, most of them aren't particularly well-known. Most people don't even realise that wrought, for example, is a past tense form of to work - they just think it's a word that sometimes comes before iron.

You sometimes hear, for example, "thunk" as a "neologistic" past tense for "to think" (similarly snoze, squoze, shat). I doubt such deliberately quirky usage is ever likely to become widespread, but the Internet at large does still seem to be undecided over tweeted, twat, twot, twittered, twitted.

It's worth noting this from one of the best in the field - Steven Pinker...

The ten commonest verbs in English (be, have, do, say, make, go, take, come, see, and get) are all irregular, and about 70% of the time we use a verb, it is an irregular verb.

My example "shat" above may be an exception that proves the rule. Until I read Pinker's summary in the link, I had no real opinion on whether it was ever a "grammatically valid" form. For obvious reasons grammarians of the past might well not have included "to shit" in lists of irregular verbs, even if they knew it was one. Pinker had it as an example of cool, funny, distinctive "neologistically irregular" forms, so I just copied it in. But even he could be mistaken - I know I'm being quirky if I say "The cat shat on the mat", but to my mind the only problem with "Some bloody fox shat on my new decking last night!" is the circumstances causing me to say it, not the grammar itself.

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+1. Unless I'm mistaken, all recent verbs (including the ones cited in the OP) form the past tense regularly. –  Irene Jan 4 '12 at 17:43
    
@Irene: That last statistic I just added from Steven Pinker is key. I think the main reason we still have any irregular verbs at all is because it's very difficult to do anything about the really common ones, and that kinda forces us to be a bit more tolerant of the coat-tailers. –  FumbleFingers Jan 4 '12 at 17:49
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The example you give of "shat" is a good one.... but it is not used in a "deliberately quirky way" everywhere. Personally, I would always use shat instead of shitted and I'm confident others will back me up. If you thing shat is an apt example, then it actually disproves your point. –  ThePopMachine Jan 4 '12 at 17:51
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For a verb to be irregular means it has to be learned several times in several forms, just like it was several verbs. Only very common verbs are worth that amount of attention, and only very common verbs last as irregulars, for that reason. –  John Lawler Jan 4 '12 at 17:57
    
@ThePopMachine: My personal instinct was not to include "shat", because I also tend to use it unselfconsciously. But I'd already come up with "thunk" myself, and when I saw Pinker had listed snoze, squoze, shat as examples of "neologistic irregular forms" I just copied the lot. Perhaps I should edit to reflect that. –  FumbleFingers Jan 4 '12 at 17:57

It is certainly possible for a regular verb to become irregular; it has happened with a few verbs in the United States, most notably sneak/snuck/snuck, but also dive/dove/dived. Some dialects also have drag/drug/drug, this is definitely viewed as non-standard.

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We covered "snuck" here months ago, but I kinda thought it was just an example of a verb that always was irregular in certain dialects. On reflection though, I think you're right - just because the general trend is towards regular forms, doesn't mean there can't be exceptions. –  FumbleFingers Jan 4 '12 at 19:19
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I'm pretty sure that sneak always used to be regular. From Merriam-Webster: "From its earliest appearance in print in the late 19th century as a dialectal and probably uneducated form, the past and past participle snuck has risen to the status of standard and to approximate equality with sneaked. It is most common in the United States and Canada but has also been spotted in British and Australian English." I'm not so sure that dive and drag were always regular. –  Peter Shor Jan 4 '12 at 19:26
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You do not want to use drug; it marks you the same way that ain't does. But dove is a perfectly respectable past tense in the U.S. –  Peter Shor Jan 4 '12 at 19:48
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Some of our old "irregular" verbs are regular according to rules that are no longer as prevalent in the language. E.g. shake and take follow the same pattern. Seems like any new "irregular" verbs will be following these familiar-but-no-longer-most-prevalent patterns. If they followed no familiar pattern, the odd forms would likely be ignored as nonsense. –  LarsH Jan 4 '12 at 22:19
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Also "pet" for some speakers, according to literalminded.wordpress.com/2006/08/25/…. (And I can vouch for it, since I'm one of those speakers.) –  ruakh Jan 4 '12 at 23:16

It could happen.

For example, I have observed a lot of confusion/wordplay regarding what the past tense of "tweet" (as in Twitter) should be. I have heard tweeted, twit, and even twat jokingly. I believe twit or twat could (or could have) become standard. Go google "past tense of tweet".

Side note: obviously the issue of difficulty in pronunciation is partly in play for shitted and tweeted. Also, there is some geeky aesthetic in play: cf. plural of Unix and Vax (sometimes Unices and Vaxen)

People enjoy wordplay and with all the neologisms constantly created, it will happen definitively sooner or later if no one can come up with a current example.

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It's true people enjoy wordplay, and I've no doubt quite a few people have said, for example, "The microwave just pang/pung" instead of "pinged". But it would take a lot more than that to convince me this means that eventually at least one such coinage is bound to become the standard form for the relevant verb. Google currently says 31K hits for "I twitted", and 96K for "I twit", as against 1.6M for "I tweeted", and in all honesty I can't really see the position being reversed even there. –  FumbleFingers Jan 4 '12 at 22:44
    
@FumbleFingers. Good discussion. In a couple years when the next big thing hits (or the thing after that) and I get reminded of this, I will I-told-you-so. –  ThePopMachine Jan 4 '12 at 23:07
    
Well I've already toned down the original "inconceivable" to "unlikely" in my own answer (partly on account of your own robust championing of the contrary position! :) So by the time your day of triumph finally comes, I might have already edited it all the way round to "probable". This is certainly turning out to be a live issue though, so we should be grateful to @z-boss for bringing it up. I must admit I'm a bit surprised no-one thought to ask it on ELU before - maybe they did, but I think this one has already gotten too much attention to be closed as a dup now. –  FumbleFingers Jan 4 '12 at 23:28

Any genuinely new verb will almost have to be regular: that's pretty close to what regular means. But historically, words get taken up, modified, and meanings changed until it isn't entirely clear what the 'regular' form would be. Troubleshoot is an example: is it an offshoot of shoot, with past troubleshot, or a new word, with past tense troubleshooted?
(If you think you know the answer, post it here: Which is correct: "troubleshooted" or "troubleshot"?)

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"that's pretty close to what regular means" - huh? 'Regular' means 'new'? –  LarsH Jan 4 '12 at 21:36
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@LarsH: no, 'regular' means 'the rules new words are expected to follow', among other things –  TimLymington Jan 4 '12 at 21:59
    
OK, that's more clear, though I don't think the "new" aspect is part of the meaning of "regular". –  LarsH Jan 4 '12 at 22:12
    
People aren’t thinking out of the box here. Merely making another strong verb is nothing impressive. For something truly irregular, you need something that is suppletive or defective or some such rarity. Try making a new modal and see how far you get, for example. –  tchrist Nov 16 '12 at 7:30

Is it possible for a new irregular verb to appear in English language?

Well believe it or not this question can actually be read multiple ways...

Is it possible for English speakers to begin using a new irregular verb?

Yes! Though it's very uncommon. (In fact it's much more common for irregular verbs to die out and be replaced by regular verbs.)

The most well-known example is regular sneak | sneaked forking into also sneak | snuck beginning in the early 20th century.

Is it possible for a new irregular verb to be considered standard in English?

Possibly, but it ain't easy. Even though snuck has been around for about a century, and many people don't even know the word sneaked, there are still prescriptivists telling people not to use snuck because it's not correct. But despite such complaints, snuck has made it into at least some dictionaries.

Is it possible for a new defective verb to appear in English language?

Defective verbs are verbs which lack one or more standard forms.

Some words or forms entering common usage, especially in the hi-tech realm seem to be somewhere between irregular verbs and defective verbs. They mostly seem to come about when an unhyphenated single-word compound noun related to a hyphenated or two-word compound verb is then verbed back in its single-word form.

I see that's a bit hard to read and understand but let me illustrate:

  • to log in is a 2-word compound verb (you may call it a verb phrase or a phrasal verb, etc if you wish)
  • login is a noun related to log in - I'm not sure if any prescriptivists have any issues with this.
  • to login is now widely used as a single-word verb. Is it accepted as standard? Does it have any problems.

Well, what happens when you want to use it in any other form or tense?

If log in is the correct base form:

  • I / you / we / they log in.
  • He / she / it logs in.
  • I logged in yesterday.
  • I have logged in many times.
  • I am logging in right now.

If login is also a correct base form:

  • I / you / we / they login.
  • He / she / it logins. ??
  • I loggedin yesterday. ??
  • I have loggedin many times. ??
  • I am loggingin right now. ??

So, if login is accepted as correct but in other forms it becomes logs in, logged in, logging in; is it now an irregular verb and/or a defective verb? Good question!!

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A great argument that login is not (yet) really a single word. –  GEdgar Jan 6 '12 at 16:11

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