Apart from modals what defective verbs exist? For example beware and begone.

  • In the Carolinas one hears "We might can do that." Modal auxiliary verbs are somewhat less defective there than in most places. Jan 21, 2019 at 1:13

1 Answer 1


There aren't many defective verbs in English, but it's difficult to say exactly how many there are because some words might or might not be defective, depending on how willing you are to accept weird-sounding forms.

For example, various linguists seem to have noted that for many English speakers, nothing sounds natural as the past participle of the verb stride. ("I had stridden/strode/strid?") See this Language Log post: "When you stride away, what is it that you've done?", October 20, 2008, by Geoffrey K. Pullum, and this article: "Transderivational relations and paradigm gaps in Russian verbs", by Katya Pertsova.

Pullum notes that the lack of an acceptable past participle form for stride feels more accidental than the lack of non-finite forms for modals, so even if they can both be described as "defective verbs", the reason stride lacks a past-participle form might be different from the reason modals lack a past-participle form.

"A corpus study of some rare English verbs", by Laurie Bauer, mentions a few other possible candidates (as well as discussing some verbs that are definitely not defective, but that show variability in their conjugation). The ones that I found most convincing as possible defective verbs are repute and rumo(u)r, which most often occur in passive-looking constructions in the forms reputed and rumo(u)red (although I'm not sure how clearly we can establish that these are verb forms and not adjectives; see the question Is "rumored" a verb or an adjective (a participle adjective)?). However, it seems that at least a few speakers do find it acceptable to use rumor or repute as an active-voice verb.

  • 1
    "I strode away"? Sounds fine to me.
    – Mitch
    Aug 19, 2018 at 2:25
  • 2
    @Mitch That’s not perfect: asking what it is that you have done requires an answer of “I’ve X”, for values of X uncomfortable to many of us, Strider perhaps excepted.
    – tchrist
    Aug 19, 2018 at 2:26
  • For me, there's no acceptable past participle for wake. *I have woken/woke/waked at 5am every day this week. Waken, awake, and awaken forms don't mean the same thing, so I can't use them. Aug 19, 2018 at 3:16
  • There’s also quoth (only used in the first and third person simple past) and a few more in that vein, which my tired brain cannot recall. I’m surprised that stridden is unnatural to so many; it’s perfectly natural to me. @John How does awake differ from wake in your example? “I [a]wake at 5 AM every day” means precisely the same thing with both verbs to me (and is, in both cases, a big fat lie; it’s nearly six now, and I’m still not even in bed). “I have awoken at 5 AM every day this week” is what I would say, but I’d say “I awake at 5 AM” as well (or ‘wake up’ / ‘have woken up’). Aug 19, 2018 at 3:49
  • @JohnLawler, I was raised hearing my mom say, "I've woken up before my alarm every day this week." She was particularly persnickety about language, fwiw. Not saying that means it's the only or the correct answer: just one that rings true for me.
    – Verbiwhore
    Aug 19, 2018 at 3:56

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