Irregular English verbs: -aught and -ought

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

A large class of irregular English verbs are characterized by having /ɔːt/ in their pronunciation in the past tense and past participle. In most cases, /ɔːt/ is spelled as “ought”:

beseech* – besought – besought
bring – brought – brought
buy – bought – bought; also “overbuy”
fight – fought – fought; also “outfight”
seek – sought – sought
think – thought – thought; also “bethink”, “misthink”, “rethink”

* “Beseech” is an uncommon (and somewhat dated) verb meaning “to beg, to request in an anxious way”.

There are two more verb roots following the same pattern but with /ɔːt/ being spelled as “aught”:

catch – caught – caught
teach – taught – taught; also “misteach” and “reteach”

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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