It Depends

Here’s one for you, language weenies: can you think of an irregular English verb that becomes a regular verb when applied to a particular subject? (I’ll post the answer if nobody gets it in a day or so.)


  1. Kevin Kim says

    Are you counting modals, with their weirdly invariable conjugations (no third-person singular “s” and no other inflections), as irregular verbs? If so, then I’d nominate the verb can, which can also be to can (as in, to put in cans).

    I can can while doing the can-can.

    Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink
  2. Kevin Kim says

    I suppose can can also mean to fire from a job.

    The boss cans people regularly.

    The second sentence might have a very different meaning in an Upton-Sinclair-meets-Stephen-King context.

    Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Nope – nothing so tricky.

    Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink
  4. Jessie Glass says

    Is it “to hang?” (I’ve hung a picture on the wall, but hanged a criminal in the streets.)

    Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    Bingo!!! A hearty congratulations, Jessie. (And great to see you dropping by, too.)

    I’ll also add that for you to have actually hanged a criminal in the streets shows a truly commendable level of civic involvement. Would that we were all so engaged.

    Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:48 am | Permalink
  6. Jessie Glass says


    I’m actually a loyal lurker; I like to keep abreast of how life is treating you and the current conditions on Cape Cod.

    Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:54 am | Permalink

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