Verb Present Form

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How to Form Regular and Irregular Verb Past Forms

The past form indicates actions that happened before now. The past forms are of two types: regular and irregular.

Patterns for Regular Verbs Are Predictable

Regular verbs form the past tense by adding -ed to the base form or -d if the base form already ends in -e :

Base FormRegular Past Form
startstarted
arrivearrived

The past form ending of regular verbs is known to have three different, but fairly predictable, pronunciations.

If the base form ends in a /t/ or /d/ sound, the -ed is pronounced as a separate syllable rhyming with bud.

Base FormPast Form Pronounced As A Separate Syllable.
votevoted
decidedecided

If however, the base form ends in a silent consonant sound other than /t/, the -ed is pronounced /t/.

The final consonants with voiceless sound are commonly spelled with a p, ck, k, s, sh, ch, tch, x,f, or gh (if it’s pronounced /f/) :

Base FormPast Form Pronounced As /t/
taptapped
attackattacked
missmissed
matchmatched
coughcoughed

However, when the base form ends in a single consonant preceded by a stressed short vowel, the consonant is typically doubled to form the past: permit ~ permitted, stop ~ stopped.

If on the other hand, the base form ends in a pronounced vowel or in a voiced consonant sound other than /d/, the -ed is pronounced /d/.

The voiced consonants are typically spelled with a b, g, z, j, m, n, l, or r :

Base FormPast Form Pronounced As /d/
tietied
enjoyenjoyed
killkilled
carecared
Note that if the base form ends in -y without a preceding vowel, the -y changes to -ie before the -d ending (cry ~ cried ). Likewise note the spellings of the past forms of lay and pay: laid and paid, respectively.

Patterns for Irregular Verbs Are Unpredictable

When it comes to irregular verbs, the past forms reflect older patterns for forming the past tense. These patterns have merged to such an extent that it is not practical to learn the past forms of irregular verbs on the basis of their historical patterns.

Irregular verbs vary considerably in patterns but similarities exist, however, in how some irregular verbs form the past tense:

Vowel ChangeVowel Change (+ -d)Vowel Change
(+ -t)
No Change
Base FormPastBase FormPastBase FormPastBase FormPast
ringrangtelltoldkneelkneltbetbet
singsangsellsoldfeelfeltputput
sweepsweptridrid
sleepslept
keepkept

The following is a brief summary of past forms for some of the most common irregular verbs in English:

Base FormPast Form
bewas/were
havehad
dodid
saysaid (rhymes with fed )
makemade
gowent
taketook
comecame
seesaw
findfound
getgot
givegave
knowknew
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