English Lesson #54 - Regular and Irregular Verbs Using Past Tense

 The Past Tense

The English past tense is composed of regular verbs and irregular verbs. Forming the past tense of regular verbs is quite simple: drop the particle word to from an infinitive and then add the suffix -ed. Verbs that end in -y change to -i- and then add the ending -ed. All persons have the same past tense form.

Pronoun          to look to marry   to try

I          looked married   tried

you          looked married   tried

he / she / it looked married   tried

we         looked married    tried

they looked married tried

However, if the final -y of a verb is preceded by a vowel (a, e, i, o, u), the -y does not change to -i-. In most cases, the suffix -ed is simply added to the verb. Following are a few exceptions:

Pronoun                to play to pay     to say

I                played paid said

you                played      paid said

he / she / it        played paid said

we                played paid said

they         played paid said

Exercise 3

Fill in the blank of each sentence with the present tense conjugation of the verb provided in parentheses .Then rewrite the sentence in the past tense.
For example:

The children play in the garden. (to play) The children played in the garden.

1. My cousin                      my lawn mower. (to borrow)

2. We usually                    our relatives at holiday time. (to visit)

3. She                for dinner with a personal check. (to pay)

4. I            the boys and girls to some ice cream. (to treat)

5. He never             my instructions. (to follow)

6. Mr. Jennings              a meeting for 5 P.M. (to call)

7. No one              my sister’s chocolate cake. (to try)

8. Rick and Bill         that they want to be astronauts. (to say)

9. They          to take a trip to South America. (to plan)

10. It            into a complicated problem. (to develop)

Irregular Verbs in the Past Tense

The past tense of irregular verbs is more complex. Some verbs, for example, look identical in both the present and past tenses (with the exception of the third-person singular of the present tense). Some verbs of this type are to cut, to let, to rid, to bet, to beat, to burst, to fit, and to hit. Let’s compare the present and past tense of such verbs in the first- and third-person singular.

Infinitive         Present Tense Past Tense

to cut I cut / he cuts I cut / he cut

to hit I hit / he hits I hit / he hit

to let I let / he lets I let / he let

When just looking at the phrase you bet, you cannot tell which tense the verb is in. The context and meaning of the sentence provide the information that tells the tense of the verb. For example:

Yesterday I bet that our team would win. (“yesterday”   past tense)

She sets the clock. (“sets”   conjugated for third-person singular of the present tense)

They pretend to lose and let me win. (“pretend”   present tense; therefore, “let”   present tense)

Exercise 4

Using the subject and verb provided, write a sentence in the present tense. Then rewrite the sentence in the past tense. For example:
she / to let
She lets me use her computer.
She let me use her computer.
1. he / to hit
2. 2. it / to burst
3. 3. I / to cut
4. 4. Mark / to fit
5. 5. we / to beat
6. 6. she / to rid
7. 7. Ms. Lopez / to set
8. 8. you / to put
9. 9. they / to wed
10. 10. my brother-in-law / to quit
Irregular Verbs That Change the Base Form
The past tense of many other irregular verbs is created by making a change in the base form of the verb. This usually occurs with a vowel change—for example, to come → came, to see → saw, to know → knew. Let’s look at some high-frequency verbs and how they change from the present tense to the past tense.
Infinitive Present Tense        Past Tense
to speak     I speak / he speaks       I spoke / he spoke
to drive         I drive / he drives          I drove / he drove
to fall I fall / he falls       I fell / he fell
Not all irregular verbs make only a vowel change in the past tense. Let’s look at some that form the past tense by some other irregularity, possibly in addition to a vowel change.
Infinitive Present Tense Past Tense
to sell I sell / he sells I sold / he sold
to send         I send / he sends I sent / he sent
to fly         I fly / he flies I flew / he flew


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