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Forming the Past Tense of Regular Verbs

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The tense of a verb suggests the time of its action--present, past, or future. We rely on the past tense to show that an action has already been completed.

Adding -d or -ed to Form the Past Tense

In the following sentences, the verbs in bold are in the past tense:
    Wallace moved into his new house last Saturday.
    Yesterday I visited him for tea.
Both move and visit are called regular verbs because they have the same past-tense ending of -ed.

If the present form of a regular verb ends in -e, we add -d to form the past tense:

    Wallace and Gromit move frequently. (present tense)
    Wallace and Gromit moved into their new house last Saturday. (past tense)

If the present form of a regular verb ends in a letter other than -e, we usually add -ed to form the past tense:

    I visit Wallace and Gromit every Tuesday evening. (present tense)
    Yesterday I visited them for tea. (past tense)
Note that a spelling rule comes into play with verbs ending in -y. If the present form of a regular verb ends in -y preceded by a consonant (for example, cry, fry, try, carry), change the y to i and add -ed to form the past tense (cried, fried, tried, carried):
    Wallace and Gromit carry the cheese and crackers into the kitchen. (present tense)
    Wallace and Gromit carried the cheese and crackers into the kitchen. (past tense)
Because all regular verbs have the same -ed ending in the past tense no matter what the subject is, subject-verb agreement is not a problem.

The Different Sounds of the -ed Ending

Don't let the sound of an -ed ending ever trick you into making a spelling error when you form the past tense. While we do hear a d sound at the end of some verbs (for example, moved and visited), we hear a t sound at the end of others (promised, laughed). Also, if you have a habit when you speak of clipping off word endings, don't do this when you write. No matter what sound you hear or fail to hear when you pronounce a regular verb in the past tense, be careful when you write to add -d or -ed at the end.

EXERCISE: Forming the Past Tense of Regular Verbs

The first sentence in each set below contains a verb in the present tense. Complete the second sentence in each set by adding -d or -ed to the verb in parentheses to form the past tense. When you're done, compare your responses with the answers at the end of the exercise.

  1. Carrot Top uses unusual props in his comedy act. Recently he (use) a double-wide toilet seat.
  2. Halley's Comet appears every 76 years. It last (appear) in 1986.
  3. We rarely punish the children. However, we (punish) them yesterday for spray-painting the dog.
  4. Wallace likes knitting and reading the newspaper. Even as a boy, he (like) to invent things.
  5. Wallace enjoys Wensleydale cheese and a nice cup of tea. When he was younger, Wallace (enjoy) cheddar cheese.
  6. I usually purchase a season ticket from the box office. Yesterday I (purchase) a ticket over the Internet.
  7. Gromit graduates from college today. Last year he (graduate) from Dogwarts University.
  8. Please carry this invention upstairs for me. I (carry) it into the house.
  9. Mookie and Buddy cry when they are hungry. Last night they (cry) for over an hour.
  10. Gromit tries very hard to be helpful. He (try) too hard last week.

ANSWERS:
1. used; 2. appeared; 3. punished; 4. liked; 5. enjoyed; 6. purchased; 7. graduated; 8. carried; 9. cried; 10. tried.

NEXT: The Present-Perfect Tense: Using Has and Have with the Past Participle

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