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Simple Past Tense of Regular English Verbs

Simple Past Tense of Regular English Verbs

The simple past tense describes completed actions, describes past habits and routines, states past facts and truths, and expresses past thoughts and feelings. English verbs fall into one of two categories—regular or irregular—depending on the formation of the simple past tense. Regular verbs take an -ed suffix in the simple past tense while irregular verbs experience some sort of sound change. The following sections explain how to form and pronounce the simple past of regular verbs in English. Regular verbs are verbs in Germanic languages whose simple past tense and past participle are identical in form. Regular verbs are also referred to as weak verbs.

Forming Regular Simple Past Tense Verbs

To form the simple past of most regular verbs in English, simply add the suffix -ed to the base form of the verb. The base form of a verb is defined as the infinitive without the p-word to infinitive marker. For example:

  • Infinitive – Base – Simple Past
  • to accept – accept – accepted
  • to count – count – counted
  • to follow – follow – followed
  • to listen – listen – listened
  • to wash – wash – washed

Some English verbs require some slight spelling changes between the base form and the simple past. For verbs that are spelled with a “silent” e on the end of the word, remove the “silent” e and then add the ­-ed suffix. For example:

  • Infinitive – Base – Simple Past
  • to care – care – cared
  • to decide – decide – decided
  • to introduce – introduce – introduced
  • to realize – realize – realized
  • to use – use – used

For verbs that are spelled with a y on the end of the word, change the y to an i and then add the ­-ed suffix. For example:

  • Infinitive – Base – Simple Past
  • to copy – copy – copied
  • to deny – deny – denied
  • to party – party – partied
  • to study – study – studied
  • to worry – worry – worried

For one-syllable verbs spelled with a single vowel followed by a consonant other than w, x, and y, double the last consonant and then add the ­-ed suffix. For example:

  • Infinitive – Base – Simple Past
  • to bag – bag – bagged
  • to nap – nap – napped
  • to pet – pet – petted
  • to rob – rob – robbed
  • to shop – shop – shopped

For two-syllable verbs spelled with a single vowel followed by a consonant in which the second syllable is stressed, double the last consonant and then add the ­-ed suffix. For example:

  • Infinitive – Base – Simple Past
  • to admit – admit – admitted
  • to concur – concur – concurred
  • to format – format – formatted
  • to prefer – prefer – preferred
  • to regret – regret – regretted

For the few verbs spelled with a letter c at the end of the word, add a k after the c and then add the ­-ed suffix. For example:

  • Infinitive – Base – Simple Past
  • to frolic – frolic – frolicked
  • to mimic – mimic – mimicked
  • to panic – panic – panicked
  • to picnic – picnic – picnicked
  • to traffic – traffic – trafficked

Pronouncing Regular Simple Past Tense Verbs

Although all regular English verbs take either an -ed suffix in the simple past tense, the suffix is pronounced differently depending on the last sound of the verb.  For verbs that end in a [t] (t, tt, te) or [d] (d, de) sound, then the simple past suffix is pronounced as [әd] (ed). For example:

  • Base – Simple Past
  • complete – completed
  • decide – decided
  • need – needed
  • want – wanted

For verbs that end in a voiceless [p] (p, pe), [t] (t, tt, te), [k] (k, ck, ke), [f] (f, gh), [θ] (th), [h] (h), or [j] (y) sound, then the simple past suffix is pronounced as [s] (s). For example:

  • Base – Simple Past
  • ask – asked
  • kiss – kissed
  • laugh – laughed
  • smash – smashed

For verbs that end in a voiced [m] (m, me), [n] (n, ne), [ng] (ng), [b (b, be), [d] (d), [g] (g, ge), [v] (v, ve), [ð] (th), [w] (w), [r] (r, re), or [l] (l, ll, le) sound or any vowel sound, then the simple past suffix is pronounced as [z] (z). For example:

  • Base – Simple Past
  • describe – described
  • follow – followed
  • perform – performed
  • watch – watched

The simple past tense is used in English to describe completed actions, to describe past habits and routines, to state past facts and truths, and to express past thoughts and feelings. Regular English verbs take an -ed suffix, sometimes with slight spelling changes, in the simple past tense.

See also -ed Suffix for a printable that explains the formation of the simple past tense and past participle of regular (weak) verbs in English grammar.

Summary

The simple past tense describes completed actions, describes past habits and routines, states past facts and truths, and expresses past thoughts and feelings.

To form the simple past of most regular verbs in English, simply add the suffix -ed to the base form of the verb.

References

Kilby, David. 1984. Descriptive syntax and the English verb. Dover, New Hampshire: Croom Helm.
Leech, Geoffrey N. 2004. Meaning and the English verb. Harlow, English: Pearson Longman.

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