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Lesson 1.4c Verb - Past Tense

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The past tense form of the verb is typically affixed with -ed, but there are other ways to form the past tense too.



What are some verbs that form their past tense by adding -t, such as swept?


What are some verbs that form their past tense by changing the vowel, such as sang?


What are some verbs that form their past tense by changing nothing, such as cut?


In older forms of English, there were more words that formed the past tense forms like these words, but the -ed has gradually become the most common way to do it, so we now think of it as the “regular” way and the other ways as “irregular” ways.


Have you ever said or heard someone else say something like I holded or she goed? Those are just examples of taking the regular past tense ending and attaching it to words that happen to have irregular past tenses.


Remember that language is always changing. What’s the past tense of the verb work? Right, worked. But do you know what it used to be? Wrought like bought. But speakers just added the regular -ed ending and eventually enough people started using that word that it became the normal way to do it.


There are many words that have more than one accepted way to form their past tense. What would you use in these examples?


past tense of dream:             I ________________ last night about lions.


past tense of sneak:             We _______________ out of our hiding place.


past tense of dive:               She ______________ off the platform into the deep lake.


Both dreamed and dreamt are acceptable. Both sneaked and snuck are acceptable. Both dived and dove are acceptable.


You could use a dictionary to look up these words to see which is the older form of the past tense and which is the more recent innovation.


key words: verb, tense, past


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.1d Form and use regular and irregular verbs. 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.1e Form and use the simple (e.g., I walked; I walk; I will walk) verb tenses. 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.1b Form and use the progressive (e.g., I was walking; I am walking; I will be walking) verb tenses. 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L5.1b Form and use the perfect (e.g., I had walked; I have walked; I will have walked) verb tenses. 

(For a discussion of how the past tense plays out in the progressive and perfect. See Lessons 1.4e and 1.4f.)


Here is this lesson as a pdf.

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