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Resources for English Teachers

Past Tense Verbs Rules and Exercises

Past Tense Errors

You have already learned that time is a very important element of verbs.  There are three main time frames in English:  Past, Present, and Future.  The following information concerns some problems writers occasionally have with the past and future.

Present:  Indicates experiences and events that are occurring now.   It is also the tense we use to express opinions and state facts.

Past:  Indicates experiences and events that are over and done with in the past.  Regular past tense verbs have an -ed ending.

Examples of Regular Present and Past Verb Forms

 

Present                Past

ask                      asked
grab                    grabbed*
start                    started
stop                    stopped
walk                    walked         

*Notice that the last letter is doubled when the vowel before it does not sound the way the vowel is said alone.

There are also many irregular verbs.

Examples of Irregular Present and Past Verb Forms

 

Present                Past

is/am                     was
are                        were
has/have                had
do                          did
get                         got
leave                     left
teach                     taught
think                     thought

Past Tense Exercise:

Look up the following verbs in the dictionary and put the correct form of the past tense in the blank:

  1. Speak                              

  2. Discuss                            

  3. Send                                

  4. Fly                                   

  5. Go                                   

  6. Ask                                  

  7. Write                               

  8. See                                 

  9. Catch                              

  10. Are                                  


Past Tense Proofreading:  When you write about your experiences in the past, you need to check and make sure all the verbs are in the correct past form.

Common Past Tense Verb Errors
  1. One problem is that people tend to use the present tense to tell about personal experiences in the past.  If you are writing about an experience that occurred in the past, use the past tense.  Using present is fine when you talk, but writing is more formal, so you need to follow the rules and keep the verb tenses consistent.
  2. A second common error is when students use would + verb to describe an event that happened in the past.  This is fine in speech but it is not correct in writing.
Correct the verbs in the following paragraph by changing would + verbs to simple past.

When I was younger, I would go to school everyday with my friend Vi.

Sometimes we didn't quite make it.  We would walk to the front of the school and

then we would race to the back playground.  Our teacher would call our parents

and our parents would come to the school and make us go to class.  We would be

good for a few weeks and then it would happen again. 
 

Correcting Subjects and Verbs
Past Tense Exercise

Remember that you should not use the present tense unless you are writing about something that is fact, opinion, currently in existence, or habit.  The following paragraph is a story of something that happened to someone in the past.  All the verbs should be in the past tense.  Underline all of the verbs in the following passage and check to see if they are in the correct past tense or if they need to be corrected. Use your dictionary to check the correct forms.

    When I was in elementary school people starts to alienated me because of how I look. I am alienated because of the way I looks.  I am skinny.  In elementary school I am teased about my weight.  People use to call me all kinds of names.  For example, they calls me chopstick, light pole, 2 by 4 and so on.  As I go on with my school people still calls me names.  It don't stop in elementary.  It goes right on to junior high and high school.  Throughout these years my feelings would be hurt.  I don't say anything because if I does then they would say more about me.  So I would say nothing throughout my school years.  But it doesn't stop there either.  It still go on after I get out of high school.  So every time I meet someone they would say something about my weight.  So that's why I stay quiet most of the time.  But I still get the feeling that if I go somewhere there are people talking about the way I look.  That gets on my nerves.  But I don't say anything because I am really not sure what they are talking about.
    So I told myself that I'm not going to take it any more.  So I decide that I was going to change the way I look.  I start to worked out and start to eat some food to make me gain weight.  I was hoping that in two years I'm going to be a different person.  But by the time I am in 3rd grade I would still be skinny.


English Department
Co-Chairpersons 
E-mail:Becky Roberts
Phone: 408.864.5764

E-mail: Lydia Hearn
Phone: 408.864.5785

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Last Updated: 11/10/09