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Forming and Using Verb Tenses

English speakers form many verb tenses by combining one of principal parts of the verb with one or more auxiliary verbs.

In order to form verb tenses you need a good grasp of the auxiliaries and the principal parts of the verb. There are four principal parts: the basic form, the present participle, the past form, and the past participle.

The basic form (or root of the verb is the form listed in the dictionary and is usually identical to the first person singular form of the simple present tense (except in the case of the verb "to be"):


The infinitive form of the verb is a compound verb made up of the the preposition "to" and the basic form of the verb:

to walk
to paint
to think
to grow
to sing

To form the present participle, add "-ing" to the basic form of the verb:


Note that you cannot use the present participle as a predicate unless you use an auxiliary verb with it -- the word group "I walking to the store" is an incomplete and ungrammatical sentence, while word group "I am walking to the store" is a complete sentence. You will often use the present participle as a modifier.

The past form of verbs is a little trickier. If the verb is regular (or weak, you can create the past form by adding "-ed", "-d", or "-t" to the present form. When a basic form ends in "-y", you changed the "-y" to "-i-"; in many cases you should also double terminal consonants before adding "-ed" (see the section on Spelling words with Double Consonants).


The past participle of regular verbs is usually identical to the past form, while the past participle of irregular verbs is often different:


Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs form the past participle and the past form without "-(e)d" or "-t", and frequently their past form and past participle are different. For example, the past form of the verb "break" is "broke" and the past participle is "broken."

This list contains the most common verbs that form their past tenses irregularly:

arise arose, arise
awake awoke or awaked, awaked or awoken
awaken awakened, awakened
bear (to carry) bore, borne
bear (to give birth) bore
beat beat, beaten or beat
be was, been
become became, become
begin began, begun
bet bet, bet
bid bid, bid (to, offer)
bid (to order, invite) bade, bidden
bind bound, bound
bite bit, bitten
bleed bled, bled
blow blew, blown
break broke, broken
breed bred, bred
bring brought, brought
burst burst, burst
buy bought, bought
cast cast, cast
catch caught, caught
choose chose, chosen
cling clung, clung
come came, come
creep crept, crept
cut cut, cut
deal dealt, dealt
dig dug, dug
dive dived or dove, dived
do did, done
draw drew, drawn
dream dreamed or dreamt, dreamed or dreamt
drink drank, drunk
drive drove, driven
eat ate, eaten
fall fell, fallen
feed fed, fed
feel felt, felt
fight fought, fought
find found, found
flee fled, fled
fly flew, flown
forbid forbade, forbidden
forget forgot, forgotten
forgive forgave, forgiven
forsake forsook, forsaken
freeze froze, frozen
get got, got or gotten
give gave, given
go went, gone
grind ground, ground
grow grew, grown
hang (to suspend) hung, hung
hang (to execute) hanged, hanged
have had, had
hear heard, heard
hide hid, hidden
hit hit, hit
hold held, held
hurt hurt, hurt
keep kept, kept
kneel knelt or kneeled, knelt or kneeled
knit knitted or knit, knitted or knit
know knew, known
lay laid, laid
lead led, led
leap leaped or leapt, leaped or leapt
leave left, left
lend lent, lent
let let, let
lie lay, lain
light lighted or lit, lighted or lit
lose lost, lost
make made, made
mean meant, meant
meet met, met
mistake mistook, mistaken
overcome overcame, overcome
pay paid, paid
prove proved, proved or proven
put put, put
quit quit, quit
read read, read
ride rode, ridden
ring rang, rung
rise rose, risen
run ran, run
say said, said
see saw, seen
seek sought, sought
sell sold, sold
send sent, sent
set set, set
shake shook, shaken
shed shed, shed
shoot shot, shot
shrink shrank or shrunk, shrunk
shut shut, shut
sing sang, sung
sink sank, sunk
sit sat, sat
slay slew, slain
sleep slept, slept
slide slid, slide
sling slung, slung
slink slunk, slunk
speak spoke, spoken
speed sped or speeded, sped or speeded
spend spent, spent
spin spun, spun
spit spit or spat, spit or spat
split split, split
spread spread, spread
spring sprang or sprung, sprung
stand stood, stood
steal stole, stolen
stick stuck, stuck
stink stank or stunk, stunk
strew strewed, strewn
stride strode, stridden
strike struck, struck
string strung, strung
strive stove or strived, striven or strived
swear swore, sworn
sweep swept, swept
swell swelled, swelled or swollen
swim swam, swum
swing swung, swung
take took, taken
teach taught, taught
tear tore, torn
tell told, told
think thought, though
thrive throve or thrived, throve or thriven
throw threw, thrown
thrust thrust, thrust
wake woke or waked, waked or woken
weep wept, wept
win won, won
wind wound, wound
wring wring, wrung
write wrote, written

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