ENGLISCH/806: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (145) past in question (SB)


145. Is there a rule for regular verbs?

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

In school we have to learn the simple past and past participle of irregular verbs. All the rest, so my teacher says, are regular and get the usual -ed ending. Nevertheless he often complains about my bad spelling. My problem, so it seems are the regular formed past tenses. Is there a rule or something to make it easier for me?


Janina Wilhelm (from Munich, Germany (Age: 13))


Dear Janina

The simple past and the past participle of most regular verbs are formed by adding -ed to the base form of the verb, you know: call - called; paint - painted; talk - talked and so on... If you don't know the base or stem of the verb, use your dictionary.

However, even among regular verbs, there are several rules for the formation of the past or past participle that must be kept in mind. Try the following:

If the base of the verb ends in "-e", add only "-d":
die - died or agree - agreed He decided that she was right (to decide).

If the base form ends in a consonant plus "-y", the "y" is turned into an "i" and "-ed" added:
cry - cried, try - tried or deny - denied. The criminal tried to escape (to try).

But If the base ends in a vowel plus "-y", the ending is regular: pray - prayed. There is only one exception: The spelling of lay - laid, and pay - paid and their derivatives is irregular, however. John mislaid his umbrella (to mislay).

If the base ends in "-c", "-ked" is added:
panic - panicked; mimic - mimicked, and so on...
Sue picnicked on the lawn (to picnic).

If the base ends in a single vowel plus a consonant and is stressed on its final syllable, the final consonant is usually doubled:
rob - robbed; abut - abutted, prefer - preferred. In the restaurant he tipped the waiter (to tip).

A doubling of the final consonant also occurs in some verbs ending in -m and -p that do not have a final stress:
worship - worshipped; program - programmed.

And last not least in British but never in US usage, a doubling also occurs when the base ends in "-l":
travel - travelled, marvel - marvelled.

Now, Janina, I hope this will keep you out of trouble


Mrs Gobbledygook

22. September 2008