Verb Tenses

-Rachel Lawlor-

Verb tenses tell us about the time an action, or state of being, is taking place. In the english language, there are six verb tenses! Three of them are simple; the other are perfect tenses. It can be tricky to try and figure out whether you should be using simple or perfect tenses, but that’s okay!

Verb Tense

Past tenses of verbs are usually indicated by adding -ed or -d to the end of the verb. These are used to describe something that already happened, in the past. For example:

type – typed

walk – walked

soar – soared

skate – skated

You get the point! Usually, the past participle form of the verb follows the same rule as above. Past participle forms the past perfect tenses of verbs.

Ryan had started his paper earlier that day.

Past participle form can also be used as an adjective. How weird is that?

bored student

frightened dog

Now, irregular verbs are a WHOLE different story. They don’t follow the norm of the suffixes above being added. They like to do their own thing, which can get confusing.

GOT Tense

These little rebels don’t play by regular verbs’ rules. In fact, the don’t play by ANY rules. You pretty much just have to have a good understanding of the English language, or you have to memorize them. Here are some common irregular verbs:

Present                              Past                                 Past Participle

bite                                 bit                                       bitten, bit

 read                               read                                    read

 shake                             shook                                shaken

See what I mean? There are no rules. The most annoying of all irregular verbs, for me, is hang.

                   hang(suspend)                       hung                                     hung

                   hang(execute)                         hanged                                hanged

How confusing is that? The verb lie has a similar thing going on, depending if you mean to recline or to not tell the truth.

                 lie(recline)                          lay                                               lain

                 lie                                          lied                                               lied


That’s my kind of world! If you come across irregular verbs, try to revert back to your grammar lessons in elementary and middle school. They drilled this into you! I had to write out the irregular verb tables at least three times.

If you’re writing and don’t know how or what tense to use for a verb, say it out loud and see how it sounds. Make sure when writing a paper, you stay consistent with your tense. Don’t flip flop between past and present, or vice versa.


Subject-verb agreement is also important. Without it, your sentences can sound very awkward. It’s hardest when a preposition is in between the subject and the verb.

            The students in the class use their laptops.


            The students in the class uses their laptops.

If you have a doubt of what to do for a present tense sentence like this, take out the preposition to see how it sounds.

            The students use their laptops.


            The students uses their laptops.

Clearly, the first choice is correct. The subject is plural, you must use the plural-present form of the verb. In the sentences above, class is singular, but it is not the subject.

Hopefully these rules and examples will help you with verb tenses in the future!



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