What Is the Past Form of a Verb? (with Examples)
Past FormThe past form is the form used to show the simple past tense.
|2||The -S Form|
(also called the Third Person Singular Present Tense Form)
|4||The -ING Form|
(also called the Present Participle Form)
|5||The Past Participle Form||caught|
The Past Form Is One of the Past TensesThe past form is not the same as the past tense, although many people use the terms interchangeably.
There are four different past tenses:
|1||simple past tense||I looked at the sea.|
|2||past progressive tense||I was looking at the sea.|
|3||past perfect tense||I had looked at the sea.|
|4||past perfect progressive||I had been looking at the sea.|
Read more about the past tense.
Forming the Past FormThere is no simple rule for creating the past form (i.e., the simple past tense) of a verb. It depends on whether the verb is regular or irregular.
Past Form of Regular VerbsRegular verbs form their past forms by adding -ed or -d. For example:
- want > wanted
- dance > danced
- hurry > hurried (y changes to an i)
- prefer > preferred (the r doubles)
|Base Form||Past Form||Comment|
|tally||tallied||-ed added but spelling rule applied
(change y to i)
|allot||allotted||-ed added but spelling rule applied
(double the last consonant if the verb ends [consonant-vowel-consonant] and is end stressed)
Read more about the spelling rules for creating the past forms of regular verbs.
Past Form of Irregular VerbsIrregular verbs form their past forms in a number of ways. Here are some common irregular verbs with tricky past forms:
- catch > caught
- bring > brought
- see > saw
- wear > wore
- fly > flew
- teach > taught
- drink > drank
- read (pronounced REED) > read (pronounced RED)
- lead (pronounced LEED)> led (pronounced LED)
|Base Form||Past Form||Comment|
|set||set||past form same as the base form|
|dig||dug||past form has a vowel change from the base form|
|seek||sought||past form is completely different from the base from|
The Five Verb FormsThe table below shows the five verb forms in English.
The Base Form
(aka "Simple Form" or "Uninflected Form")
The -S Form
(aka "Third Person Singular Present Tense Form")
(aka "The Past Tense Form")
The -ING Form
(aka the Present Participle Form
The Past Participle Form
Why Should I Care about the Past Form?Learning the verb forms (including the past form) is useful when studying English because it allows teachers and students to talk about the components that form the various tenses.
For example, with some verbs, the past form and the past participle form are the same (e.g., I played, I had played). With other verbs, the base form, past form, and past participle form are the same (e.g., set, I set, I had set). With others, they are all different (e.g., drink, I drank, I had drunk).
Knowing the various verb forms is a good starting point for learning all these complicated rules and exceptions.
Interactive ExerciseHere are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.
See AlsoWhat are regular verbs? What are irregular verbs? What is the base form of a verb? What are present participles? What are past participles? What are weak verbs?
Glossary of grammatical terms