How To Use Past Tense verbs (Learn 50 irregular verbs + PDF)

Using different verb tenses correctly can be difficult. Especially past tense English verbs. This post will explain the basic rules of this verb grammar and teach you 50 Irregular Verbs.

Past tense verbs describe actions that have finished at some time before now “I played soccer yesterday.”
or things that once existed. “There was a dog outside this morning.”
Regular verbs end with the letters _ed – “played
Irregular verbs do not – “was

This post will be a great resource for you to master the English past tense verb form. The 50 Irregular verb examples will follow a story to make them easier to remember.

Past Tense – Regular and Irregular verbs

Table of Contents

How do you make past tense verbs?

Regular verbs

The past tense of regular verbs will end in _ed

pick picked – “Last fall we picked apples and pears at my grandfather’s orchard.”  

work worked – “My father worked for my grandfather when she was in high school.” 

If the verb ends in the letter E we just add _d

move moved – “We moved a lot when I was younger.” 

debate debated – “The politicians debated for 3 hours.” 

Verbs ending with a consonant and the letter Y will change to I before adding _ed

apply applied – “I applied for three jobs this summer.”

deny denied – “The bank denied his loan application.” 

Verbs ending with a vowel and the letter Y add _ed

play played – “I played in the park near my house when I was young.” 

stay stayed – “We stayed in a luxury hotel for 2 weeks.” 

Regular verb writing rules. If the word…

…ends with e– add the letter dmove – moved
…ends with a vowel + y– add edstay – stayed
…ends with a consonant + y– change the y to an i and add edapply – applied
…is 1 syllable ending with 1 vowel before 1 consonant – we must double the last letter before adding edstop – stopped

I found an awesome video to explain the 1:1:1 rule. (One syllable, one vowel, one consonant)

Irregular verbs

In English, there are many verbs whose past tense doesn’t end with _ed. These are called irregular verbs. Some examples:

  • bought (this is the past tense of the verb BUY)
    “I bought a new computer last week.” 

  • saw (this is the past tense of the verb SEE)
    “Daisy saw the movie on opening night.” 

  • wrote (this is the past tense of the verb WRITE)
    “Mark Twain wrote many popular books.”

Irregular verbs do not follow any pattern. The only way to learn which verbs are irregular is to memorize them.

A great way to memorize them is to see them used in real sentences, sentences that are part of a longer story are even better.

I created a list of 50 irregular verbs with example sentences that follow a simple story just for you. You can find those examples here>> 50 irregular verbs

You can also download a FREE PDF of the list at the bottom of the post.

Simple past tense rules

Questions use the auxiliary verb did.Did you play soccer last week?
Negative statements use the negative auxiliary did not. (didn’t)I didn’t play soccer last week.
Questions – Do is the main verb
Did (subject) do
Did you do your homework?
Negative statements – Do is the main verb
Didn’t do.
I didn’t do my homework.

Negative verb forms and questions in the past tense use did, the past tense of the auxiliary verb do. The main verb in the sentence will be in the simple present tense.

Negative past tense statements use did not, didn’t

  • Mark Twain didn’t go to university. (Not didn’t went)
  • The computer sale is over soon so I didn’t want to wait. (Not didn’t wanted)

Past tense questions use did you? – did he/she/it etc.

  • Did Mark Twain live in Australia? (Not did he lived?)
  • Did you buy a Mac or a PC? (Not did you bought?)

When do is the main verb we will use this grammar:

Did do. Didn’t do.

A: “What did you do on Saturday?”
B: “I didn’t do anything.”

A: “Did you finally ask Heather for a date? You have been talking about her for 2 weeks!”
B: “I didn’t do it yet. I’m shy when I’m around her.”

A: “I’m so mad today! I’m going to tell the boss what I really think of him!”
B: “Don’t do it! Please wait until you calm down, you will regret it if you do it now.”

What are the 4 types of past tense?

  1. Simple Past “I played soccer this morning.”

  2. Past Progressive (continuous) “I was playing soccer this morning.”

  3. Past Perfect “If I had woken up on time today, I wouldn’t have been late.”

  4. Past Perfect Progressive (continuous) “I had been playing soccer when she called.”

How to use the four different types of past tense verbs.

Simple Past

We use the Simple Past for actions that have stopped, they no longer continue.

I like to compare the Simple Present tense with the Simple Past tense to explain how to use it. My private students in Japan find this helpful. 

The present simple describes an activity that we do regularly.
Present simple – “I walk to school every day.”
I have walked to school in the past and I will continue to walk to school in the future.

The past simple describes an activity that is finished.
Past simple – “I walked to school yesterday.”
The sentence describes an action that no longer continues. This sentence may be used to show that we walked to school yesterday but it is not something that we do regularly.

Past Progressive (continuous)

The Past Progressive is a past form of the verb To BE – was, were – plus the continuous tense of a verb. (Verb + ~ing)

We used the Past Progressive to talk about an action that was happening during a certain time in the past. It is commonly used to describe an action that happened at the same time another action was happening.

“I saw Karen when I was walking to school.”
I saw Karen at the same time as I was walking to school.

*When you use the past continuous tense to connect to another action, that verb will be in the simple past tense.

“The delivery came as I was cooking dinner.”
I heard the door at the same time as I was cooking dinner.

We connect the ideas with conjunctions like as, while, or when

“The phone rang while I was washing the dog so I couldn’t answer it. My hands are all wet.

The past continuous can be the first action in our sentence.
“I was driving the car while Evan looked at the map.”

“I was cooking dinner when the delivery came.” 

How to use FOR, DURING, and WHILE (Over 20 examples + Quiz + Audio)

Past Perfect

The Past Perfect is HAD + the past participle of a verb.
“I had driven 80 kilometers before I noticed the warning light on my dashboard.”

We use the Past Perfect to describe the sequence of past actions. We clearly want to show that one past action happened before another past action. 

“My mother had just finished mopping the floor when my little brother came inside with his muddy rain boots.”
First, my mother cleaned the floor and next my brother came inside with dirty boots. The order of these actions is important to the story.

Past Perfect verb example

The Past Perfect can also describe the reason for a situation.

“Wendy was hungry because she hadn’t eaten all morning.”
Situation: Wendy was hungry.
Reason: She had not eaten all morning.

“I had never been there before so I didn’t know what to expect.” 

*NOTE – In our example sentences the verbs driven, finished, eaten, and been are all in the past participle form. 

Use Past Participles The Right Way (25 examples + PDF list)

Past Perfect Progressive (continuous)

We’ll use the past perfect progressive to talk about an action that started, continued, and ended at a specific point in the past. 

“Kyle had been doing well at school until last semester when he started missing classes.”
(The specific point in the past is last semester.) 

The Past Perfect Progressive is had been + the continuous tense of a verb. 

“Ben had been working at a bakery for 10 years before finally opening his own cake shop.” 
(The specific point in the past is before he opened his own shop.)

This grammar is often used with conjunctions like before, when, for, etc.

50 Irregular Past Tense verbs

Learn 50 irregular verbs

<< PDF download at the bottom of this list >>

1. say said

  • “Nancy said she would be here by 6:00.”

2. make made

  • “I hope she gets here soon, I made reservations for 6:30 at the restaurant.”

3. go went

  • “Maybe she went to the bank after work?”

4. take took

  • “If she took the local streets she will be late. The roads are always crowded around this time.”

5. come came 

  • “Last week she came here after work and the traffic was fine.”

6. see saw 

  • “I just saw her pull into the driveway.”

7. know knew 

  • “I knew Nancy would be here on time!”

8. get got 

  • “I got an email from Peter this morning, he’s back from his vacation.”

9. give gave

  • “Yes, he gave me a call from the airport last night when he arrived. I went there to pick him up.”

10. find found 

  • “The airport was so busy! I finally found him after 15 minutes of searching.”

11. think thought 

  • “I thought Peter would be on vacation for 3 weeks.”

12. tell told 

  • “He told me that he would only stay for 12 days.”

13. become became 

  • “He just became a division manager so he can’t be away from the office for too long.”

14. show showed 

  • “On the drive home from the airport, he showed some photos from his trip.”
    *Show is an irregular verb because the past participle is shown not showed. Other regular verbs whose past tense is _ed use the same form for the past participle.

Learn more about the Past Participle verb form here – Use Past Participles The Right Way (25 examples + PDF list)

15. leave left 

  • “Hawaii is so beautiful, You must have been sad when you left.”

16. feel felt 

  • “I felt sad every time I left the beach! Relaxing on the beach is my favorite thing to do.”

17. put put

  • “Peter had to buy an extra duffel bag for all the souvenirs he bought for his staff. First, he put them in his suitcase, but then his clothes wouldn’t fit!”

18. bring brought

  • “He is so kind! He brought back a lot of treats for his co-workers.”

19. begin began

  • “After working for 6 hours without a break, Lisa began to get very hungry.”

20. keep kept

  • “We kept telling her to relax a little, but Lisa really wants to finish this project.”

21. hold held

  • “Our boss held a meeting to explain how important this project is to the company.”

22. write wrote

  • “As the project manager, Lisa wrote a 3-page memo detailing everyone’s tasks.”

23. stand stood

  • “At the meeting, Lisa stood behind our boss taking notes.”

24. hear heard 

  • “She heard everything he said very clearly.”

25. let let

  • “She works hard, so this morning I let her have the last donut in the staff break room.”

26. mean meant 

  • “Sorry, I meant to say danish, not donut.”

27. meet met 

  • “After the meeting, the team met at a local restaurant to have dinner together.”

28.set set 

  • “The whole project team was at the restaurant, the staff set the table for 18 people. It was a big table!”

29. run ran 

  • “It was a big dinner so I ran home to burn some calories.”

30. pay paid 

  • “It was a great dinner, and our company paid for everything!”

31. sit sat

  • “Eric was very quiet during dinner. He sat in the corner and didn’t say anything.”

32. speak spoke 

  • “Almost every member of the team spoke about their contribution to the project.”

33. lie lay 

  • “3 nights ago I lay in bed thinking about what I would say at the meeting.”

34. lead led 

  • “It was my first time in Tokyo, so I was happy to have a guide. He led the way during my trip.”

35. read read 

  • “I read 6 books about Tokyo before my trip.”
    *Be careful, the spelling for the past tense is the same as the present tense but they are pronounced differently.

Learn more about the verb To READ here – Past tense of READ and Past Participle of READ (Audio, Quiz, and PDF)

36. grow grew

  • “No one took care of my garden while I was away and weeds grew everywhere.”

37. lose lost 

  • “My favorite team lost an important game last night. I’m sad today.”

38. fall fell 

  • “I was so nervous watching the game I fell off my chair!”

39. send sent 

  • “My friend sent me a message right after the game to tease me. (He likes the other team!)”

40. build built 

  • “I wish my local team had more support from the community. They built a new arena last summer but not enough people are coming to live games.”

41. understand understood 

  • “I tried to explain to my friends that it’s important to support the team, but I don’t think they understood why.”

42. draw drew

  • “I drew a picture for my student to help explain the meaning of the new word.”

43. break broke 

  • “I pressed the pencil so hard that I broke it!”

44. spend spent 

  • “I spent the next 5 minutes trying to find a new pencil.”

45. cut cut 

  • “I reached into my desk looking for a pencil and I cut my finger on a utility knife.”

46. rise rose 

  • “I shouted ‘ouch!’ and my student rose from her desk to see what was wrong.”

47. drive drove 

  • “I didn’t have any bandages so we drove to the pharmacy to buy some.”

48. buy bought 

  • “I bought a big box of band-aids.”

49. wear wore 

  • “It was raining so I wore a rain jacket to the pharmacy.”

50. choose chose 

  • “I chose a family size box, it has 50 band-aids in 4 different shapes.

Printable 50 Irregular Past Tense Verbs PDF

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