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A language that's always changing and adding new words, English is a challenging one to learn, as it is full of quirks and exceptions. The construction of regular past-tense verbs, at least, is pretty straightforward. It is generally done by adding -d or -ed to the verb, and it doesn't change form based on the subject of the verb: I asked, he agreed, you accepted-the verbs in these instances all look alike, ending in "-ed." What does differ between them, though, is the pronunciation of the ending. For some verbs, it's a voiceless sound like "T," as in asked; in some, it's a voiced sound of "D," as in agreed; and in some, it's pronounced like "ID," as in accepted. The lists that follow are three groupings of regular past-tense verbs, based on their pronunciation of the ending.
Note: When you are looking at sentences to find the verbs to change to past tense, be certain you have found the verbs. They're the action words.
Group A: Voiceless Last Sound of the Infinitive
If the infinitive of the verb has a voiceless sound at the end of it, such as p, k, s, ch, sh, f, x, or h, you pronounce the "ed" ending as a "T." (Note the pronunciation in parentheses. It's the sound that determines the group that a word belongs to, not always the written letter. For example, even though dance ends with a -ce, its sound is that of an s, so it's in this voiceless group.)
Example: Ask, asked = ask(T)
"-ed" as “T”
- danced (da:ns) + t
- laughed (læf) + t
Group B: Voiced Last Sound of the Infinitive
If the last sound in the verb is a voiced one, such as in l, v, n, m, r, b, v, g, w, y, z, and vowel sounds, or diphthongs, then pronounce the "-ed" ending as "D." (Note the pronunciation in parentheses. The sound determines the group that a word belongs to, not always the written letter. For example, even though advise ends with an -se, its sound is that of the voiced z sound, keeping that word in this "voiced sound" group.)
Example: Allow, allowed = allow(D)
"-ed" as “D”
- advised (ad'vaiz) + d
Group C: T or D as the Last Sound of the Infinitive
If the last sound in the infinitive verb is a t or d, pronounce the "-ed" ending as “ID.”
Example: Need, needed = need(id)
"-ed" as “ID”
The past simple form is often confused with the present perfect. Review present perfect versus past simple to help you test your understanding of when to use the present perfect or past simple tense.