This tag is for questions related to usage of the past tense in English.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

41
votes
3answers
7k views

Why do some words have two past tense forms (e.g. “dreamed” vs. “dreamt”)?

While perusing ShreevatsaR's answer to this question, it occurred to me that my own verbal usage is out of step with what I see in current American literature. When speaking in the past tense, I ...
31
votes
5answers
16k views

What's the negation of “I used to be”? Surely not “I didn't used to be”?

What is the negative form of "I used to be"? I often hear "I didn't used to be" but that sounds awfully wrong in my ears.
25
votes
4answers
8k views

“Cancelled” or “Canceled”?

Cancelled or Canceled ? Which one is right? You have successfully canceled the registration or You have successfully cancelled the registration
22
votes
7answers
13k views

Is “must” ever grammatical as a past tense verb?

I have seen uses of must that appear to be in the simple past tense. Sometimes these seem grammatical, but sometimes not. Examples that help illustrate my confusion: He knew he must go to New York ...
22
votes
2answers
5k views

When do you use “learnt” and when “learned”?

Is learnt UK English and learned US? Is it that simple? I’m used to using learnt, but my US spellchecker says it is wrong.
22
votes
6answers
65k views

Which is correct: “troubleshooted” or “troubleshot”?

Troubleshooted is not a word, but troubleshot is. Is this really the correct word to use? I always feel like saying: I troubleshooted it. vs I troubleshot it For some reason, it just ...
20
votes
9answers
51k views

Is “errored” correct usage?

If "errored" is not a valid word, then how should I say: The program errored at line 44 I guess I could say: The program threw an error at line 44 But why is "errored" wrong? Is there a ...
18
votes
5answers
2k views

How would you describe the semantic phenomenon that allows this joke?

Groucho Marx had a joke that's long been a favorite of mine: I've had a wonderful time; this wasn't it. I assume he's using the present perfect to say I've had a wonderful time. But, when he ...
15
votes
4answers
1k views

Are the verbs that are conjugated to end in “-n” in the past related?

There are many words that in English are conjugated in the past tense to end in "-n": grow goes to grown, sew goes to sewn, throw goes to thrown, etc.. I'm guessing it was probably the regular ...
14
votes
3answers
10k views

Why do we use 'did' with questions using the simple past tense?

Where did you go last night? Where went you last night? Is there a reason we say the first of the previous two sentences as opposed to the last one? I know the second sentence is ...
12
votes
5answers
4k views

Is “drownded” a word?

Is there such a word as "drownded"? I would say "drowned" but I am hearing "drownded" so often I am beginning to wonder. For example: He went into the deepest waters and drownded.
12
votes
6answers
1k views

How can I change the tense of a hyphenated verb?

I'm certain this can't be the only example there is of a hyphenated verb, but it's the only one I can think of right now. How should one appropriately convert "mouse-over" into the past tense? ...
12
votes
4answers
4k views

When is the present perfect tense used instead of the past tense?

When is the present perfect tense used instead of the past tense? I know that the present perfect tense is used when some adverbs (e.g., never, ever) are present in the sentence.
12
votes
2answers
84k views

'I get it' vs. 'I got it'

When someone tells me something, how should I respond, "I get it" or "I got it"? I have a feeling that "I got it" means "I already knew the thing before you told me," and "I get it" means "Now I know ...
12
votes
3answers
4k views

When will “Present Perfect vs. Past Tense” cases be affected by culture?

Regarding actions taken in the past, besides the differences those two tenses have semantically, my teacher shared that it could be a British vs American English case. When talking about past ...
12
votes
2answers
3k views

Past tense and “rather than”

I found myself with a sentence like this, using "accept" in the infinitive form after "rather than": They left the club, rather than accept the terms. But I'm unsure of its grammatical ...
11
votes
2answers
15k views

Past tense of “to wing”?

Is there a past tense of the verb "to wing," meaning to make up on the fly? Inspired by a blog post of Wil Wheaton, quoted partially below. "Is it from a recipe, or are you winging it?" ...
11
votes
3answers
13k views

“I didn't finish” versus “I haven't finished”

If I worked on something yesterday but it was not finished, should I use "I didn't finish it yet" or "I haven't finished it yet"?
11
votes
1answer
3k views

“Grit” vs “gritted”

Dictionary sources tell me that the past tense of grit is gritted rather than grit. Why does that sound weird to me? Am I delusional, or is this one of those words changing in current usage? Pet is a ...
10
votes
1answer
8k views

“Overrode” vs “Overridden”

I got into an argument about the sentence "Have you overrode SomeThingamajig?" I thought that "have overrode" is incorrect, and should be "overrode" or "have overridden", or perhaps "did override". ...
10
votes
1answer
1k views

Past tense of the verb “FedEx”

How do I write the past tense of FedEx? For example: I FedEx'd the package to you yesterday. I Fedexd the package to you yesterday. I FedEx-d the package to you yesterday. I am ...
10
votes
6answers
5k views

Is “shined” correct? If so, is “he shined X on the tree” also correct?

Recently, I overhead a former professor of mine use the word shined, a word that makes me grammatically uncomfortable. She used it as following: "Then, after we shined a light on the other ball, what ...
10
votes
2answers
9k views

Why do people sometimes use the past perfect form of a verb when the past would suffice? (e.g. “you had mentioned”)

I noticed that my American friends tend to use the past perfect form when they use the verb mention in its past form, almost despite of the context of the sentence. I hear them say "you had ...
10
votes
3answers
15k views

“Had better” — what is the meaning of this grammatically?

I'm interested to know why we use had better for recommendation. Technically we're speaking of an action that hasn't yet occurred. Like he had better leave a tip means he hasn't yet left a tip, but I ...
9
votes
5answers
9k views

Why is the past tense used in “I was wondering if you would like to come for dinner?”

Why isn't the present tense used? I am wondering if you would like to come for dinner.
8
votes
2answers
11k views

Is “should” ever used as past tense of “shall”?

Looking at the dictionary, I read that should has origin as past tense of shall. In the modern English, is should ever used as past tense of shall? ORIGIN Old English sceolde: past of shall.
8
votes
3answers
31k views

Difference between 'haven't …yet' and 'didn't… yet'

I was wondering what the difference was between a sentence with have and one with do. For example this one: They haven't started yet. They didn't start yet. Is there a difference? ...
8
votes
3answers
462 views

What difference does using 'had' make to those two verb tenses, and if so, what is it?

What is the difference between if I had studied and if I studied? Can you provide an example of when one usage would be more appropriate than the other?
8
votes
1answer
2k views

UK English: Is “dived” a valid word?

Proofing a manuscript, I found this in the middle of a chase scene: Spotting an opening, I dived into it and was horrified to find it was a dead end. Is “dived” a valid past tense of the verb ...
8
votes
1answer
6k views

Past tense of 'to output': output or outputted?

According to Wikipedia, the past tense (and past participle) of the verb to output is either output or outputted. Are these two forms entirely interchangeable? Or do they have certain nuance in ...
7
votes
3answers
303 views

“He grew up around cars that would later become classics.”

My question is about the use of would in the following sentence. He grew up around cars that would later become classics. The use of would in this particular sense always looks confusing to me ...
7
votes
2answers
2k views

Is “forwent” used much?

I see "forgo" used quite a bit, and "forgone" is quite common too. I can't say I've ever seen or heard of "forwent" and in fact, I had to look it up to make sure it even was a word at all. Is it ...
6
votes
5answers
13k views

What is the past tense of “sync”?

I've always believed the past tense of sync ("I sync my phone with my computer") to be synced ("I synced my phone with my computer yesterday"). This question would seem to suggest either synced or ...
6
votes
2answers
1k views

“Would fly” versus “would have flown”

I am not a native speaker of English. Could anyone please tell me which sentence is correct? If I had money, I would fly to Spain. If I had money, I would have flown to Spain.
6
votes
4answers
4k views

Tenses after “as if”

"I'll always remember this rule as if I had just learned it" Do you consider this sentence grammatically correct? The main clause refers to the future, so I guess that the Past Simple would ...
6
votes
4answers
28k views

“Lept” vs. “leapt” vs. “leaped”

After reading this discussion, I'd like to know what example sentences distinguish the meaning of the words lept, leapt, and leaped from each other?
6
votes
2answers
22k views

Is “earnt” a real word?

Is the past tense for the word "earn" "earned" or "earnt", and does the word "earnt" even exist?
6
votes
2answers
1k views

what does “it's time I told you” mean and why past tense here?

I'm watching Suits TV Series, and there was something that caught my attention. 2 guys meet, have a drink, chat, and then one guy says: I mean it's time I told you. I made a deal with Darby to ...
6
votes
1answer
9k views
5
votes
8answers
2k views

“I didn't know you liked her” or “I didn't know you like her”

I have a friend who insists that "I didn't know you like her" is more correct than "I didn't know you liked her" if the liking is still taking place. But to my ear, only the latter ...
5
votes
6answers
8k views

Are “might” and “should” past tenses of “may” and “shall”, respectively?

According to the dictionary definitions (e.g. in Merriam-Webster) , "should" is the past of "shall" and "might" is the past of "may": But are these modal verbs really used as such? I know they are ...
5
votes
2answers
190 views

Why is the progressive form used here?

In February 1825 he married Julianne Thiemer, daughter of a property owner and well-established glove-maker in Seesen. Heinrich, a cabinet maker without property, a Beiwohner(boarder), was marrying ...
5
votes
1answer
2k views

Past simple with today

For example, I want to say that I found a ball today. But "today" means action in present, am I right? I've already searched the Internet and it seems the right way is this: I found a ball today ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

“The author wrote” vs. “the author writes”

What is the rule for the following examples? In the passage, the author writes. . . . In the passage, the author wrote. . . . I’m trying to explain to my son that both are correct, but I can’t ...
5
votes
3answers
953 views

Use of past and progressive tense

Can someone tell me which, if any, of the following sentences are correct: When she walked in, he was laying on the bed. When she walked in, he was laid on the bed. When she walked in, he ...
5
votes
4answers
344 views

“I left before they had decided what to do” Why is 'decided' in the past perfect?

I left before they had decided what to do. Is this because this is a past version of "I leave before they have decided what to do"? Because "left" doesn't come before "decided".
5
votes
3answers
1k views

“When we worked together” vs “when we were working together” or can I use “when” with continous tenses?

In one Russian discussion group devoted to ESL, I was advised that using when with continuous tenses is incorrect in English. To be exact, we were discussing how to translate a phrase about one’s ...
5
votes
1answer
806 views

Is every sentence in a tense?

I know that "tense" indicates time. If that is true, then not every sentence can be indicated of its tense. Please review these sentences: "If I could go to the market , I must have taken breakfast ...
5
votes
4answers
219 views

Latin-derived verbs

Are all Latin-derived English verbs regular? For ex. decide, arrive add -ed in their past forms. Are there any specific rules to follow? To spend is irregular: why? Does it depend on when these verbs ...
5
votes
2answers
2k views

Past tense of “must” when meaning logical probability

I'm wondering how to say this sentence in the past tense: He must be very clever I have seen that the past tense of "must" is "have to" but it doesn't sound good to me to say something like "he ...