The ability to verbify is well known in English and on this site. Occasionally a verbified non-verb will end with -a. Occasionally that verbified non-verb ending with -a will need to be in the past tense.

How do you inflect a verb that ends in the letter a to make it past tense?

The task is easy enough in spoken English: you just add a -d. But what about in written English?

I suppose I know of no rule that prohibits just adding -ed like you otherwise would, except it looks terribly awkward. Even added to familiar nouns, it would throw off my pronunciation as I read (cf. bandanaed, which Wiktionary attests to).

The other possibilities that makes some sense to me is to use an apostrophe, 'd, or, a bit more provocatively, to just drop the -a.

Examples? Here is a list of words that end in -a. Many are technical, but plenty enough or common in everyday spoken language. As I scrolled through, two that stuck out as likely candidates for verbifying were alleluia and barista: alleluiaed? barista'd? diplomed? eureked? I have not been able to think of any words that are already commonly verbs that end in -a, but it seems odd that a whole class of words are excluded from becoming verbs just because of their final letter.

I looked on this site and beyond, into the depths of the scary and dark world that is the rest of the web, but the common use of the article a made queries difficult. Also, my inability to find anything may just indicate no special treatment is necessary. If so, though, I would still appreciate some evidence of actual usage. Can anyone point to a verb with ending in -a that is commonly made preterite with -ed?

Here is an article from Oxford Living Dictionaries about exceptional cases of inflecting to the past tense. It says nothing of verbs ending in -a.

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    I doubt if there is a formal rule because such verbs are 'invented' words. In formal English you would say 'sang alleluias', 'acted as barista' and the like. – Kate Bunting Feb 15 '17 at 9:29
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    -- use an apostrophe, 'd,---is how I'd do it. "He pizza'd his face good.!" – J. Taylor Feb 15 '17 at 9:44
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    It's a bug in the system. English orthography has no punctuation or standard reading convention that allows verbs ending in -a to be pluralized easily. This is not of course a problem with the English language; in speech we just say it naturally and never notice any problem -- it's just the godawful English orthography doing its thing once again. – John Lawler Feb 15 '17 at 13:23

Fowler at least recommends -'d after words ending in -a, like J. Taylor. I think this looks OK in some cases, so I would also tentatively recommend it.

His examples are all actually derived adjectives, not past tense, but I think it works basically the same way. They include one-idea'd, full-aroma'd coffee, a rich-fauna'd region.

Fowler also recomends -'d in some other circumstances, some of which I think are unnecessary or weird in modern writing: after -o ("mustachio'd"; but I think mustachioed is OK), after -i ("ski'd"; I think skied is now more-or-less standard), and after -ee in "pedigree'd" (pedigreed seems fine by analogy with freed, agreed).

  • Venturing into conjecture, I suppose, but would the trend of the last paragraph indicate that we could/will march ahead with -aed? -eed -ied and -oed all looked weird for a time (in certain words), but then we get used to them – Unrelated Feb 25 '17 at 21:05
  • @Unrelated: I think it's fine to use whichever you like. It's possible that modern style guides have converged on some solution, but it's obviously not well-known. And it's only necessary to follow a style guide if you are writing for some particular organization. – sumelic Feb 25 '17 at 21:18

Subpoenaed. That's the best example I guess. Dropping the a would be incorrect as the result (subpoened) while sticking to phonetics, wouldn't let the final e be pronounced as it should be. And of course it looks weird! Those non-verbs come from languages that don't give a dime about what looks nice in English and what doesn't.


Because the example words (alleluia, barista, diploma, eureka) originally came from other languages, it seems logical to look to those languages for indications.

To alleluia is to speak a phrase that praises the lord and is derived from Hebrew. If yesterday I praised the lord, then I "alleluiat". (It would really be more irregular, but I'm suggesting an anglicized form.)

To barista is really to be a one who tends a coffee bar (barista is barman in Italian) and practices baristry and therefore yesterday baristried, or else bartended.

To diploma is, I presume, to award someone a diploma. Diploma comes from Greek, so it might take the -ize ending. So, yesterday one received a diploma and was diplomized.

To Eureka is to exclaim one has found something. It comes from a Greek verb. To actually find something in the past might otherwise be heuriske or heurisked or found. But perhaps to yesterday exclaim one has found something, is eurake, as in, I archaically spake, "eureka".

EDIT: Actually, "diplomize" might mean to make someone like a diploma by rolling or folding them in similar fashion to the document. I doubt that's the intended sense here.


If you add "-ed" literally, together with the hyphen, you leave the pronunciation untouched and call attention to the oddity of the new verb:

  • alleluia-ed
  • barista-ed
  • diploma-ed
  • eureka-ed

You do realize you are inventing new words, so broadcast to the reader how you want them pronounced.


  • For alleluia-ed, say praised.
  • For barista-ed, say brewed.
  • For diploma-ed, say graduated.
  • For eureka-ed, say shrieked.
  • I decided on tiara'd for wearing a tiara. – ttw Oct 30 '17 at 3:00

I like Yosef's approach. The examples given seem a bit awkward and ripe for replacing with less contrived words. Thinking about when you would want to verbify a noun, you often find that there is already a word in which the noun has been transformed into an adjective:

  • Dogma - Dogmatic
  • Enigma - Enigmatic
  • Stigma - Stigmatic To verbify these words, the ending "c" would be replaced by "se" (or "ze") giving "Dogmatize", "Enigmatize" and "Stigmatize" which last is already in use (ref OED). Graham McHardy

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