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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
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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
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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.

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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.

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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.

Otherwise...

  • 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
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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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