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Lets say I am beating a person continuously, this is a present participle. What do I say when I have to convey that I have been beating him in the past - "I beat him badly" ?? How do I pronounce it ?

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  • Why do you think “bet” may be correct?
    – user 66974
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 18:16
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    Beat is one of those one-syllable verbs ending in -t or -d (like set, bet, bid, burst, cast, cost, cut, fit, hit, and so on). They are spelled the same way in all three forms (add -ing for the participle, as usual), and they are also pronounced the same way. So it's not a situation like lead, led, or lead the noun; spelling is irrelevant and pronunciation is the same. I beat him badly could be present tense or past tense. These verbs don't care. Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 19:08
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    @TylerN: Why would anyone want to definitively state the tense? Tenses are relics in English and are rarely important; usually we prefer constructions uninflected, or uninflectable like modals. One of the reasons why there is this set of small verbs is that they are used so much in constructions where the tense is irrelevant (or even where the construction indicates the time itself). In such cases tense inflection is a nuisance when it's not automatic on every verb, but only on third-person singular present verbs. Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 19:22
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    @DecapitatedSoul OED: “The Old English past tense ✻béot (representing earlier reduplicated ✻bebôt, ✻baibaut), duly became in Middle English bēt, bete (with close ē, as distinct from the open e or ę of the present); its modern form would be beet, but this became obsolete in 16th cent. The actual past tense beat is probably shortened from the Middle English weak form beted, in 16th cent. beated.” [NB: Here actual means current or present-day, being the elder sense for that adjective. —tchrist]
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 1:06
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    @DecapitatedSoul OED: “The past participle beat, still occasional for beaten in all senses, but chiefly used in sense 10, and in phrases like ‘dead-beat’ belonging to that sense, may also be < beated, but comes naturally enough from Middle English bet, shortened < bete, beten, found already in 13th cent., and having the open e of the present.”
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 1:06

2 Answers 2

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If you are conveying that you have previously beat him, you would say:

I beat him.

If you want to convey that you were actively beating him for a length of time, say:

I was beating him.

The present tense of beat is "beat," and the past tense of beat is also "beat." All usages of this word are pronounced the same way:

bēt (beet)

Also, natural English speakers would more often use the phrase "beat up," rather than "beat" alone, because "beat" could be used for its second definition of:

defeat (someone) in a game, competition, election, or commercial venture

To use this phrase, you would instead say either

I beat him up.

Or

I was beating him up.

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Adding to the already present answer, if you are talking about a length of time that is entirely in the past and it happened customarily, in idiomatic English, you could also use (or add) would to express that:

I would beat him [up] [often, regularly, etc]

and

I would be beating him [up] often [as part of this toxic relationship, whatever]

ETA: The would would, then, often be abbreviated to "I'd". Mostly so in speaking, could also happen in writing depending on context and style.

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