The English verb ending -ed is a curious construction.


Although always spelled -ed, it has three different pronunciations. Two of them can lead to misspellings:

/ed/ as in faded

/d/ as in turned

/t/ as in wrecked


The suffix -ed is the sign of the past tense. That is, most English verbs form their past tenses by adding -ed. For example, walk/walked, love/loved, sneeze/sneezed. The same ending marks the simple past tense and the perfect: Yesterday I walked. I have walked for hours.


In earlier periods, English verbs presented more variety in the way they formed the simple past and the past participle. A few of the older forms survive in what the grammar books call “irregular” verbs. These verbs do not form their past tenses by adding -ed:


sing sang (have) sung

give gave (have) given

write wrote (have) written


These “irregular” verbs are sometimes called “strong” verbs. Once very numerous in English, only a few survive–fewer than 70. Many of them, like help, became –ed verbs long ago so we no longer say holp or holpen. Some of the survivors, like wake and dive, are in the process of changing and the old and new forms are both in use:


He woke the baby. or He waked the baby.

He dove from the top board. or He dived into the pool.


One changing form that makes me sad is “slayed” for “slew.” The characters on Buffy the Vampire Slayer made the -ed form current. My view is that “slay” is an old-fashioned word that deserves old-fashioned past forms. If I ever slay a vampire, I will say that I have slain it, and I want the reporters to say that I slew it.

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And speaking of “old-fashioned,” don’t commit the error of leaving off the -ed when it is called for. Don’t write “old-fashion girl” for “old-fashioned girl,” or “I was suppose to go home early” for “I was supposed to go home early.”



Credit: DWT

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