What Are Past Tense English Verbs?

Past tense English verbs are verb forms that express actions that have occurred in the past. Like many other languages, English has several different past tenses that address various levels of completion and require different conjugations. Past tense verbs in English can also take both regular and irregular forms.

The English simple past expresses actions that have occurred in the past but are completed by the time of utterance. The most common form of the simple past for regular verbs requires the addition of "ed" to the end of the infinitive. For example, "accept" becomes "accepted," "battle" becomes "battled" and "compare" becomes "compared." This form uses the same conjugation for every pronoun, regardless of gender and number. Unlike languages such as French, the completed past tense in English does not require a helping verb.

Again, like most languages, English has many irregular past forms, and they apply to some of the most important and commonly used verbs. "To be," for instance, becomes "was/were" depending on pronoun. "Do" becomes "did," and "have" becomes "had." To express actions in the past with varying levels of completion or continuity, English uses select forms of the imperfect, such as the past progressive, "I was eating," the past habitual, "I used to eat," and the past conditional, "I would have eaten."