Verb tenses: adding -ed and -ing

The basic form of a verb is called the infinitive. It normally occurs with the word to as in ‘I want to ask you a question.’ Verbs change their spelling according to which tense is being used.

The past tense refers to things that happened in the past. To make the past tense of regular verbs, the ending -ed is added to the infinitive ('I asked her a question'). The present participle refers to things that are still happening. To make the present participle, the ending -ing is added to the infinitive ('I am asking her a question').

Often there is no need to make any other spelling changes when you add -ed and -ingto the infinitive but there are some cases when it's necessary to do so and these are given below.

 

Verbs ending with a silent e

 

If the verb ends with an e that isn’t pronounced (as in bake or smile), then you need to drop this final -e before adding -ed and -ing:

 

verb

past tense

present participle

bake

baked

baking

smile

smiled

smiling

 

Verbs ending in -ee, -ye, and -oe (such as freedye, and tiptoe) do not drop the final -e when adding -ing:

 

verb

past tense

present participle

free

freed

freeing

dye

dyed

dyeing

tiptoe

tiptoed

tiptoeing

 

A very few verbs keep the final -e when adding -ing to distinguish them from similar words. For example, singe becomes singeing rather than singing (which is the present participle of sing).

 

Verbs ending with a single vowel plus a consonant

 

If the verb ends with a single vowel plus a consonant, and the stress is at the end of the word (e.g., refer), then you need to double the final consonant before adding -ed and –ing:

 

verb

past tense

present participle

admit

admitted

admitting

commit

committed

committing

refer

referred

referring

compelcompelledcompelling
patrolpatrolledpatrolling

 

If the verb ends with a vowel plus a consonant and the stress is not at the end of the word, you should not double the final consonant when adding -ed and -ing:

 

verb

past tense

present participle

inherit

inherited

inheriting

target

targeted

targeting

visit

visited

visiting

traveltraveledtraveling
equalequaledequaling

 

Note that in British English, when the consonant is an l, this rule is modified so that the l is always doubled, no matter which syllable of the base verb has the stress. So in British writing, you will see the spellings travelled, travelling; equalled, equalling, etc.

 

If the verb has only one syllable and ends with a single vowel plus a consonant (e.g., stop), then the final consonant should be doubled before -ed and -ing are added:

 

verb

past tense

present participle

stop

stopped

stopping

tap

tapped

tapping

sob

sobbed

sobbing

 

Verbs ending with two vowels plus a consonant

 

If the verb ends with two vowels plus a consonant, you should generally not double the final consonant:

 

verb

past tense

present participle

treat

treated

treating

wheel

wheeled

wheeling

pour

poured

pouring

 

 Verbs ending in -c

 

If the verb ends in -c (e.g., panic), you need to add a -k before adding –ed and -ing, and also -er:

 

verb

past tense

present participle

related noun

picnic

picnicked

picnicking

picnicker

mimic

mimicked

mimicking

mimicker

traffic

trafficked

trafficking

trafficker


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