The Center for Writing Studies

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Navigation: Quick Links

Professor writing on a chalkboard




Writers Workshop: Writer Resources

Grammar Handbook: Principle Tenses of Verbs

The three principal parts of verbs are the present tense, the past tense, and the past participle. (The present participle or "-ing" form is sometimes considered a fourth principal tense.)

Present Tense

Present tense indicates an action in the present:

Past Tense

Past tense indicates an action that occurred in the past:

Past Participle

The past participle can be used as an adjective or modifier. It is typically formed by adding 'd' or 'ed' to the base form. Many times, this form is identical to the past tense of the verb:

Common Mistakes

There are many irregular verbs (about 250) that confuse writers when forming past tense and past participles. Here is a sample of irregular verbs.

Present Tense Past Tense Past Participle
drink drank drunk
be was, were been
eat ate eaten
see saw seen
swim swam swum