Verb Conjugation: Spelling Review Study Guide

Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Verb Conjugation: Spelling Review Practice Exercises

The dictionary defines a verb as "the part of speech that expresses existence, action, or occurrence." This definition does not quite capture the extreme importance of verbs to our language and our way of thinking. If we didn't have verbs, we would have no way of expressing what we were doing, where we were going, what we were thinking, or who we are. If there were no verbs, we would be unable to talk about the past or the future. We could point to objects and say their names, but this conversation would probably get pretty boring after a while. Without verbs, we couldn't even acknowledge that we didn't have much to talk about, since acknowledge and talk are verbs themselves!

The rules for conjugating verbs can be a difficult thing to understand, mostly because there are so many verbs that are exceptions. As we take a look at verb tenses and forms, however, you will see some of the same spelling patterns that you've already learned while studying suffix and plural endings. The rules for spelling the past tense of regular verbs, for instance, are almost exactly the same as the rules for making the plural forms of regular nouns, except instead of using the letters -s or -es, you use the letters -d or -ed.


Every verb in the English language has potentially five different spelling forms: present tense form, third person singular present tense form, past tense form, present participle form, and past participle form. One verb, be, has a few additional forms.

Before we look at the rules for conjugating verbs, let's take a quick look at the five major spelling forms.

Form #1: Present tense

The present tense is the tense of a verb used to show something happening right now, or an existing state of being. It is also known as the base form. The present tense is used with all subjects except third person singular, including first person singular (I), first person plural (we), second person (you), and third person plural (they, dogs, skies, buildings, and so on).

    Here are some examples of present tense verbs.
  • drive: I drive.
  • love: We love candy.
  • run: The dogs run fast.

Form #2: Third person singular present tense

A third person singular subject is the subject he, she, it, or any other singular noun, like dog, sky, or building.

Here are some examples of present tense verbs with third person singular subjects.

  • drive: He drives.
  • love: She loves candy.
  • run: The dog runs fast.

Form #3: Past tense

The past tense of a verb shows an action that happened in the past. For any given verb, all subjects (I, you, he, she, it, we, they, or any singular or plural subject) will take the same past tense. The verb be is the only exception.

    For example:
  • drive: I drove. He drove. They drove.
  • love: We loved candy. He loved candy. They loved candy.
  • run: The dogs ran fast. I ran fast. He ran fast.
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