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20/10/2021
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Building of the past participle
The past participle of the verbs is used to build passive forms, adjectives or some tenses (like for example the present perfect tense).

The past participle of the regular English verbs is always built in the same way. You just have to add the ending "ed" to the basic form of the verb, which means the simplest form of the verb without ending. Usually, the basic form of the verb corresponds to the infinitive form of the verb.
If the basic form of the verb ends with "e", we only add "d" in order to get "ed".

    Examples:
      to work → worked
      to handle → handled

However, the basic form of the verb could need to be modified according to the last letter (just before the termination).

  • If the basic form of the verb ends with "y" preceded by a consonant, we replace "y" by "i" and we add the termination "ed".

    • Examples:
        to reply → replied
        to study → studied

    But if "y" is preceded by a vowel, then we keep "y":

      Examples :
        to play → played

  • When the basic form of the verb ends with [consonant-vowel-consonant] and this syllable is stressed, we double the final consonant (except if the final consonant is "w", "x" or "y"):

    • Examples of verbs of which the last syllable is stressed:
        to chat → chatted
        to control → controlled
        to stop → stopped

      Examples of verbs of which the last syllable is not stressed :
        to listen → listened
        to open → opened
        to regard → regarded

    But we do not double if the last letter is "w", "x" or "y".

      Examples:
        to fix → fixed
        to snow → snowed
        to spray → sprayed

    ⚠️ This rule about the doubling of the final consonant must be applied only if the basic form of the verb ends exactly with [1 consonant - 1 vowel - 1 consonant]. So if for example the basic form of the verb ends with [1 consonant - 2 vowels - 1 consonant], the rule is not applied.

      Examples:
        to scream → screamed
        to boil → boiled
        to disappear → disappeared

  • If the verb ends with "ic", "c" becomes "ck" and we add the termination "ed".

    • Examples:
        to panic –> panicked
        to frolic –> frolicked
        to mimic → mimicked

  • The final consonant of the verbs to humbug and to zigzag are aussi doubled:

    • to humbug → humbugged (the most common) or humbuged (very rare)
      to zigzag → zigzagged

There are sometimes a few differences between British English (UK) and American English (US). These differences relate to the doubling of the final consonant in cases where the consonant should not be doubled according to the rule given above. Here are a few examples, perhaps not exhaustive.

  • In British English, when the basic form of the verb ends with "l" or "m" and is preceded by a vowel, the final consonant is doubled even if it contradicts the general rule.
  • In American English, the general rule is applied.

      Examples:
        to travel → travelled (UK) or traveled (US)
        to cancel → cancelled (UK) or canceled (US)
        to program → programmed (UK) or programed (US)
        to diagram → diagrammed (UK) or diagramed (US)

  • In British English, when the basic form of the verb ends with "p" and is preceded by a vowel, the final consonant is sometimes doubled even if it contradicts the general rule. However, most of the verbs ending with "p" follow the general rule.
  • In American English, the general rule is always applied.

      Examples where the final consonant is doubled in British English:
        to worship → worshipped (UK) or worshiped (US)
        to kidnap → kidnapped (UK) or kidnaped (US)


      Examples where the final consonant is not doubled in British English:
        to develop → developed (UK and US)

However, it seems that these last rules of doubling of the final consonant specific to British English are widely used by English-speakers around the world.

Nevertheless, the English language has quite a few irregular verbs which include some commonly used verbs. For most of the verbs, the building rule of the past participle is not applied. Those verbes have a specific form of past participle that you will have to learn with time.

    Examples:
      to do → done
      to give → given
      to say → said

You can easily find the complete list of the irregular verbs in any books or on the Internet.

Do not hesitate to discuss this topic on the forum if you have other relevant examples or if you know other rules: Discussion forums.

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