When to Use the Suffix “-t” vs. “-ed”
  • 3-minute read
  • 6th August 2022

When to Use the Suffix “-t” vs. “-ed”

Verbs are used to describe actions or states of being and are necessary to compose a complete sentence. Verbs are written with different suffixes depending on their tense – past, present, or future. This brief guide explains when to use the suffixes -t and -ed, along with some of the differences you’ll see based on the variety of English being used.

Regular and Irregular Verbs

First, let’s look at two different types of verbs and how we write their simple past and past participle forms.

1. Regular Verbs

Fortunately, most verbs are regular and are written according to an established pattern. For example, the simple past tense of many regular verbs is written simply by adding the suffix -ed to the base form:

Wash becomes washed.

Ask becomes asked.

Wreck becomes wrecked.

With regular verbs, the past participle, used to express a completed action in the perfect tense, is written exactly the same way:

InfinitiveSimple PastPast Participle

2. Irregular Verbs

Writing irregular verbs can be a bit more difficult, as they don’t follow standard rules and can end in a variety of suffixes, including -t:

Build becomes built.

Sleep becomes slept.

Send becomes sent.

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These examples are similar to regular verbs because their simple past and past participle forms are the same. However, most irregular verbs change in a variety of ways:

InfinitiveSimple PastPast Participle


ESL and Language Variety

Mastering verb tenses can be difficult, even for native English speakers. If you’re an ESL writer, you may have noticed that writing verbs as they sound is not a reliable method of determining which ending to use.

Consider the regular verb “equip.” When you say the word out loud, it sounds like it requires the -t suffix in the past tense (i.e., “equipt”). However, the correct spelling is “equipped.”

Therefore, understanding the differences between regular and irregular verbs is key to avoiding spelling errors when writing verbs!

The situation is made even trickier because some verbs can be written with either the -ed or -t suffix in the past tense, depending on the variety of English being used:

●  burned/burnt

●  dreamed/dreamt

●  kneeled/knelt

●  leaped/leapt

●  leaned/leant

●  learned/learnt

●  smelled/smelt

●  spelled/spelt

●  spilled/spilt

In most cases, American English favors the verb spellings ending in -ed, while British English favors the verb spellings ending in -t.

Proofreading and Editing

Hopefully, this guide will help you to determine which suffix to use when writing verbs. Although tenses can be tricky to get right, practice makes perfect! Until you become a verb-writing master, you can rely on our expert editors to make sure your writing is free of spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. You can try it out by uploading a free trial document today!

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