Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Try This for Perfecting Past Tense Pronunciation Practice

Regular Verbs in English Past Tense

When I needed some fresh material for working in the past tense with my EFL, English as a Foreign Language, students in Barcelona, Spain I opted to create a short story. This three-paragraph narrative I wrote using only the past tense of regular verbs served not only for reading, but for grammar practice, spelling and pronunciation practice as well. For even more diversity and mileage from this narrative, I later added comprehension questions, a word search puzzle, a crossword puzzle, a re-ordering exercise, a verbs-to-meanings matching exercise, a letter unscramble and a verb chart for added practice activities. (Do you think I left anything out?)

It has worked quite well for me. To adjust for shorter practice time or other lesson planning constraints use only one paragraph for your activities and practice. It was considerably more difficult than I’d imagined to write such a highly-focused, structured piece but it continually serves to aid students even in its “artificial” language form. Writing it also flexed my creative writing muscles.

Here’s the narrative text with the regular verbs in past tense in boldface:


It happened to be our anniversary when we traveled to Barcelona, so my wife Doris and I planned a special evening out. I purchased a beautiful bouquet of red roses that smelled wonderful and a black pearl necklace that sparkled in the moonlight. I beamed as I presented them to Doris. She pinned a rose to her sequinned lapel. Her auburn hair shimmered in the sunset’s bronzed glow. I called a checkered taxi and we passed many highlighted sights before we arrived in front of the restaurant. The waiter seated us as soon as we walked into the neon-signed restaurant. I noticed a secluded table. (22 verbs in this section)

We positioned ourselves near an opened window and prepared to eat. My wife Doris looked at the selections listed on the menu and decided to have an appetizer. I picked the mushroom soup. A few minutes later the waiter returned. “What would you like to have?”, he asked. Doris ordered some steamed shrimp and broiled trout. I requested a tossed Cesar salad with a grilled steak and a baked potato. While we dined, we chatted and sipped a glass of white wine. Doris wolfed down her food but I savored the meal and chewed my steak slowly. When she finished, she munched on some pretzels. She soon gobbled up all the pretzels in the small bowl placed on the table. Later, we nibbled on a slice of decorated cheesecake as we talked. I wanted some coffee with my dessert. Doris preferred to drink iced tea. After the salted pretzels, Doris needed to drink some water. The waiter finally handed me the bill and I offered him a tip. We tipped him 15% of the totaled charges. He thanked us and smiled as we exited the restaurant.
(40 verbs in this section)

Outside the now closed restaurant, we strolled along the cobble-stoned street, stopped and laughed when we spotted a trained puppy that jumped and played with its owner. We then relaxed and watched the sunset from a padded park bench as the boats in the harbor rocked, pitched and bobbed on the water. Next, we watched a romantic movie at a new cinema that interested us. The aged couple in the movie argued and chased each other as they sailed down an unnamed river that tumbled and surged through rapids which boiled around jagged rocks. Frequently they were trapped and scared. When the colorized movie ended the two discovered that they really loved each other. Finally, at the disco, we danced, swayed to the music and hugged each other often. Whenever I kissed Doris she blushed and giggled. Both of us enjoyed our enchanted evening out together. We hope you liked our story.
(41 verbs in this section)

Using This Narrative Text

Try using this narrative, past-tense-of-regular-verbs-only text, wholly or in part to help your EFL or ESL, English as a Second Language, students with this all-important grammatical context. You can bold face or underline the targeted verb forms as done here or remove them to create a “fill-in-the-blanks exercise. Add addition reading, writing or pronunciation-based activities for getting even more usefulness form this narrative. Who knows? Your results may be even better than mine.

Grammatical Note: By the way, just to clear up doubts of any "grammarians" or "purists", also included above are past participles used as adjectives, but the verb forms are still past tense of regular verbs in English.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 100 countries. Get your FREE E-book,"If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.


Professor Wujciak said...


Thanks, nicely done. It's helpful to have that many regular past tense verbs all in one place. This will be very useful.

Also it is written from a perspective to be interesting to my advanced adult students (I teach only Pronunciation), with a natural variety of colloquially used words so that they might need to investigate/guess the meanings!

You didn't mention the -ed words like 'aged' which are exceptions to the usual pronunciation rules. I think they're worth mentioning so that other teachers using your story doesn't think it's correctly pronounced /ei j d/.

Thanks again.

All the best,
Alice Wujciak
Pronunciation Coach
Hollywood, FL

Enkido said...

Right. I'd work on my English first, Alice, before commenting.

How about "don't think" instead of "doesn't think"?.

This is because the verb of a sentence must agree with the subject in number and in person.

In your case, the subject is "teachers", which is plural, and so don't is the right tool and not doesn't.

Wouldn't have been so picky, but alas, this is a public educational article and one has an obligation. It's also very basic and useful grammar.

Thanks a lot for the article, both author and poster.


Pete W said...

This is an interesting article but contains some quite significant errors of use.

While you have identified past forms of many regular verbs, you have missed at least one more (traveled, first sentence).

More problematic than that is that you appear to be identifying the past tense verbs in places where they are not acting as verbs, but rather as adjectives. What stands out to me right away is the description of the food. When you describe the shrimp as steamed and the trout as boiled, both of these past verb forms are acting as adjectives rather than verbs.

The form is the same but you run the risk of confusing students as to exactly how many verbs are in each sentence.

I'm not sure exactly how you teach with this material but be aware that this is a piece that is focusing on the written form of the verb rather than the actual use of the verb in the narrative.

An interesting piece nonetheless and I'm glad it has worked well in your lessons.

Pete :-)

Judith Anne Smith said...

Excellent text for practicing -ed ending pronunciation! Thank you for sharing your work!