Teaching Simple Aspect Verbs

The simple aspect verbs are often introduced along side 'to be' verbs. The simple aspect uses only one verb in a sentence. There are no accompanying helping (auxiliary) verbs. Simple verbs indicate an action that takes place at one point in time. They provide a strong foundation to build future language skills and vocabulary.

Simple Verbs Purposes

Simple verbs (past, present, and future tenses) can be used to express habits, facts, general truths, repeated events, and directions. Simple verbs are often used in written academic and business reports to convey information, facts, laws, and principles. 

  • Habit             I go to bed at 9 p.m.
  • Fact              The sun rises in the east.
  • Gen. Truth    Most plants grow in soil.
  • Repeated     The earth revolves around the sun once a year.
  • Directions     Put that in the trash can. 
  • Describe       He seems very tired. (Linking Verbs)
  • Senses          The medicine tastes terrible.
  • Mental Action  I believe in hard work.
  • Emotion         I admire John Glen, the astronaut.

Third Person Singular

Simple present verbs add the suffixes -s or -es for third person singular subjects. "Do", "go" and "have" change to "does, "goes", and "has" for the third person singular subjects, respectively. English learners need to practice identifying third person subjects and using the correct verb forms. Suffix Rules are given at the end.

  • Do        Jack (he) does his homework quickly.
  • Go        The food (it) goes in the cabinet. 
  • Have    Tom (he) has a red bike. 
  • Add s    Sally (she) needs more paper. 
  • Add es  The cat (it) washes its body with its tongue.   

    Simple Past Purposes

    The simple past tense is used to express facts, repeated actions in the past, or the duration of a past event.

    • Fact: I saw a herd of deer yesterday.
    • Repeated Action: It rained frequently in this area last May.
    • Duration: He lived in Ohio for five years.

    1. Regular verbs add  the suffix -ed to create the simple past tense form. CVC verbs double the last letter when adding -ed. Silent E verbs drop the final "e'" and add "-ed".

    Regular verb + ed   Marquette explored New France.
    CVC + C + ed         Mandela stopped Apartheid.
    Silent E + ed           She arrived late. I liked the movie.


    The 1-1-1 Spelling Rule is also often taught. One syllable verbs with one short vowel that end in one consonant (CVC) double the final letter before adding suffixes beginning with vowels such as "ed" and "ing.

                -ed                      -ing
    stop  stopped       run   running
    plan  planned       sit     sitting


    2. The Pronunciation of "ed"

    Words that end with "d" or "t" add a syllable with the sound of /id/. Teach this first. Verbs that end with unvoiced consonants (f, k, p, s, x, ch, sh) say /t/ at the end. Verbs that end with voiced sounds (b, g, j, l, m, n, r, v, z, vowel)  say /d/. 

    •    /id/               /t/                /d/             
    • decided        liked            called        
    • reminded     dropped       rained        
    • painted         passed        played       


    3. Irregular verbs vary in form and must be memorized. They can be grouped by the patterns they follow. See Teaching Irregular Verbs for more information.

    • Pattern 1: cut, cut, cut
    • Pattern 2: hear, heard, heard                 
    • Pattern 3: bring brought, brought 
    • Pattern 4: feel, felt, felt
    • Pattern 5: find, found, found
    • Pattern 6:  drink drank, drunk
    • Pattern 7: fly, flew, flown
    • Pattern 8: break, broke, broken
    • Pattern 9: come, came, come

    Simple Future

    The simple future tense is used to express an action that will occur some time in the future. Because English does not have a future tense, “will” is added to the base form of a verb to create the simple future tense. "Shall" may be used for first person singular and plural subjects or for poetic reasons.

    Present                                          Future
    We eat fruit.                                   We will eat fruit for a snack.
    I take a 15 minute break.               I will take a break at 3:00.
    1. Contractions with Will
    Although in formal writing "will" is used to express the future tense, in spoken language will contractions are used. This is a great time to introduce contractions using "will".
    • I will = I'll
    • you will = you'll
    • he/she/it will = he'll, she'll, it'll
    • we will = we'll
    • they will = they'll
    2. Speaking Usage
    The future tense is different in the speaking and writing usage. Frequently the phrase "be going to" is substituted for "will" when speaking.
    Written                                       Spoken                                             
    I will go to the park.                  I am going to go the park.
    He will eat later.                        He is going to eat later.

    3. Purpose of Simple Future 
    Because "will" is a modal verb, it carries a number of other meanings. The future tense can express several other ideas.
    • Promise: I will meet you tonight.
    • Intention: I will clean the room tomorrow.
    • Willingness: I will be glad to do that for you.
    • Prediction: It will rain later.
    • Instructions: You will deliver the package before noon.

    Negative Statements

    In addition to teaching positive statements, negative statements should also be introduced.  "Do not / does not" is added before action verbs for the simple present tense. "Did not" is used for simple past with other verbs. "Not" is in between the modal "will" and the verb in the simple future tense.

    • Present      We do not have a dog.
    • Present      He does not like carrots.
    • Past           She did not go to the movie. 
    • Future        It will not rain tomorrow.

    Negative Contractions are used frequently in speech and stories. These are not permitted in formal writing such as a report.

    • do not = don't      does not = doesn't      did not = didn't    
    • will not = won't    would not = wouldn't   
    • cannot = can't     could not = couldn't    should not = shouldn't

    Forming Questions

    1. The Simple Present adds "do" and "does" to the beginning of sentences with action verbs.       
    • Statement                      Question
    • I like pizza.                      Do you like pizza?
    • She plays piano.             Does she play the guitar?


    2. The Simple Past adds "did" to the beginning of sentences with action verbs. "Did" indicates the past tense so the simple past verb is changed to the base verb.

    • Statement                       Question
    • You went to the store.     Did you go to the store?
    • She took a test.               Did she take a test? 


    3.The Simple Future moves "will" before the subject to form a question.

    • Statement                       Question
    • He will visit us today.       Will he visit us today?
    • We will eat apples.          Will we eat apples?

     Suffix Rules

    1. Add S to most verbs (third person singular)

    • CVC: stops, mops. bags
    • Ends with consonant: walks, jumps, looks
    • Ends with Silent E: lives, likes, votes
    • Ends with vowel+ y: enjoys, plays, shows
    • Ends with O: videos, shampoos 

    2. Add ES (third person singular)

    • Ends in s, x, z: misses, mixes, buzzes
    • Ends in ch, sh: matches, watches, pushes, crushes
    • Ends in consonant + y, Change y to i: cry - cries, fly - flies hurry - hurries
    • Ends with O: echoes, vetoes,  dittoes 

    3. Add ED (simple past tense)

    • CVC, Double final consonant: stopped, mopped, bagged
    • Ends with consonant: walked, jumped, looked
    • Ends with Silent E, Drop E: lived, liked, voted
    • Ends with vowel+ y: enjoyed, played, showed
    • Ends in s, x, z: missed, mixed, buzzed
    • Ends in ch, sh: matched, watched, pushed, crushed
    • Ends in consonant + y, Change y to i: cried - cried, fly - flies hurry - hurried
    • Ends with O: videoed, shampooed, echoed, vetoed, dittoed

    In conclusion, the simple aspect in English creates a strong foundation to build upon. It is useful for communicating habits, facts, general truths, and habits. There are several grammatical points to teach regarding third person singular forms, past tense forms, contractions, negative statements, and question formation. 

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