Monday, September 5, 2011

A Grammar Lesson: Past Tense of Pet, Sweat, Etc.

Last night, Josh mentioned that he'd "sweat" for hours today. I heard a friend recently say that they'd "pet" an animal.

Both times that I heard these words-- sweat and pet used as past-tense verbs-- it grated on my ears just a little. It didn't sound quite right, but it didn't sound quite wrong either. Of course, my inner grammar nerd couldn't rest until I knew exactly how to correctly use sweat, pet, and words like them in the past tense. So, I googled.

Josh sweated over a hot grill to bring us this tasty meal.

I found this article by Neal Whitman helpful, and although he did a good job of explaining it, I'm going to see if I can bring it down a few more notches for us, because I had to re-read it a couple of times to really understand what he was saying. Feel free to click though and read it for yourself, though; it's very interesting!

He points out that there are several one-syllable words that end in t and are irregular-- they are the same in the present and past tense. Think of let, bet, set, put, hit, and cut, among others.

But there are also several one-syllable words that end in t and are regular-- they use -ed for the past tense. Think of batted, knitted, knotted, jotted, netted, and jetted, among others.

Neal quotes another linguist who theorizes that, because the irregular first group of verbs are so frequently used (perhaps even more frequently used than the regular verbs) and are so similar to the regular second group, many times we tend to lump all of them into the first category and leave the -ed off, even when it's not correct.

So, to summarize, in case your eyes have already glazed over:

  • Some verbs don't take an -ed in the past tense: letbetsetputhit, and cut, among others.
  • Some verbs do take an -ed in the past tense: battedknitted, knottedjottednetted, and jetted, among others.
  • Both pet and sweat fall firmly into the second category. The correct past tenses of these verbs are petted and sweated.

Don't you feel better now that you know that? Have a great day full of great grammar!


  1. Hooray for grammar! I love it. :)

  2. Then there's my personal favorite: text. Many people throw it into that first category, and it makes me CRAZY!! Just had to throw that out there. ;)

  3. Emily- yes! I hear that a LOT and it drives me bonkers. I understand why people do it, because words that end in t sound funny when you add the -ed, but that still doesn't make it right.