Business Writing Quick Tips: past tense and past participles

 

Business English Quick Tips

Quick tips to help you write better for business

If you need to write for your job or business in English, these quick tips will help you succeed…

Past tense and past participles

Many people I know, especially in the UK, confuse the past tense of a verb with its past participle. This is especially true in the case of the London and south-east England cultures: they will tend to say “I have spoke about (whatever)” … when they should say / write, “I have spoken about (whatever.)

In spoken speech, and even in written speech, to use the former (grammatically incorrect) version is totally acceptable within the local culture. However given that English is spoken internationally – in other cultures and countries as well as those whose first language is English – for you to use this grammatically wrong form when you’re writing, will just make the other cultures think you’re ignorant. Sad, but true. Some examples:

If I had known the report was going to stir up such a hornet’s nest, I would have wrote it more carefully. (“written”)

It can’t possibly have took you that long to finish your lunchbreak! (“taken”)

Just to confuse the picture further, some past tenses and past participles are identical! Examples of those are:

  • Bet
  • Brought
  • Cost
  • Dealt
  • Heard
  • Lent
  • Paid
  • Sold
  • Stood
  • Taught
  • Understood

However it’s where there are differences that you need to be careful. If you want some more detailed information about past participles and other grammar issues, I find this resource very helpful: http://www.grammar.cl/Notes/Past-Participles.htm

Just for laughs….

Try your hand at these! See if you can decided in which of these sentences the past tenses are incorrectly used:

  1. With this new project, he had bit off more than he could chew
  2. The poor victim of the accident had bled to death
  3. She had been bound up in the red tape of the project for weeks
  4. After the company Christmas lunch several staff members had drank too much
  5. They reckoned they’d ate some poisoned seafood on that business trip to China
  6. He hadn’t heard of this company before
  7. She hadn’t laid down and rested for nearly 24 hours
  8. The news about the redundancies had really shook them
  9. I hadn’t thought it was possible to get so many statistics wrong
  10. He’d woke feeling unwell but still insisted on going to work

And here are the answers … incorrectly used were numbers 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10, because the past participles should have been used instead:

  1. With this new project, he had bitten off more than he could chew
  2. The poor victim of the accident had bled to death
  3. She had been bound up in the red tape of the project for weeks
  4. After the company Christmas lunch several staff members had drunk too much
  5. They reckoned they’d eaten some poisoned seafood on that business trip to China
  6. He hadn’t heard of this company before
  7. She hadn’t lain down and rested for nearly 24 hours
  8. The news about the redundancies had really shaken them
  9. I hadn’t thought it was possible to get so many statistics wrong
  10. He’d woken feeling unwell but still insisted on going to work

More next week … and if you have any questions about business writing in English please add them here in the comments section; I will try to answer them as well as I can!

Suze

More quick fixes to make your bizwriting brilliant (instant downloads)

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write
The MAMBA Way to make your words sell“…how to think your way to superbly successful sales writing
“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

Comments

comments

Thoughts

  1. Awesome thought sharing
    thank you

    • Glad you found it useful, Gajendran. And it’s good to see you here – you and your readers will find many of the articles useful to help you with your blogging.

  2. I am most irritated by “I was sat” rather ” I was sitting” or indeed “I sat”

    • Hello Charlotte – yes, I agree with you. Funnily enough I had a conversation about “being sat” with my son and a friend of his just the other day. And I told them it was wrong! Good to see you here – come back soon.

Thoughts

*

css.php