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What’s the Past Tense of Do?

To do and does are both present tense. Did is past tense for all subjects, and done is the past participle (also for all subjects).

The verb 'to do' in text conversation.
The verb ‘to do‘ in text conversation. By Gflex on Canva.



What’s the past tense of “do”?

Is it do, does, did or done? What’s the past tense of the verb to do? If you want the short answer:

Verb forms of do

Definitions first: the verb to do is defined as, “to perform, take part in, or achieve something: “That was a really stupid thing to do.” “What are you doing over the weekend?”

presentpastfuture
simpleI do/doesI didI will do
continuousI am doingI was doingI will be doing
perfectI have doneI had doneI will have done
perfect continuousI have been doingI had been doingI will have been doing
Tenses of ‘do’.

1. To do is present tense (first, second, third person pl. and sing. subjects): What does he do for a living?

2. Doing is the present participle: I’m doing the dishes right now.

3. Does is the third-person singular present: He does the shopping on Wednesdays.

4. Will do is the future tense: I will do the lawn mowing tomorrow.

5. Did is the simple past tense for all subjects: I did nothing all day.

6. Done is the past participle for all subjects: I’ve done all of my work for the day.

Is do an irregular verb?

Regular verbs in English end in -ed in each of their past tense forms. Do, in its past tense forms, does not end in -ed (read: did and done). The verb do has numerous verb conjugations, much like these other irregular verbs in English:

base verbpast tensepast participle
do or doesdiddone
writewrotewritten
bitebitbitten
eatateeaten
hidehidhidden
rideroderidden

When to use did vs does?

The difference between did vs does is:

Does is simple present tense: He does his schoolwork once he gets home from school.

Did is the simple past tense: He did his homework when he got home from school.

Did and does refer to different points in time: does is present; did is past. This is not the only difference between did and does: does is only used in the third person singular case. Do (present simple) and did (past simple) are used for all other subjects, be it singular or plural.

When to use did vs done?

We’ve covered that the simple past tense of ‘do‘ is did. We also know that does is simple present, and only used in the third person singular. That leaves the past participle, done (rhymes with won). When is it correct to use did vs done?  This is a question on the distinction between the past tense vs the past participle. To see the difference in their use, compare these sentences:

He did a lot of homework today. (simple past)

He has done a lot of homework today. (past participle)

The second sentence places the helping verb, has, written in italics. That’s to highlight the importance of the role of has in this sentence—try removing ‘has‘, and see what turns out:

He done a lot of homework today.

This is incorrect English, and is not a proper sentence or thought. Without helping verbs, participles cannot stand alone as a fully-functioning verb and part of speech. Participles are forms of verbs, and they participate in various aspects of speech: they act like adjectives by modifying nouns, and pair with auxiliary verbs to show tense, subject, count and so on. Importantly, ‘done‘ and other participles cannot, on their own, reflect tense, and so, they require helping verbs:  had/have, should, would, could, and so forth.  

Examples of the present tense verb do used in context

The following sentences show the correct use of the verb do in context:

1. Do you play cricket? – No, I don’t.

2. What does he do for a living?

3. I do my homework as soon as I get home.

4. Do you know what time it is?

5. I didn’t do anything wrong.

Sentences examples of the verb does in context

1. Henry does all of his chores once he returns home from school.  

2. He doesn’t want any chocolate.

3. She does her homework as soon as she gets home.

4. I’m sure that he does.

5. Does Amy walk home from school?

Examples of the word did used in sentences

The following sentences show the correct use of did in context:

1. Did you order anything for dinner?

2. I did not want to hear about it.

3. She did her homework as soon as she got home.

4. I did the dishes every day.

5. Did Tim pay for his ticket last night?

Examples of done (past participle) in context

The following sentences show the correct use of done in context:

1. She had done homework for three hours after she got home.

2. This has been done before.

3. She did everything she could to make sure it was done by the deadline.

4. Have you ever done anything weird?

5. I’ve never done yoga, and I’m not sure if they do, but I’m sure that he does.

Origin of the verb do

From etymology online on do (v.):

To perform, execute, achieve, carry out, bring to pass by procedure of any kind,” etc., Middle English do, first person singular of Old English don “make, act, perform, cause; to put, to place,” from West Germanic *doanan.

Learn more about verbs

Sources  

  1. Merriam-Webster, definition of do.
  2. Etymology online, origin of do.


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