What verb form follows ‘didn’t’?

Didn’t is used in negative sentences when we talk about finished actions. What verb form should I use after didn’t?

Why do we use didn’t?

We use didn’t when we make negative sentences in the past simple. The past simple is a tense we use to talk about things that started and finished in the past. It can be used to describe a short, finished action –

     I broke my phone last night.

a longer situation –

     We spent our childhood in Marsaskala.

or repeated events in the past –

     We went swimming every day.

How do we use the past simple?

Using the past simple is pretty straightforward, at least where regular verbs are concerned. To get the past simple form of most regular verbs, all you have to do is add -ed to the end of the infinitive form.

     work  worked

     play  played

     talk  talked

Here are some examples using the verb work:

I workedI didn't workDid I work?
You workedYou didn't workDid you work?
He/she/it workedHe/she/it didn't workDid he/she/it work?

As you can see, you don’t have to worry about changing the verb according to the pronoun. In negative sentences and questions, however, we need to use the auxiliary verb did (do  did) along with the infinitive (the basic form). We don’t need to use the -ed form of the verb at all – all we need to do is use did + infinitive and change the word order in questions, or use didn’t/did not infinitive in negative sentences.

     Did you watch a movie last night?

     I didn’t watch a movie last night.

Here are some other things to keep in mind:

Verbs ending in -e: add -d

     decide  decided

     smile  smiled

Verbs ending in a stressed vowel + one consonant: double the consonant, add -ed

     refer  referred

     plan  planned

Verbs ending in an unstressed vowel + one consonant: add -ed

     offer  offered

     target  targeted

Verbs ending in a consonant + y: use i instead of y, add -ed

     worry  worried

     study  studied

Verbs ending in a vowel + y: add -ed

     play  played

     stay  stayed

Verbs ending in -c: change c to ck, add -ed

panic  panicked

Verbs ending in -l: double l, add -ed [only in British English]

     travel  travelled

Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs don’t follow the -ed rule, meaning you’ll have to learn them by heart. To avoid frustration and boredom, I recommend establishing a regular reading habit instead of just trying to memorize irregular verbs off a list – it’s always better to learn irregular verbs through context, rather than mechanically. It’ll take you longer to learn them all, but at least it won’t be so boring. While reading helps you learn how to spell and use irregular verbs in a sentence, you could also watch movies, TV shows, cartoons or documentaries.

Here are some examples:

I ateI didn't eatDid I eat?
You wentYou didn't goDid you go?
He/she/it sangHe/she/it didn't singDid he/she/it sing?

Once again, we need to use did (not) + infinitive in negative sentences and questions. The rules are the same – the only difference is how the verbs change in affirmative () sentences since they’re irregular.

Some easily confused verbs:

     fall  fell

They fell in love (not felt!)
They didn’t fall in love
Did they fall in love?

     feel felt

I felt sick
I didn’t feel sick
Did I feel sick?

     lay laid (put down, place)

She laid the book on the table
 She didn’t lay the book on the table
Did she lay the book on the table?

     lie lay (be down, resting/reclining)

 He lay on the sand
 He didn’t lie on the sand
 Did he lie on the sand?

     lie lied (say things that aren’t true)

 They lied about their age
 They didn’t lie about their age
 Did they lie about their age?

That’s it! Don’t worry if you keep making mistakes – go over the grammar, expose yourself to the language by reading and listening, and you’ll get it right eventually. Although it’s boring (I certainly find studying German grammar boring…), studying verb lists won’t hurt, either. It takes time and practice, so be patient and keep at it!