Does your child have trouble using the right verb tense?
Verbs are complicated creatures!
I’ve recently observed my 3 year old mixing up verb tense using phrases like:
I ‘goed’ to school (went)
I ‘spinned’ around (spun)
We … walk to the park (will walk)
He is play (playing)
I seen Dad (saw)
I spilled it (split)
I leaved it there (left)
Verbs are the essential ingredient in any communication. Verbs tell us ‘what’s going on’ in a sentence.
Verbs are a big part of communication and add so much meaning to our sentences. Like much of english grammar, verbs in all their forms are complicated.
So let’s learn a bit more about verbs and find out how to help our kids use the right verb tense.
Types of Verbs
a) Primary Verbs (be, do, have, was)
Auxiliary verbs are ‘helping’ verbs that are used alongside other verbs such as
“We might leave at three”
They often give a more precise sense of time, show obligation or possibility such as
“They were watching TV”
b) Modal Verbs (will, must, could, can)
Modal verbs often give a sense possibility or necessity such as:
“You must clean your room”
2. Main Verbs (jump, run, eat)
Regular verbs can be predicted with rules and appear in 4 forms:
- the base form with no endings (go, run, eat),
- The -s form made by adding -s to the base form (goes, runs, eats)
- The -ing form made by adding -ing to the base form (They are running, He is eating cake)
- The -ed form made by adding -ed to the base verb (passed, rented), indicating past tense.
Different verb forms can be used to indicate tense. When 2 verb forms are combined this can also change the tense.
“He will run” “He was running”
Irregular verbs are often unpredictable. There are thousands of regular verbs but less than 300 irregular ones. Perhaps this is why we often see kids using regular verbs but not irregular verbs.
Irregular verbs often have two features;
- The vowel of the base verbs is changed (meet->met, speak->spoken),
- The -ed ending is not used (cut, won) or it is changed to -t as in burnt, spilt.
In order to avoid getting too technical we’ll stop there but once a verb is added into a sentence there are many other types of verbs created. For example suffixes can be added to words in order to form a verb such as -ate (orchestrate), -en (quicken) -fy (simplify), -ise (hospitalise).
Age Verbs are Acquired
So that’s a lot of verbs and rules for our little ones to learn.
Here’s a bit of a guide outlining when we can expect these verbs to appear in your child’s vocabulary:
According to “Browns Stages” verbs are acquired as follows:Verb-norms-handouts
How to teach your child verbs
So now that we have covered all these different verb types and determined which ones your child should be using we’ll share our tips.
This strategy is built all around modelling the verb to your child rather than explicitly teaching it or correcting your child. This is a lovely natural way to help your child develop verbs without making it look like homework or without making them feel self conscious. Recasting is directly modelling the error word back to your child and then repeating this word as many times as naturally possible within the conversation.
Here is an example of the target word “went”:
Child: “I goed to school today”
Parent: “Oh you went to school today,” “I went to work” “where else did you go today?”
Child: “I goed to the shops with Dad”
Parent: “Oh really, I went to the shops yesterday” “I went to buy some grapes for you to take to school” “I also went to the bakery and I went to the bank”
Here we can see the parent has modelled the target verb 6 times within a 1 minute conversation. It takes some getting used to but once you get the hang of this strategy it is easy to work into your day.
Apps for verbs
Play Games with verbs
Play an action game by giving the instruction “walking, walking, walking” “STOP, what did you do?” (Your child has to freeze and say what he/she did “I walked”).
Look through books, magazines, or catalogues, or search for action pictures on the Internet. Take turns talking about the picture with your child as if it happened yesterday. “Yesterday he jumped”
Play action games where you do the action and then talk about what you did. For example:
- Bubbles – take turns blowing bubbles and when you have finished your turn say, “I blew bubbles”.
- At mealtimes, take turns talking about what you eating and drinking, “I ate a carrot” and “I drank water”.
Play with a ball to work on the verbs rolling, throwing, passing, catching, bouncing, running, kicking, walking.
Focus on cooking verbs such as mixing, rolling, cooking, stirring, squashing, turning, making, baking, spraying.
Play with figurines/dolls
Use the toy to act out verbs for the child to copy e.g. Barbie is sleeping, now it’s your turn.
Listen to action songs and focus on stomping, clapping, spinning, jumping, hopping, twisting, and dancing
Rediscover Grammar; David Crystal, republished 2003.
Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence; Rhea Paul, 2007.
Blake’s Grammar Guide for primary students; Del Merrick, 2009
Bowen, C. (1998). Brown’s Stages of Syntactic and Morphological Development. Retrieved from www.speech-language-therapy.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=33 on (Nov 2019).