Practice Past Tense Verbs  

This exercise tests your knowledge of regular and irregular past tense verbs with a story about hunting for a job. Fill in the blanks (gaps) using the correct past tense form of the verb given right after each blank.

4 pictures related to job interviews: a scheduled interview on a calendar, a handshake, the interview itself, and the interviewee's feeling (a big sign saying

(It will tell you if you need a past participle rather than the simple past tense. You can also recognize that for yourself by noting if the verb is preceded by have, has or had.

In fact, one purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate the use of the past perfect tense when talking about things that happened before other past events.)

The first paragraph of the gap-fill is completed as an example.

Before starting, here is a list of forms and meanings of verbs related to employment. Except for ‘quit’, these are actions an employer (the company or person who has jobs available) takes that affect a person who wants or has a job (the job seeker or employee.)

An employee quits when he or she decides to leave a job.

    verb               meaning                                                  past tense        past participle (pp)

  • hire           to give a job to someone                             hired                 hired
  • employ     formal term for giving someone a job             employed         employed
  • lay off       to take away a job due to lack of work          laid off             laid off
  • let go        to take away a job (various reasons)             let go               let go
  • fire            to take away a job due to misbehavior          fired                 fired                                              (or for any reason the employer decides)   
  • dismiss     formal term for firing someone                     dismissed        dismissed
  • quit           to leave a job (various reasons)                   quit                  quit

Aside from the verbs above, any irregular verbs used in the gaps are on the List of Irregular Verbs (the Top 50) and the Irregular Past Participles List if you want to check before answering. (Two that are not on that list are done for you.) It’s better to try them without checking. That will help fix them in your memory. Some (but not all) regular verbs are also included in the gaps. Remember that regular past tense verbs end in ‘-ed,’ and their past participles are the same as their simple past forms.

The first three sentences have been done as an example. Underlined words are the answers; words in parentheses give the base form (present tense) of the needed verb and say ‘pp.’ if the gap should be filled with the past participle form of that verb.

Instructions: fill in each blank/gap with the past tense form of the verb in parentheses (or its past participle if it says pp.)

Job Hunting

Last June, Henry, Jim, Elena, and Sue were (be, plural) all looking for work.  Henry, a mechanic, had been laid (pp. of lay) off when his company downsized.  Jim had quit (pp. quit) his job to take a dream vacation in Europe.

(Now you try it!)


Elena had just graduated from college with a B.A. degree in accounting. Sue had (pp. be) a receptionist. She (be) fired for missing too much work. They all (ask) their friends if they (know) about any jobs.

One friend (say), “Try the classified ads in the newspaper for local jobs.” Another (tell) them to talk to the job counselors at the One Stop Employment Center. A third friend (say) she had (hear) about a new company in town with many job openings. “I (find) out they’re hiring mechanics, drivers, delivery people, and office personnel,” she said. So all four of them (go) to that company and (fill) out applications. They also (leave) copies of the resumes they had (pp. write).

They (be, plural) all called to come in for interviews two weeks later. They (arrive) early, and wore (irregular past of wear) their best work clothes. The interviewer (be, singular) friendly, but she (ask) a lot of questions. She asked them all when they would be available to start working. She asked if they (want) to work part time or full time, if they could sometimes work weekends, and if they could give her references.

She also asked Henry his reason for leaving his job. When he (explain) that he had lost (the irregular pp. of lose) his job due to downsizing, she (understand) it wasn’t his fault. Then she asked if he had (pp. operate) heavy equipment, and what kinds of machines and vehicles he had worked on. She also wondered if he (have) any training in heavy machinery maintenance.

She asked Jim why he had (pp. leave) his previous job, and how long he (expect) to stay with her company. (do) he consider this a permanent career, or another temporary job?

She wanted to know what kinds of work Elena had (pp. do) on her summer vacations, and if she had (pp. take) any special accounting exams. She also wanted to know if Elena had any general office skills like typing or shorthand.

She asked Sue why she had (pp. be) absent so often. Sue explained that her daughter had (pp. be) sick a lot the past year, and she hadn’t (pp. find) anyone to take care of her when she (have) to stay home. Her previous employer (have) not (pp. have) anyone to take her place in the office, so they had to let her go. She (pp, tell) the interviewer, “Now my mother is living with me, so she can care for Jessica if she gets sick. I won’t miss any more work,” she (promise).

The next week Henry, Elena, and Sue (tell) all their friends that they had (pp. be) hired! Jim (do) not get offered a job. He (have) to keep looking for a long time, because no employer (think) of him as dependable or hardworking.

For more past tense (and perfect tense) practice see List of Irregular Verbs (top 50) with Practice

Practice with Irregular Past Tense Verbs, and 

Present and Past Perfect Tense Practice.

HomeGrammar Practice> Practice Past Tense Verbs.

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