Practice Past Tense Verbs  

Test 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.

One purpose of this exercise is to give examples of how to use the past perfect tense. We use it when talking about things that happened before other past events.)

The first paragraph of the gap-fill is already filled out as an example.

Before starting, here are the forms and meanings of verbs related to employment. Except for ‘quit’, these are actions an employer takes that affect a job seeker or employee. (An employer is the company or person with that gives jobs to people. An employee is someone who works for an employer.)

  • To quit is to decide to leave a job.
  • To hire (formally: employ) a person is to give him or her a job. 
  • To lay people off is to take away some employees' jobs when the employer decides there is not enough work (or money) to keep paying them all. 
  • To let someone go is to end employment for whatever reason
  • To fire (formally: dismiss) someone is to end their employment because the employer is unhappy with their work. 

    verb/ past tense/ past participle (pp)

  • hire/ hired/ hired
  • employ/ employed/ employed
  • lay off/ laid off/ laid off
  • let go/ let go/ let go
  • fire/ fired/ fired                                              
  • dismiss/ dismissed/ dismissed        
  • quit/ quit/ quit                        

Aside from the verbs above, any irregular verbs in the gaps are on the List of Irregular Verbs (the Top 50) and the Irregular Past Participles List.  (Two that are not on that list are done for you.)

It’s better to try them without checking those lists. That will help fix them in your memory. Some regular verbs are also included in the gaps. Remember that regular past tense verbs end in ‘-ed.’ Their past participles are the same as their simple past forms. (That's true of all regular verbs and smoe irregulars.)

The first three sentences have been done as an example. Underlined words are the answers. The base form (present tense) of the needed verb is in the parentheses. It will say ‘pp.’ first 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. (Use its past participle instead 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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