Past Tense: “Sing”

If you’ve been studying English for any amount of time, it will come as no surprise that it can be a confusing language to learn. In this lesson, we’re talking about the past tense of the verb ‘sing.’ The past tense of this verb can be confusing, so let’s clarify the correct way to use this verb.

The verb ‘sing’ means to make musical sounds with your voice, especially words with a set tune (also known as a song!). It can also be used when we talk about certain animals (like birds or whales), to recount or celebrate a person or a thing (usually in art or literature), or when someone acts as an informer (usually to a person of authority).

Sing is an irregular verb, which means that the past tense is not formed by adding the usual -ed ending. Specifically, the verb ‘swim’ is of Germanic origin, and is considered a strong verb, which means that its inflected form is conjugated through vowel gradation or apophony (a sound change within a word that indicates grammatical information). Many words in the English language that have been adopted from other languages have this characteristic.

In modern English, the past form of the verb ‘sing’ is ‘sang,’ no matter what the pronoun is. ‘Sung’ is commonly mistaken for the past tense of this verb, when in fact it is the past participle.

So, here are several examples using both to show you how this verb is used:

  1. My grandmother had a pet canary that sang every time it rained.
  2. I sang in a choir when I was young. I was a soprano.
  3. Did you go see the opera “Carmen” this week? I heard that the mezzo-soprano sang beautifully!
  4. After he wrote his first novel, every book critic in town sang his praises.
  5. As soon as the police brought in the bank thief for questioning, he sang like a canary. He was charged for the robbery right after that!
  6. Do you remember who sang the national anthem at the Superbowl this year?
  7. My boyfriend surprised me at work with a singing telegram for my birthday. Five mariachis showed up at my desk and sang “Las Mañanitas,” and I sang along with them!
  8. When my daughter was born, I sang her the same lullaby my mother and grandmother sang to me.
  9. Humpback whales are known for their mesmerizing vocalizations, and the sounds really help me relax and sleep. I found a video on YouTube where they sang for hours!
  10. For my grandparents’ 50th anniversary, our whole family got together and sang their wedding song.

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