Learn English – Past tense ending for verbs ending in -a


The ability to verbify is well known in English and on this site. Occasionally a verbified non-verb will end with -a. Occasionally that verbified non-verb ending with -a will need to be in the past tense.

How do you inflect a verb that ends in the letter a to make it past tense?

The task is easy enough in spoken English: you just add a -d. But what about in written English?

I suppose I know of no rule that prohibits just adding -ed like you otherwise would, except it looks terribly awkward. Even added to familiar nouns, it would throw off my pronunciation as I read (cf. bandanaed, which Wiktionary attests to).

The other possibilities that makes some sense to me is to use an apostrophe, 'd, or, a bit more provocatively, to just drop the -a.

Examples? Here is a list of words that end in -a. Many are technical, but plenty enough or common in everyday spoken language. As I scrolled through, two that stuck out as likely candidates for verbifying were alleluia and barista: alleluiaed? barista'd? diplomed? eureked? I have not been able to think of any words that are already commonly verbs that end in -a, but it seems odd that a whole class of words are excluded from becoming verbs just because of their final letter.

I looked on this site and beyond, into the depths of the scary and dark world that is the rest of the web, but the common use of the article a made queries difficult. Also, my inability to find anything may just indicate no special treatment is necessary. If so, though, I would still appreciate some evidence of actual usage. Can anyone point to a verb with ending in -a that is commonly made preterite with -ed?

Here is an article from Oxford Living Dictionaries about exceptional cases of inflecting to the past tense. It says nothing of verbs ending in -a.

Best Answer

Fowler at least recommends -'d after words ending in -a, like J. Taylor. I think this looks OK in some cases, so I would also tentatively recommend it.

His examples are all actually derived adjectives, not past tense, but I think it works basically the same way. They include one-idea'd, full-aroma'd coffee, a rich-fauna'd region.

Fowler also recomends -'d in some other circumstances, some of which I think are unnecessary or weird in modern writing: after -o ("mustachio'd"; but I think mustachioed is OK), after -i ("ski'd"; I think skied is now more-or-less standard), and after -ee in "pedigree'd" (pedigreed seems fine by analogy with freed, agreed).