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What age do children understand past/present tense?

(10 Posts)
FuckOffJeffrey Thu 28-Apr-16 14:41:09

DD is 6.5 (primary 2) and she still gets past and present tense wrong quite a lot. She will also use incorrect words in a similar way a toddler would. For example she will say sitted rather than sat but understands when to use sit. Another example 'The bird flyed away' rather than 'The bird flew away'.

I have obviously been correcting her and I thought by now she would have outgrown this. She was improving for a while but I've noticed recently she is now making similar errors when writing. When she is reading she will sometimes read words in the wrong tense even though the correct word is on the page.

When do children generally outgrow this? I feel it still hasn't clicked for her yet so will continue to work with her but I'm unsure if I should be concerned or not at this stage?

Eeeek686 Thu 28-Apr-16 17:34:48

I blame bloody Bing... hmm

Sorry not much help but pretty sure if everything else is going OK developmentally then it's probably just absent mindedness?

Artioo2 Thu 28-Apr-16 18:59:38

I've no idea what age they're 'supposed' to get this, but I wouldn't be too worried about it. If you think about it, what she's doing is entirely logical and sensible - she's applying linguistic rules as she understands them. It's just that unfortunately some verbs are irregular. If you follow the usual rule, the past tense of 'sit' would be 'sitted', like the past tense of 'jump' is 'jumped'. It just so happens that sit is an irregular verb, but she hasn't quite learned that yet. She's trying out the rules, and she'll gradually learn, by reading and listening, when the rules don't apply.

I wonder if maybe that's why you've noticed this more recently - in the past she could have been using language by imitating what she hears more, but now she's staring to sense patterns and rules because she's reading and writing, she's trying to apply them. That's my very non-expert theory!

Ferguson Thu 28-Apr-16 19:05:12

It does take quite a few years for children to grasp all the variations in the English language.

Don't correct her TOO much, or she will start to feel a failure! And at 6 she isn't that far advanced from being a 'toddler'. The examples you quote, in a way she isn't WRONG - she is applying the rules of Past Tense as they most frequently are used, by putting '...ed' on the end; it's not her fault that English has so many confusing exceptions!

There is a book that could help you both deal with some of these difficulties: the Oxford Phonics Spelling Dictionary is in MN Book Reviews:

An inexpensive and easy to use book, that can encourage children with reading, spelling and writing, and really help them to understand Phonics, is reviewed in the MN Book Reviews section. Just search ‘Phonics’ and my name.

[Eeeek686 - Sorry, but I don't see that Bing has much to do with it; and I assume you DON'T mean 'Crosby'.]

Artioo2 Thu 28-Apr-16 19:11:26

Yes, I meant to add, when you say you correct her, how do you do it? It's best to model the correct form back to her, not just correct the word. So if she said 'I sitted down', instead of saying 'no, it's sat', you'd agree, 'yes, you sat down.' Then you're not undermining her in a negative way but she hears the right form.

Eeeek686 Thu 28-Apr-16 19:46:15

Ferg - haven't you noticed, Bing does this! Says things like "then I sitted down" or 'when I getted it", drives me (mildly) crazy!

I'm sure the producers are only trying to make it more 'realistic' but pretty sure most 3-5 yr olds wouldn't be pouring scorn on him for being unrealistically grammatically correct for his apparent age, and then they would are least be learning to speak correctly through imitation (which let's be honest it's how most kids this age learn)....

Kariana Fri 29-Apr-16 18:41:18

Fairly common at her age. Also there is a section in phonics when children learn about spelling ed words. If she's reached this point in the programme it might explain why she seems to be regressing a little as the ed rule will have been hammered home and exceptions tend to be discussed later.

FuckOffJeffrey Sat 30-Apr-16 01:13:03

Eeeek686 I had to google Bing (my first thought was the Microsoft search engine). She doesn't watch that show so I don't think she's picked it up there. Everything else is fine development wise. She has just got over a particularly nasty case of scarlet fever that took 2 rounds of antibiotics to clear. Not sure if that would have made her a little absent minded. I don't think the couple of weeks off school due to illness combined with the time off for Easter and spring break has helped.

Artioo2 What you have said does make a lot of sense. I wouldn't have thought to look at it that way. When I correct her in speech it is in the positive way you have mentioned. When she is reading her homework book out loud I will ask her to try the word again, she has a tendency to rush her reading and I feel she sometime anticipates the word rather than reading it.

Ferguson the phonics dictionary looks great. I've added it to my Amazon basket. Ive also been eyeing up the phonics dominoes game that came up in the 'customers who bought this item also bought' section at the bottom of the page.

Kariana she may well have started this phase in phonics. I didn't realise the 'ed' would be something they covered separately with the exceptions at a later date. If it is something they have recently covered then that would explain the recent regression. I will ask DD about it tomorrow.

Thanks again everyone. Mumsnet is great. Sometimes it's the silly little issues like this that play on my mind (usually at night when I'm trying to fall asleep).

mikesh909 Sun 01-May-16 22:02:00

My background is in linguistics (although not child language acquisition specifically) and I can echo what Artioo2 said above. This is called u-shaped development - which means that it can appear that a child is moving backwards rather than forwards, for example saying 'sitted' where they had previously said 'sat'. This is indeed due to a growing awareness of the rules of the language - in this case the rule that you add +ed to a verb to form its past tense. Once learnt, that rule is over applied before the concept of regular / irregular verbs is acquired. Of course, in second language speakers an attempt is usually made to teach this explicitly (although the jury is most definitely out on whether that is effective). Children learn grammar rules through exposure to the language so the most important thing is to maximise this through stories, songs, an ongoing stream of chit chat etc. I can also recommend the comments on positive reinforcement rather than explicit negative correction. This also has strong roots in linguistic theory (Vygotsky's 'scaffolding', if you're interested).

Ferguson Tue 03-May-16 19:22:47

Eeeek686 - I also was at 'cross purposes' with you over Bing, and assumed you meant the search-engine (I wonder who actually uses that though!)

I have now caught up with CBeebies 'Bing', but as at the moment sound isn't working on my computer, and not sure what's wrong, but I hope eventually to listen out for the things you mentioned.

Very many years ago the BBC always modelled perfect spoken English in all its programmes, but now we have things like EastEnders that no longer applies, and even Blue Peter can be slovenly these days. At least Charlie and Lola can still be relied on to set an impeccable example to us all.

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