164.2 - Irregular Verbs with The Titanic


Words that are bolded in red are suggested vocabulary words for this episode.


Hi everybody. My name is Shana and this is the American English Podcast. My goal here is to teach you the English spoken in the United States. Through common expressions, pronunciation tips, and interesting cultural snippets or stories, I hope to keep this fun, useful and interesting. Let’s do it!


One of the most popular films of 1997 was by far Titanic. It won 11 Academy Awards, and if you saw the film or even just previews of it, you probably know the plot. There’s a love story between Kate Winslet, Rose, and Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack, that develops while aboard a huge ship called Titanic. The Titanic was a real ship that set off on its first transatlantic trip from England to the United States in 1912. I know you know what happens; the ship hits an iceberg and sinks.

I thought about retelling this story and I know English speakers would tell me, oh, Shana, really? That ship has sailed. Literally! That ship has sailed is an expression that means that the opportunity has passed. This topic is no longer new or as exciting as it once was, because it’s been talked about way too many times. I still find it interesting, but many would say that ship has sailed. So instead of doing my long cultural lesson, I’ve decided to change it up. I’ll tell you a brief summary of the Titanic, and in this story you’ll hear ten irregular verbs in the simple past tense. Pay attention and see how many of these irregular verbs you hear.

I’ve taught over 3,000 language classes to intermediate English learners, and even when people speak well, they might not switch back and forth between tenses quickly or remember an irregular past tense form when the moment arises that they need to use it. Now, listening to a story is more exciting, in my opinion, than memorizing verb lists. It’s more engaging, more memorable. And of course we want to remember vocabulary. So let me know what you think about this! You can write to me on Instagram @americanenglishpodcast, on Spotify, in their comments section, or even on YouTube, if you watch the video version of this audio.


Before we get to the lesson, some of you might be wondering: What do you mean by irregular verbs?

In English, we decide whether a verb is regular or irregular based on its form in the past tense. Regular verbs in English have -ed endings in the past. For example:

  • It was cold outside, so I changed into warm clothes. Changed is a regular past tense verb, it ends in -ed. Changed.
  • In December, my family moved to North Carolina. Moved is a regular past tense verb. Once again, it ends in -ed.

This is not rocket science, it’s fairly simple. Now irregular verbs, so the opposite of regular verbs, don’t have -ed endings in the simple past tense. Anything other than -ed as an ending is irregular.

  • Yesterday my daughter drank a glass of milk
  • Last week I ate a big cheeseburger and got a stomach ache. Ate and got are irregular. They don’t end in -ed.

You get the point. Most of you probably feel confident with the most common irregular past tense verbs. Let’s test you:

  • What is the past tense of go? Went.
    • I went to the supermarket at 3 p.m..
  • What is the past tense of sleep? Slept.
    • I slept poorly last night because my daughter kept waking me up.
    • How about to read? Do you know the past tense of to read? Read. Yes, it’s spelled the same as read, but we just pronounce it differently: Read. The last book I read was in German.

Now, if you got those right, you deserve a big round of applause. Let’s see how you do in the next five minutes.

Without further ado, let’s begin the story.


In the spring of 1912, the Titanic, a majestic ship, set sail from Southampton, England heading towards New York City. Passengers who rode the ship were amazed by its grandeur. The Titanic was known for its extravagant amenities, including grand staircases, ornate dining rooms, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, and lavish first-class accommodations.

However, the magnificent voyage lasted only until the fateful night of April 14, 1912, when tragedy struck. The Titanic had been sailing smoothly through the icy, calm water when suddenly it hit a colossal iceberg. As icy seawater poured into the lower levels of the ship, a wave of panic spread among the passengers. Over the next few hours, many came to the realization that the ship would sink.

Amidst the chaos, passengers desperately sought refuge in the limited number of lifeboats. In spite of the ship’s size, there were only enough lifeboats for about half of the passengers. Those who couldn’t secure a place, jumped into the chilly ocean water, some with life vests, some without. They swam in place until most of them froze to death.

The “unsinkable” Titanic sank less than three hours after it collided with the iceberg, killing 1,500 passengers and crew members. The sinking of the Titanic prompted immediate changes in maritime safety regulations. It’s a tragic reminder of how fragile humans are against the unpredictable nature of the ocean.


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