166.2 - Irregular Verbs with McDonald's


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!


Hi everyone. Welcome back to the second part of episode 166. In today’s lesson, we’re going to talk about irregular verbs and McDonald’s. You guys know McDonald’s, right? Big Macs, Filet-O-Fish, Happy Meals?

We’ll start by talking a bit about fast food. Then we’ll dive into the brief story about the founding of McDonald’s. In the story, you’ll hear ten irregular, simple past tense verbs. Pay attention and see how many of these irregular verbs you hear.

For those of you who have a high intermediate level or advanced level, you may already know most of these. This lesson will help reinforce the correct past tense forms, and it’ll just be fun.

Please stay tuned until the very end of this lesson, when I’ll share a few crazy facts about the McDonald’s clown, Ronald McDonald, drive-thrus, and charity. It’ll be a wild ending of a lesson. Stay tuned for that.

We all have a relationship with fast food, at least I think we do. Do we?

I grew up in California, and as a kid there were quite a few fast food restaurants in my town. Wendy’s, Carl’s Jr., Jack in the Box. But the three most popular were Burger King, Taco Bell, and of course, McDonald’s. This was a while back. I’m 35 now, so it was before In n’ Out and Shake Shack came to town.

My family didn’t go to fast food all the time. It was infrequent enough that it became a special activity. Fast food was a reward in a way. When I passed a test or got good grades on my report card, my dad would buy me a Happy Meal. Same with my brother. And, like the name, they made us happy. Not only did the meals come with a burger and fries, they also came with a toy. My brother and I collected them for years.

The thing about fast food is that it is there for emergencies. When there’s no food in the fridge or in the cupboards.

My family didn’t go often because we were fortunate. My mom cooked meals for us pretty much every day of the week. We had casseroles, stir-frys, pot pies, big salads. As an adult, I see how much appreciation my mom deserved back then because it takes time and effort and care to feed a family. But we weren’t alone. A lot of the families I grew up around were just like mine.

Although the United States has gained a reputation for hamburgers, fries and, well, obesity, I don’t know anyone personally who eats burgers and fries every meal of every day, or even just every day.

I’m sure there are people out there who do, but I’d argue it’s not the vast majority.


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.


It all began in 1940, when brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald opened a barbecue restaurant in San Bernardino, California. Initially, their restaurant was called “McDonald’s Bar-B-Q," and the service wasn’t very fast.

However, in 1948 the brothers made a pivotal decision that would change the course of fast food history. They restructured their restaurant to focus on a limited menu of nine items, including their famous hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, and milkshakes. They also introduced an assembly line, which sped up food preparation and reduced wait times for customers, who ordered, ate, and left in record time.

In 1954, the McDonald brothers ordered eight milkshake machines from a salesman named Ray Kroc. Surprised by the large order, Kroc visited the innovative restaurant and saw the potential to franchise the concept on a massive scale. He convinced the brothers, and together they bought the first franchised McDonald’s restaurant in Illinois in 1955.

Kroc was a businessman and eventually he took control of the company. Under his leadership, McDonald’s changed their logo to the now-famous big golden arches, popularized drive-thrus in the US, and introduced the world to Big Macs and Happy Meals.

Oddly, Ray Kroc, and not the McDonald’s brothers, is why McDonald’s rapidly rose to success across the United States, and eventually grew around the globe. Today, there are more than 36,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries. Do you think McDonald’s will remain a cultural icon of the US in the future?


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