Lesson #168: 3 Important Irregular Verb Forms in Dickens’ ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’

Many English language students struggle with memorising the many different verb forms we have in our language.

It can be difficult, especially when they are studied out of context. 

So in today’s lesson, I hope to share 3 essential verb forms that are not only commonly used on a daily basis by native English speakers, but also feature regularly in Dickens’ classic The Old Curiosity Shop (1840), the story being one of a little girl and her grandfather travelling across the English countryside in search of peace and security.

In this lesson we will first review three verbs’ infinitive, simple past, and past participle forms.

Afterwards, I am sharing some quotations (with notes) and allow you to take a guess at finding and identifying these noted verb forms for yourself. In case you need to double-check your responses, the answers will be provided for you at the end of this lesson.


The verbs chosen are as follows: 

  • to come
  • to go
  • to lie (down)

These are the infinitive forms of the verbs. Their simple past forms are below:

  • came
  • went
  • lay (down)

Here are their past participles:

  • have / had come
  • have / had gone
  • have / had lain (down)

✍️ Tip: Remember that the verb ‘to become’ includes ‘to come’ in its own ending, so its own three verb forms will be the same as those of ‘come’ above, with the prefix ‘be-‘ added, of course. 

As promised, I am sharing some passages – 10 in total – from Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop, which I had the pleasure to reread on Christmas Day four weeks ago. Perhaps the excerpts below may interest you enough to wish to read it for yourself or watch an online adaptation of it someday!

Your task here is to try to identify one (or more) of the nine verb forms highlighted in the first part of this lesson

  • to come/came/have or had come
  • to go/went/have or had gone
  • to lie (down)/lay/ have or had lain

I have listed the passages in the order in which they appear in the book. 

📝 #1 

📘 The opinion was not the result of hasty consideration, for which indeed there was no opportunity at that time, as the child came directly, and soon occupied herself in preparations for giving Kit a writing lesson, of which it seemed he had a couple every week, and one regularly on that evening, to the great mirth and enjoyment both of himself and his instructress.

– Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop 


consideration: thought, planning

mirth: laughter

instructress: (an uncommon, formal word) a female teacher or instructor 

📝 #2  

📘 With the tears streaming down her face, and her slight figure trembling with the agitation of the scene she had left, the shock she had received, the errand she had just discharged, and a thousand painful and affectionate feelings, the child hastened to the door, and disappeared as rapidly as she had come.

– Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop 


slight: thin and small

trembling: from the verb ‘to tremble’, meaning to shake in small, regular movements because of fear or cold or anger

agitation: the state of being shaken with stress

errand: a message delivered or a duty done for someone

discharged: released, or (in this context) completed

affectionate: loving

hastened: hurried, rushed

disappeared: to go missing, to be lost sight of, to run away from view

rapidly: quickly, with haste

📝 #3

📘 ‘It is far better to lie down at night beneath an open sky like that yonder— see how bright it is — than to rest in close rooms which are always full of care and weary dreams.’

– Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop 


yonder: (adverb) over there, beyond, at some distance (but still within sight)

close: (adjective) describing a room or space that is closely shut up tight and with very little fresh air to breathe freely in

weary: very tired, fatigued, exhausted

📝 #4

📘 But the woman had observed, from the young wanderer’s gait, that one of her little feet was blistered and sore, and being a woman and a mother too, she would not suffer her to go until she had washed the place and applied some simple remedy, which she did so carefully and with such a gentle hand— rough-grained and hard though it was, with work— that the child’s heart was too full to admit of her saying more than a fervent ‘God bless you!’ nor could she look back nor trust herself to speak, until they had left the cottage some distance behind.

– Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop 


gait: an identifiable style of walking

blistered: having a blister, that is, a sore spot on the body where the skin is full of fluid and may be warm to the touch. These sores are often caused by walking or rubbing that area of the skin through much exercise.

she would not suffer her to go until … : she would not allow her to go until …

applied some simple remedy: put some simple healing substance (on her blistered feet)

… the child’s heart was too full to admit of her saying more than a fervent ‘God bless you!’: the child was so emotionally touched that all she could say at the moment was a fervent (full of feeling and energy) ‘God bless you’

nor trust herself to speak: she knew that she couldn’t trust herself to speak about anything without becoming emotional, sad, etc.

📝 #5

📘 When she turned her head, she saw that the whole family, even the old grandfather, were standing in the road watching them as they went, and so, with many waves of the hand, and cheering nods, and on one side at least not without tears, they parted company.

– Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop 


* nod: a shaking or moving the head up and down, to show agreement or acknowledge somebody in greeting

on one side at least not without tears: at least onone one side of the parting, some people were crying (e.g. the woman who had tried to heal the little girl’s blistered foot, and her friendly family)

📝 #6

📘 ‘Do you come here often?’ asked the child. ‘I sit here very often in the summer time,’ she answered, ‘I used to come here once to cry and mourn, but that was a weary while ago, bless God!’

– Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop 


mourn: cry for someone or something that is lost, grieve for, be very sad and sorry to have lost someone or something dear


📝 #7

📘 ‘If you like to go on by yourself, go on by yourself, and do without me if you can.’

– Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop 


do without me if you can: manage without my help or presence if you can

📝 #8 

📘 After a scanty supper, the purchase of which reduced her little stock so low, that she had only a few halfpence with which to buy a breakfast on the morrow, she and the old man lay down to rest in a corner of a tent, and slept, despite the busy preparations that were going on around them all night long.

– Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop 


scanty: small in amount, looking poor, meagre

stock: supplies, saved goods

halfpence: an old English coin that no longer exists – one of the smallest monetary amounts possible

on the morrow: tomorrow

📝 #9

📘 ‘Then what do you think, mother, has become of ‘em? You don’t think they’ve gone to sea, anyhow?’ ‘Not gone for sailors, certainly,’ returned the mother with a smile. ‘But I can’t help thinking that they have gone to some foreign country.’

– Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop 


gone to sea: gone abroad on a ship or else become sailors

sailors: workers on a ship or boat, below the rank of officer

📝 #10

📘 The bed had not been lain on, but was smooth and empty. And at a table sat the old man himself; the only living creature there; his white face pinched and sharpened by the greediness which made his eyes unnaturally bright— counting the money of which his hands had robbed her.

– Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop 


pinched: (adjective) pale and tense from having suffered hardship, hunger or cold, poverty, or worry

Did you find all the verb forms identified above? If not, you can check out the answers I have provided below.

After this exercise you will probably notice even more verb forms like these ones in the various contexts of whatever you read – it should make your English language studies more interesting than just memorising verb forms by rote and hoping they stay in your memory!


#1: came

#2: had come

#3: to lie

#4: to go

#5: went

#6: to come

#7: to go

#8: lay

#9: have gone

#10: lain

by J. E. Gibbons

English language tutor and researcher at 'Learn English Through Literature' (2024)