Grammar

Pet or Petted? The Past Tense Form Too Few Know

A little boy pets a rabbitDeposit Photos

After you pet something, have you pet or petted it? A classic sitcom episode got this one wrong for the entire half hour.

Should the past tense of pet, something you might do to a beloved animal, be pet or petted? It’s a simple question. When you have the choices in front of you, the right one might seem obvious.

It wasn’t obvious to the cast and crew of the CBS sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. In the fourth episode of the seventh season of the series, they chose the wrong word throughout the episode. I don’t generally get my dander up over occasionally-incorrect grammar. But for this episode, it was glaring.

The episode was titled “Pet the Bunny”

Everybody Loves Raymond was a show that featured Ray Barone, his wife, Debra, their three children; and Ray’s parents, Frank and Marie; and his older brother, Robert. Ray is a sports writer. His overbearing parents live across the street. His mother, while meaning well, is the classic busybody and pestering mother-in-law for Debra. Frank, meanwhile, is the lazy, opinionated father who thinks his way should be everyone’s way. Robert, a New York City cop, feels everyone slights him at every opportunity.

In this particular episode, Ray’s two sons are drawing pictures of members of the family on typing paper they find in their father’s basement office. It turns out that on the back of the pages, Ray had written out a “practice eulogy” for his father.

Ray realizes that the boys have given a couple of the drawings to their grandparents. He tries to retrieve the pages before anyone sees what’s on the back side. Of course, his mother has already seen them and demands to know where her mock eulogy is. She wants to read what loving things Ray would say about her.

Ray’s father, who likes to be the tough guy in the family, gets outraged, not because of the eulogy but because Ray mentions he remembers seeing Frank pet Hoppy, Ray and Robert’s pet bunny when Ray was a child. He denies that it ever happened:

Marie: You have nothing to apologize about, Raymond, It’s a very sweet story.

Robert: What story?

Marie: The time your father pet the bunny.

Frank: I did not!

Robert: Hoppy? You pet Hoppy?

Frank: No!

Marie: Why would you deny that?

Debra: Exactly.

Robert: Aww, you pet Hoppy!

The instances of the word pet in that passage that appear in italics are my emphasis. I emphasized them because they’re wrong.

Pet or petted? What’s the past tense?

The verb pet is a “regular” verb when it comes to conjugating tense forms. The present tense is pet. We generally add an S to show active present tense, as in, “He pets the dog.”

When it comes to past tense, pet isn’t it. The past tense of pet is petted. In the Everybody Loves Raymond episode, when Robert asks Frank about Raymond’s claims, he should have asked, “You petted Hoppy?”

Once you know a grammar rule, it can be very annoying to hear someone break it.

Sure, some errors sound more egregious than others. That’s always true.

But I honestly don’t know how anyone could write the line, “You pet Hoppy?” and think that sounded correct. It sounded not only wrong to me, but glaringly wrong.

Many of us have some instinct when it comes to writing. Some things definitely sound better than others to the ear. Presumably, there would have been a table reading before the show was filmed. Hearing those lines should have led to the correct word being substituted.

Unfortunately, it didn’t.

Have you ever heard a line in a TV show that was so gramatically incorrect that it distracted you from the scene?

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.