Using Did and Done Correctly

Correct usage will be explained by means of a colour-coded system. If written in green, the word is right. If written in red, the word is wrong. There are two parts to correcting the error. Firstly, the rule will be explained, and secondly, the usage / current practice will be written out. The words being explained are written in blue.

There is an old adage that one should never put an incorrect word or spelling on paper, on a blackboard, on a whiteboard or on a screen when explaining the correct word, etc. It has its benefits up to a point but the red for wrong approach certainly gets the job done. When studying the Top 20 mistakes, is there not an eagerness to look at the red before the green? Go on, admit it.


Using did and done correctly


There is a tendency to say I done it instead of I did it.

EXPLANATION OF WORDS: ( some words will be written in italics  for explanatory reasons )

The word did is the PAST TENSE of the VERB do. (The Past Tense refers to action words – verbs – that have taken place in the past, be they one second ago or since time began.) Generally, did comes immediately after NOUNS (names of persons, animals, places and things) and PRONOUNS (words that are used instead of NOUNS). There are exceptions to this rule which will be dealt with later on.

done is the past (tense) participle of the verb do ( Participle refers to being a part of a compound form of the verb, i.e., another verb is placed next to it). The word done is usually alongside have, has or had in a sentence.

Incidentally, more problems occur when the PRESENT TENSE is used.

  • He don’t do it.
  • He doesn’t do it.

We’ll return to VERBS in the PRESENT TENSE later on.

USAGE: did: This word is a stand-alone VERB. It doesn’t need another VERB to prop it up.

(a) after NOUNS

  • Mary done the artwork.
  • Mary did the artwork.
  • The committee done its best.
  • The committee did its best.

(b) after PRONOUNS

  • I done all the hard work.
  • I did all the hard work.
  • He done it.
  • He did it.

Take note of did being placed immediately after Mary, committee, I and He.

USAGE: done: This word is not a stand-alone VERB. It needs another VERB to prop it up.

  • Mary has done the artwork. (has props up done)
  • The committee had done its best.
  • I have done all the hard work.
  • He has done it.

Take note of done being placed immediately after has, had and have.

Quick Revision

did usually comes after the NOUN or PRONOUN

EXAMPLE: Tom did the first part and I did the second part.

The rule changes when a QUESTION is asked or when a CONJUNCTION is omitted from a sentence which results in a rearrangement of the NOUN/PRONOUN and the two parts of the COMPOUND VERB.

  • Has Tom did the first part?
  • Has Tom done the first part?
  • Have I did it before?
  • Have I done it before?
  • Had I done it as well,the result could have been different. ( The omission of the conjunction If in the sentence If I had done it as well,the result could have been different causes a rearrangement of I,had and done which  puts done after I.)

Take note that when a question is being asked, the past participle form of the verb do is used because has and have form compound VERBS with done. (has/done and have/done)


Write did or done in the following sentences :

1. She _________ it already.
2. She has ______ it already.
3. Has she _______ it already?
4. The children ________ it.
5. The children have________ it.
6. Had the children _________ it before, they would’ve been better prepared.
7. The baby has _______ it many times.
8. Has the dog _________ his tricks for ye yet?
9. The dog ________ them last week.
10. It was I who _______ it.

Answers:1.did 2.done 3.done 4.did 5.done 6.done 7.done 8.done 9.did 10.did

KEY ELEMENT OF LESSON: Generally, did follows I, You, He, She, We, Ye, They and names of people, etc.

DON’T FORGET: I did it.

ANOMALY IN THE SYSTEM: The word whodunnit is an entry in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. Can’t win ’em all !