Past tenses

Past tenses

Verbs in English have one inflected form for expressing past time, the past tense, which is typically formed by adding -ed to the base form of the verb: I walk > I walked, they ask > they asked. There are some 300 irregular past tenses in modern English, ranging from the ‘slightly’ irregular I say > I said to the fundamentally different I go > I went, the types correlating to the grammatical situation in Old English, where there were several distinctive verb classes.
A related form, seen in I have asked, is often called the past participle - but many modern texts avoid this term, because the form is by no means restricted to the expression of past time; in particular, the same form is used in passive constructions, such as I am asked, I was asked, and I will be asked (where present, past, and future times are expressed). The regular formation adds -ed, but -en is also common, as in I have taken and I was taken, and this book therefore uses -en forms as a conventional way of referring to the class as a whole, whether regular or irregular.
 

A related context is when an -en form is used as an adjective, as in the castle was attacked > the attacked castle, and examples are included in the -en lists below. Verb forms have changed greatly since Old English (as they continue to do, illustrated by modern usage variation between sweat and sweated), and in Shakespearian English we see several distinctive forms. As with all patterns of change, old forms for a while co-exist alongside new ones, and sometimes convey different nuances of meaning; an example is the Princess’s observation that ‘None are so surely caught, when they are catched, / As wit turned fool’ (LLL V.ii.69), where catched conveys a more dynamic sense than caught. The following list illustrates only those forms which display some difference between Shakespearean and modern English. It does not include forms where the difference seems to be one of spelling only, such as chopt for chopped (AYL II.iv.46).



Irregular > Regular

Past tenses


In Shakespeare
Modern English
Example
durst, I dared TNK II.ii.76
fast, I fasted Cym IV.ii.347
holp, I helped 2H6 V.iii.8
lift, he lifted 1H6 I.i.16
ought, you [F] owed 1H4 III.iii.132
sweat, service sweated AYL II.iii.58


-en forms


In Shakespeare
Modern English
Example
engraven, it will live engraved Luc 203
fell, by violence felled E3 III.iv.25
fretten, they are fretted MV IV.i.77
graft, her royal stock grafted R3 III.vii.126
heat, though heated KJ IV.i.61
holp, you have helped Cor III.i.275
sweaten, that’s sweated / sweat Mac IV.i.64


Regular > Irregular

Past tenses


In Shakespeare
Modern English
Example
bended, his eyes bent Ham II.i.100
betted, John o’Gaunt bet 2H4 III.ii.44
catched, he caught Cor I.iii.63
digged, Adam dug Ham V.i.37
shaked, I shook/shaken Tem II.i.324
showed, hast shown TNK III.i.45
sicked, Edward sickened 2H4 IV.iv.128


-en forms


In Shakespeare
Modern English
Example
beated, shows me beaten Sonn 62.10
becomed, would have become Cym V.v.407
blowed, would have blown H5 III.ii.88
builded, keep it built AC III.ii.30
love-shaked, is love-shaken AYL III.ii.352
misshaped trunk misshapen 3H6 III.ii.170
quitted, having quit WT V.i.191
splitted, was split CE I.i.104
waked, I am woken CE IV.iv.32


Irregular stays irregular

Past tenses


In Shakespeare
Modern English
Example
awaked, I awoke AYL IV.iii.133
bare, Caesar bore 1H6 I.ii.139
bestrid, he bestrode Cor II.ii.90
brake, tidings broke 1H4 I.i.48
drave, I drove AYL III.ii.399
drive, a troubled mind drove RJ I.i.120
forbod, my judge [Q] forbade Luc 1648
o’erstunk, the lake overstank Tem IV.i.184
shore, grief sheared Oth V.ii.205
spake, he spoke Ham III.i.164
sprung, the origin sprang Ham III.i.179
strook, [it] [Q] struck Luc 262
sware, he swore 2H4 III.ii.307
writ, I wrote AYL V.ii.73


-en forms


In Shakespeare
Modern English
Example
arose, are arisen CE V.i.389
awaked, was awoken R3 IV.i.84
beat, are beaten Cor I.iv.30
bidden, he is bid MA III.iii.31
bore, he hath borne Ham V.i.183 [F borne]
broke, the doors are broken Ham IV.v.113
chid, should have chided CE IV.i.50
chose, have you chosen Cor II.iii.154
droven, we had driven AC IV.vii.5
eat, hath eaten R2 V.v.85
forbid, am forbidden Ham I.v.13
forgot, you have forgotten CE III.ii.1
forsook, have forsaken Cor IV.v.79
froze, be frozen CE V.i.314
hid, hear faults hidden Per I.ii.61
holden, [to be] held 2H6 II.iv.71
lien, hath lain Ham V.i.170 [F laine]
loaden with kisses laden TNK II.i.85
mistook, purposes mistaken Ham V.ii.378
o’ertook, was overtaken Ham II.i.58
rid, hath ridden MND V.i.119
sawn, was sown LC 91
shook, I have shaken R2 IV.i.163
shore, you have shorn MND V.i.332
smit, have smitten Tim II.i.23
smote, [been] smitten Cor III.i.317
spoke to, would be spoken Ham I.i.45
stole, have stolen JC II.i.238
stricken, hath struck JC II.i.192
strove, have I striven H8 II.iv.30
strucken, hath struck CE I.ii.45
strucken deer stricken Ham III.ii.280
sung, she sang TNK IV.i.63
swam, you have swum AYL IV.i.33
took, is taken 1H6 I.i.145
unbegot, children unbegotten R2 III.iii.88
undertook, to be undertaken Oth V.ii.308
unspoke, leave unspoken KL I.i.236
well-foughten field well-fought H5 IV.vi.18
writ, we have written Ham I.ii.27
wrote, hath written Cym III.v.2


Many past forms derived from Latin, mostly ending in -ated in modern English, are found without the ending.

In Shakespeare
Modern English
Example
confiscate, [are] confiscated CE I.i.21
consecrate, this body consecrated CE II.ii.141
consummate, be consummated MA III.ii.1
contaminate, should be contaminated CE II.ii.142
contract, was he contracted R3 III.vii.178
convict, I be convicted R3 I.iv.190
create, there created MND V.i.395
dedicate, are dedicated MM II.ii.154
delineate, see delineated E3 II.ii.86
exasperate, hath exasperated Mac III.vi.38
excommunicate, stands excommunicated E3 II.i.334
situate, there’s situated CE II.i.16
subjugate, will be subjugated E3 III.ii.28
suffocate, may he be suffocated 2H6 I.i.122
unite, the arms united E3 III.i.75

For archaic verbs in Shakespeare’s time: ARCHAISMS
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