Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Regular and Irregular Past Tense

Verb past tenses are often confused, sometimes thanks in part to their misuse in the media. Does everyone remember the comedy, "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"? How many of you cringed and shouted, "NO! It should be 'Honey, I SHRANK the Kids!'?"

Shrink is actually a regular verb. From present, through past, and past perfect, it is
  • shrink
  • shrank
  • shrunk

Conjugated in the same way, we find

  • sink
  • sank
  • sunk

  • drink
  • drank
  • drunk

  • clink
  • clank
  • clunk

  • stink
  • stank
  • stunk

However, a few other -ink verbs are not regular. That is, it isn't

  • think
  • thank
  • thunk

although it makes perfect sense, and sometimes one encounters "thunk" in dialect or comic writing. The proper conjugation is

  • think
  • thought
  • thought

Similarly, we find

  • blink
  • blinked
  • blinked

  • wink
  • winked
  • winked


  • link
  • linked
  • linked

Unless you have delved into verb conjugation while studying another language, you probably don't give verb tenses as much thought as you should. It's easy to get lazy and write in the vernacular. While this is proper in conversation for conveying character (although, in the above film/TV case, a supposedly well-educated scientist should know how to conjugate a verb!), in our descriptions and action beats, we should never let our verbs get the best of us!

Do you have a verb usage question? Feel free to ask in the comment box, or just leave a comment if this series is helpful to you! Thanks!

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