Are “Gone,” “Taken,” and “Written” on the Way Out?

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About a year ago, I wrote an article about the misuse of five irregular verbs:Go, Come, Write, Give, and Eat.

After the fact, I wondered if perhaps I had singled out grammatical errors too obvious to trouble my readers with.

The other day I heard a television news announcer say “have went” while delivering a news story.

Then I read a blog that contained the phrase “have took.”

I began to feel uneasy. Perhaps these errors with the past participle of irregular verbs are not so obvious after all. Could it be that the English landscape is on the verge of another major shift and that the pebbles have begun to roll?

Here are some web gleanings. I’ll begin each section with the correct forms of the misused verb.

take / took / have taken

Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave – song title
Do you think my dad shouldnt have took my dog to the spca??? – Yahoo question
I should have took before and after pics – blog statement
i missed 2 periods and i have took 2 tests and both were negative – health site
bret farve should have took the money that the packers offered – sports site

go /went/ have gone

I Should Have Went Samurai On Them, Or At Least Ninja – blog headline
Lisa Rinna might have went too far – celebrity blog
Still wished we would have went with Dorsey? – sports blog
WE HAVE WENT OUT OF BUSINESS – commercial site

eat /ate /have eaten

Words I might have ate – song title
What I have ate for breakfast and lost 22lbs in 9 weeks! – health site
Infant may have ate hamster food? – news site

write /wrote /have written

Please, could someone help me? I have wrote to EVERY address I could find – person looking for dog
possibly the quickest thing I have wrote ever. – comment on forum devoted to song writing
Great Actors Who Have Wrote, Directed, and Starred in Their Film – headline on a magazine-style arts and entertainment site
Bible passages Moses could not have wrote – headline on a religious site
Homer’s “Odyssey” May have wrote about an Ancient Eclipse – headline on site about eclipses

come/ came /have come

RANDY ORTON: Injury Couldn’t Have Came at a Better, Worse Time – sports site
I have came to appreciate life more because of these wonderful birds – gardening site
Recently i have came down with a cold – health site

give / gave / have given

What item of clothing/footwear says you have gave up on life and let old age take over? – question on answerbag
Bush just may have gave the Democrats a gift – political site
sky have gave back channels to virgin media – site about digital communications
I have gave this long and hard consideration but im now 23 years old… – person inquiring about becoming a doctor
I might as well have gave away my love – song lyrics

I here bow my head in remembrance of all my departed English teachers. They must be spinning.

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26 thoughts on “Are “Gone,” “Taken,” and “Written” on the Way Out?”

  1. I think you are missing the most important point. For the first time in history, people are communicating in a casual written form more frequently than in a spoken language. The casual written form is leading changes in the language at a very accelerated rate due to globalization trends. Slang travels globally at viral speeds now, and common misspellings and misuses of grammar become encoded in the matter of months rather than decades or centuries. Speed also trumps accuracy now, with concomitant negative effects on the written form (from IMing, texting, etc.). Moreover, the prevalence of English in business in much of the world means that a large proportion of nonnative speakers are writing and influencing the language’s evolution. I think it’s possible that written English, the language of the Internet, will be virtually unrecognizeable to current speakers within our lifetime due to these forces.

    I say this as a person who loves grammar and loves the written word, but also as a person who finds slang and linguistics/philology compelling.

  2. Maeve, the song things are insidious. “Artistic license” recognizes that some expressions of emotion and spirit don’t conform to “proper” language use. Too often, though, a claim of artistic license is used to cover ignorance of clear communication. Each repetition of an error validates repeating errors and the practice of ignoring proper usage.

    The material created today will be reference for our children. Will our children have to pick through our material, and wonder, “Did they misuse words here, or did they mean something other than what it seems to be?”

    I wonder how many bloggers consider that the Library of Congress archives almost all blogs, for posterity? There is a place for proper English, and we are there.

  3. Oh, gosh. I am not alone.

    It seems that as time goes by, many people become lazy with the English language. They think it does not matter if they use the language correctly. Even professional writers do not think it is important.

    Time to pound our English grammar hammers!

  4. My mother (who, unfortunately, is dead) is definitely spinning. She was an English major and a teacher, and drummed good grammar (and good taste) into my head from Day 1 (maybe earlier). I myself do (among other things) medical transcription plus QA (proofing, editing, correcting) for a living, so I’m spinning too…I have given up correcting my boyfriend, daughter, etc, every time they say things like that. I shiver, I cringe, my ears hurt…oy! I too shorten things when I IM or txt…but in spoken language (except for purposes of “artistic license”) I really don’t see why proper grammar is looked upon as something outmoded. What is so difficult about saying “I should have gone,” vs “I should have went” (OUCH)? They are both little one-syllable words; one is as easy to say as the other, and one is correct while the other is not. Is it now cool to be lazy, uneducated, sloppy and wrong? Do people think it’s jazzy to speak as if you’re a non-native English speaker? Why not adopt a foreign accent as well, and then I will not expect proper grammar from you!

  5. Vanessa G., while what you have written may be very correct (and perhaps inevitable), I find it sad because the words we use (and, when written, the capitalization and punctuation and spelling) communicate more than simply the meaning of the words themselves–and many times what is communicated is perceived (that is, in the ear/brain/attitude of the hearer) rather than intended (in the mouth/fingers of the speaker/writer). Most often, proper usage communicates more exactly what is intended. (Don’t get me started on the diminishing use of the past perfect tense.)

    Or maybe I’m just sad because I’m getting older, having more “senior moments,” and afraid that I (who have also always loved the spoken and written word) will not be able to keep up with this accelerating evolution of the language.

  6. With a bit of imagination, I can see a future where scholars speak an almost entirely different language from the masses. Sort of like a bastard version of the evolution of Latin way back when, only… not.

  7. Ouch! Those hurt!
    I don’t care if it may be cool to speak or write slopily. It still hurts my eyes and ears when I come across it.

  8. OMG! Gag me with a friggin’ spoon!!! And never start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction unless you have a license to abuse English.

    What was heard or read in the conventional public media signals the pebble rolling down the hill to perdition, not to positive change. As one of those cringing teachers of the King’s English (and the Queen’s too), and a lover of elegant writing (see Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, George Orwell, Arthur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, George Eliot, oh hell, all the Bronte’s, and Sand, too, Ayn Rand, Robin Cook, Marge Piercy, and a helluvalotta other fantastic writers, I declare, here and now, that I will NOT stand for such perversion of the basic rules. Sure, English should evolve, even though I furiously demand my students never “text” anyone ever again as it is not even physically possible to do so. I insist they SEND a text message. Shorthand + Shortcuts = Short on Brains. Well enough, if one must, to put such things in one’s “blog” (gag), fine, use the language as you wish, but WE THE GATEKEEPERS OF ALL THAT IS RIGHT AND PROPER IN THIS WORLD must never let go of the one true calling to which all true Knights and Ladies of the Golden Word must adhere! As my grandmother (saintly woman) railed against the Beatles and all the other “demonic” music to which I listened in hiding, all generations eschew the degeneracy of the ones that follow. I am such a prude, now grown into my sixth decade of life, I find less and less tolerance for such cretans to take the language I am required to teach (and will be tested by myopic bean-counters at my professional peril), and abuse it without regard for the proper time and place for both standard and non- standard usages. In sum, I advocate all forms of language are welcome in the tent, regardless of the ones which raise my ire, but such abuse of language, like perorations of music, should be done when a standard or higher order of language / art is understood to exist. Such an awareness of elevated speech is, after all, why we have “standard” English at all. While narrow minded people use such variations on language, art, race, et cetera for the creation and perpetuation of extreme bias and even outright racism, languag-ism, and so forth, such does not deny the need for and acceptable use of a standard.

    I’m exhausted now. I think I will like down and place a wet towel on my forehead and recite Hamlet from memory to soothe my aching brain.

    Dr. M. E. Waddell
    Too Long in the Saddle

  9. Oh, my aching head. That was a toothache of a post.

    You know, I find that most of my friends appreciate a gentle correction, or reminder, of what the proper use of a word is. I have also heard from them that they often feel that a word was used incorrectly, but can’t recall the proper one at the time.

    Dysnomia, my favorite word, is the state you experience when you have a word “on the tip of your tongue” but can’t recall it, usually until late that night or right after your “audience” has left the building or hung up the phone.

    Laziness has certainly shaped our language for centuries. WAY back in the day, when the Engles and the Saxon’s were taking turns conquering the British Isles, and Old and Middle English were incorporating every word, phrase and pronunciation that washed ashore, laziness (or convenience, or brevity, or expedience, as you choose to name it), reduced many longer words and dropped sounds that didn’t contribute to the meaning of the words being spoken. [ka-ni’-gut], for instance, which we still spell “knight” has long befuddled early readers and spellers. “That’s just the way it’s spelled. It’s an irregular word.” Remember that explanation? Basically, all the words in modern English that have “silent” or “extra” letters were actually pronounced with ALL those letters having a say.

    So, potentially, we could see verbs becoming shortened to only two tenses: Now and Not Now. Wouldn’t that make for interesting reading when the aliens try to decipher our language?

  10. Wouldn’t using the casual or slang form of a language be totally different than using the wrong tenses of verbs?

  11. I was horrified to read the examples you posted. I refuse to even imagine a time such (bad) grammar as a norm. I cannot let go of all the effort I went through school to improve my English.

  12. I am astounded at those glaring mistakes! Where did these people go to school? Better still, what were they doing while the teacher was teaching?

    People may be communicating more now in a casual written form that a spoken language but grammar was designed to educate people how to write AND speak with intelligence. Just because it is casual doesn’t mean it has to sound ignorant. I hate reading anything with poorly constructed sentences and incorrect usage.

    Bad usage and slang are two different things but both are and will always be BAD language! No past or current text on any language advocates slang as the correct way to communicate. Bad usage shows that you didn’t pay attention in your language classes. So why would I hire anyone who can’t speak intelligently? If you are trying to impress a potential boss, you might want to at least know your own language.

    And anyone who expects their written material to be read by a large audience should write well so those of us with an education won’t experience the sensation of our skin crawling when we read it.

    Would I trust a doctor who said, “You ain’t got no reason be going on with this pain. You should have took your pills like I told you.”

    Not hardly.

  13. Dr. M. E. Waddell – Don’t mistake the reason for teaching correct English.

    Just as locks are not going to keep out a thief, but to keep honest people honest, teaching correct English is not meant to produce a correct English speaking community.

    The reason for knowing correct English, is so that when you need to be clear, when inaccuracies would count against you – you can communicate.

    When we come across “That ain’t gone happen,” we recognize that the usage is incorrect – and try not to use the phrase or sentence structure on our resume, business report, magazine article submission, etc.

    Of course, the more attention we pay to writing and speaking correct and proper English, the easier it is to avoid mistakes and common errors. Plus, our example of correct English refutes the argument that “everybody does it.” We are likely to emulate the style of people we respect. Those respected figures that write and speak correct English support teaching correct English – like teachers (in a way), they inspire by example. Teachers have the onerous task of making the rules a daily experience for students.

    Don’t aim for all of your students to dedicate themselves to speaking and writing correct English, only require them to know the difference.

  14. I laughed out loud at “we have went out of business”.

    I once overheard a woman saying she “done did do” something-or-other, which I’ve always thought was hilarious.

  15. 1). I was wondering about the usage of words such as “cast, broadcast, and cost.” As far as I can remember the past tense and past P. of broadcast is broadcast; however recently I checked an online dictionary and it has broadcasted. Is this an American standard or has it always been like this?

    2). Why do Americans say tomayto and English speakers say tomaato? What is the rule in this case?


  16. to the bluebird11:

    I have a friend at work who is a new military officer. He is from Puerto Rico and speaks English with an accent. He is working hard to expand his vocabulary and learn English well. My friend asked for advice regarding how to learn English more effectively because he is afraid of sounding ignorant in speech and especially in writing. He recognizes that promotion to the higher ranks will be enhanced with mastery of the language (with or without accent). Unfortunately, we live in TN/KY where the casual spoken language is rife with grammatical error. But, most unfortunately, some of the higher ranking officers do not speak or write English well themselves. Kudos to my friend that he is not adopting their standard (except when it is good politic to adopt the non-standard usage in speech)!

  17. Joane,
    It depends on the tense needed in the context.

    Gone are the days when real live people answered the telephone at the utility company.

    The hiker paused to rest. Gone were the days when he could walk all day without stopping.

  18. The last post to this thread was in 2009. I am writing from the future, 2021, to report that it seems that irregular past participles are in their death throes. It has become increasingly common to hear, even from supposedly educated people, things like “…have went…” I’ve heard this kind of thing even from high school teachers! Admittedly it was from math teachers and the like, but it’s spreading. I think it’s possible that, within a generation, irregular past participles will have become quaint vestiges.

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