Awoken or Awakened?
Carson Buckingham requests a post on
“awake in all its bizarre forms—-awokened???????”
The past tense of the verb awake gives lots of people fits. Should it be “awoken” or “awakened”? The same confusion attaches to the verbs awaken, wake, and waken.
In modern usage, all of these verbs may be used intransitively or transitively:
intransitive: to come out of the state of sleep; to cease to sleep
transitive: to arouse (someone) from sleep.
intransitive: to arise or spring into existence
transitive: to rouse from sleep
intransitive: to be or remain awake; to keep oneself, or be kept, awake
transitive: to rouse from sleep or unconsciousness
intransitive: to cease to sleep; to become awake
transitive: To rouse (a person or animal) from sleep or unconsciousness.
Confusion about the past tense forms stems from the fact that the words evolved from two Old English verbs, one of which was “strong” and one of which was “weak.”
Note: Certain OE “strong” verbs developed past tense forms that end in -en in modern English. OE “weak” verbs developed past tense forms that end in -ed in modern English. In the case of awake and wake, we may choose to use either the strong or the weak endings:
awake / awoke / (have) awoken
awake / awaked / (have) awaked
wake / woke / (have) woken
wake / waked / (have) waked
In the case of awaken and waken, the weak ending is standard.
awaken / awakened / (have) awakened
waken / wakened / (have) wakened
Although these words mean more or less the same thing, I think they’ve all remained in the language because they express different slivers of meaning about waking and wakefulness.
Wake, wake up, and waken are possibly the most commonly used words for the literal act of rousing a sleeper.
Around 6 a.m. the technician returns to wake the patient and remove the sensors.
Why does Atticus wake the children in the middle of the night?
Getting your teenager to wake up in the morning
your cries have woken the master
I have woken up in the middle of the night not being able to breathe…
The thunder woke me.
I was woken by the thunder.
Next comes waken:
In 29% of patients, the pain is severe enough to waken the patient.
I often waken in the night and can’t go back to sleep.
Just when you thought there was nothing going on, the sun is going to waken!
Awake and Awaken are also used for the literal waking of a sleeper, but in addition, these words carry literary and theological connotations that simple wake does not. Sinners are exhorted to awaken to their transgressions. Self-help gurus show us how to awaken various aspects of our personalities:
How to Awaken your Divine Intuition
How to Awaken Your Inner Child
Awaken the Writer Within
Both awake and awaken are popular title words:
When We Dead Awaken
Awaken the Giant Within
14 Steps to Awaken the Sacred Feminine
The sleeper awakes
And of course, there’s Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening.”
Journalists use awaken to establish a serious tone:
Omar Bongo’s Demise Should Awaken Continent’s Tyrants
Oil spill should awaken us to nuclear danger.
This grave incident should awaken society to rid itself of prejudice.
Here are a few more examples showing the different forms in action. You may find that you want to use different words for transitive and intransitive use.
Don’t wake the baby.
Don’t waken the baby.
She woke the patient at 3 a.m.
Has she waked the patient for her meds?
You have woken the patient too soon!
The alarm never wakes him.
Have you awakened the guards?
Sometimes I wake in the night.
Sometimes I waken in the night.
Sometimes I awake in the night.
Sometimes I awaken in the night.
I awoke at midnight.
Bottom line: Choose the form or forms you prefer. There’s so much confusion and disagreement about these words and their past tense forms that you ought to be safe no matter what you decide. (As long as you stay away from inventions like “awokened.”)
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