Learn the Forms of “drink,” Please!

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We’ve had other posts on the correct forms of the few irregular verbs that remain in English, but when I heard not one, but two television reporters–one in the field and one in the studio–declare that a boy “had drank” a bottle of vodka, I had to trot out the forms of the verb to drink.

Present tense: drink
Simple past: drank
Past participle: had or have drunk

Before anyone wants to explain the aberration as something that would be heard only on an Arkansas television channel, consider this opening paragraph from a story in the UK’s Telegraph:

Chloe Leach, 21, had drank around four cans of the energy drink and several VKs – a vodka based drink which also contains caffeine – when she suddenly fell to the floor in the Sugarmill club in Hull, East Yorks., on September 30 last year. (2 February 2009)

And this from the New York Times:

He loved Lee Alexander McQueen, had known him 20 years, had drank and cried with him. (2 April 2010)

We are living in the age of the disappearing copy editor. The buck stops at the writer’s desk.

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19 thoughts on “Learn the Forms of “drink,” Please!”

  1. We are seeing the same with the forms of ‘sat’. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard and read the following;

    I was sat in the park, watching the ducks.

    Present tense: ‘I am sitting’
    Simple past: ‘I sat’ or ‘I was sitting’
    Which would make the Past participle: ‘had been sitting’ or ‘I have sat’
    Please correct the Past Participle if I am in error. I was sat down when I writ it.

  2. I must be a bit fussy but, shouldnt it be this way:

    Infinitive: drink
    Irregular Past: drank
    Past Participle: drunk

    The word ‘drink’ on its own does not make the present simle but the infinitive. Whereas ‘have drunk’ is not the past participle but the perfect infinitive. ‘Had drunk’ accompanied by a subject personal pronoun would make the past perfect tense.

    As for ‘sit’ I believe these are the correct forms:

    Infinitive : Sit ( and therefore present simple ‘ I sit’ or ‘he sits)
    Past Form: Sat
    Past Participle: Sat ( therefore Present Perfect ‘I have sat’).

    ‘ I had been sitting’ is the Past Perfect Continous Tense, not a form of the verb. Tenses such as ‘ I have sat’ may sound odd because the continuous form is preferred with some verbs, so ‘ I have been sitting’ is more common.

    I would have said ‘ I was sitting down when I wrote it’ or ‘ I was sitting down, watching the ducks’ although if we are to follow other language samples such as ‘ I was awake’ / ‘ I was bored’ / ‘ I was told’ …would that mean that ‘ I was sat’ is correct ???

  3. >>We are living in the age of the disappearing copy editor. The buck stops at the writer’s desk. <<

    The buck stops at the 'writers' iPhone, more likely than not nowadays.

    But perhaps more telling is that those example almost certainly WERE copy edited.

    I'd like to see a DWT entry on WHY we should care about these things. Answer the many many many people who say "as long as you're understood, what difference do the details make" and "changes like this just mean English is a living language. If people say 'had drank' then 'had drank' it is, and the dictionaries will record it and make it official soon…."

    I have my own answers, I want to hear others.


  4. “[T]here is no difference between an intoxicated man and one full of his own opinion, one is no more capable of reasoning than the other.’
    – St. Francis de Sales

  5. @ApK

    my short answer: striving for beauty in language, music or art is its own justification and reward!

    a longer answer: everyone can make a noise but you need a few chords to write a song. then, going another stage further, you can’t create an opera or a symphony unless you invest the time and effort to learn a much wider range of tools, subtleties and nuances. similarly, everyone can communicate in one or more languages, but a bit of investment enables writing. a lot more investment enables good writing, be that poetry, literature, textbooks or persuasive advertising copy.

    learning the difference between drunk/drank, shrunk/shrank, farther/further, lie/lay, there/their/they’re, etc., is not that difficult and is a fundamental requirement for anybody who wants to write (especially for a living).

  6. I think partially it is intentional. “Drunk” is such a hard sounding word that I must admit trying to avoid using the past participle for this case. In the examples of bad grammar above, using the correct tense sounds like it is saying the subjects are drunk or have drunk to excess. If the correct tense were used in the example, “He loved Lee Alexander McQueen, had known him 20 years, had drunk and cried with him,” the immediate image would be two men getting drunk together. That condition may or may not be the case, but that is the image evoked by that word. (Their typical routine just could have been to sip socially and commiserate.) I predict that the past particple of “have drank” eventally will become acceptable and replace “have drunk” since it’s kinder to the ear and is less likely to imply an inaccurate or offensive description.

  7. Is is overwork and underpay, or what? chuckles, chuckles. That is why it pays to read and review your unedited before posting or sending through the mail.

    Don’t the house to always have a certain perfect someone there for all that.

    We all make mistakes, but when in doubt, check it out, at least 3 times, please.

    And then you can your drink and drink it too! ha!

  8. @Andrew Toynbee
    Simple past: ‘I sat’ or ‘I was sitting’
    Which would make the Past participle: ‘had been sitting’ or ‘I have sat

    Simple past is “I sat.”
    “I was sitting” is past continuous, or past progressive. It uses the present participle.

    “I had been sitting” is past perfect continuous/progressive. Again, it uses the present participle “sitting.”

    “I had sat” is past perfect. It uses the past participle form “sat.”

    This topic calls for a post. Stay tuned.

  9. Forget about the drank and drunk. I want to know what happened to Chloe Leach!! (Are two exclamation marks out of line?)

  10. While we’re picking on folks in the UK, let’s also point out the misuse of “which” in “a vodka based drink which also contains caffeine.” (Even if “which” were the right word, it would need to be preceded by a comma, so this would still be wrong.)

    US English speakers would NEVER make that mistake.

    Joking aside, I think your point about copy editors is a good one. The reason copy editors exist is that writers are not expected to know all the ins and outs of writing mechanics. They are hired for other skills. Copy editors are slowly disappearing in the down-sizing business world, but the need for them (obviously) isn’t.

  11. What are you getting at, PreciseEdit? Which is the right word, and certainly doesn’t need a comma.

  12. When I see and error like those mentioned above, I usually put down the error riddled paper and find something better to read.

  13. Roberta B., you offer an interesting explanation, and you could well be correct–but if so, I find it saddening. “Had drunk” may be kinder to your ears, but to me (and I think others here) “had drank” is almost more painful to the ear than a stiletto through the eardrum. The concern over the connotations of the use of “drunk” (now, there would be an interesting post, Maeve–the evolution by which “drunkard” and “drinking binge” and “drunken” all three turned into “drunk”) seems to me overblown.

    It is impossible to be utterly sure of not offending anyone with one’s choice of words (unless one remains silent), and it really isn’t possible to predict just who will be offended. . .or by what, or why. I would always err on the side of correct usage, particularly as it is always possible to find a different way to phrase the thought that both is correct and avoids the supposedly offensive usage. Thus:

    “She had consumed four cans of the energy drink. . .”

    “He loved Lee Alexander McQueen. Over the 20 years they knew each other, they drank together and cried together.”

    Personally, I would prefer “She had drunk four cans” and “He. . .had known him 20 years, had drunk and cried with him.” I would note that with the former, assuming there is a connotation of inappropriate intoxication in the use of the correct past participle, it would appear to be entirely justified; with the latter, I think it is a stretch to read in an implication that every single occasion on which they drank together resulted in drunkenness–and I think it is absurd to object to the possibility that readers will assume there were at least occasional occurrences of drunkenness.

  14. And. . .second ApK’s motion:

    “I’d like to see a DWT entry on WHY we should care about these things.”

    Like ApK, I have my answers, but I’d be fascinated to see what others have to say.


  15. he was sitting sounds like your describing an ongoing movement
    he was seated and she was standing
    he was sat and she was stood sounds wrong

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