Verb Review #1 Run and Drink

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Native English speakers frequently make mistakes with the irregular verbs run and drink, even in contexts that call for standard usage:

Woman arrested on manslaughter charge; man was ran over by car he was fixing. – Albany Democrat-Herald

The pair are believed to have ran up an estimated £3,000 credit card bill after they sneaked out of school last Monday…–Daily MailOnline

Court documents state that Angela Haas called the emergency room after learning what the child drank, and she told staff that a friend had drank orange juice with methamphetamine in it. –GreatFallsTribune (Montana)

Poor motor activity and head movement can occur in infants where mothers have drank high levels of alcohol during the last few days of pregnancy (Dominguez, Lopez and Molina, 1998) –Paper published by Women’s Health Council

The principal parts of the verb run are: run, ran, (have) run. As illustrated by the above examples, the error occurs when the simple past (ran) is substituted for the past participle (run). The correct form to use with a helping verb is run:

A man was run over by a car.

They are believed to have run up an estimated £3,000 credit card bill.

The principal parts of the verb drink are: drink, drank, (have) drunk. As illustrated by the above examples, the error occurs when the simple past (drank) is substituted for the past participle (drunk). The correct form to use with a helping verb is drunk:

A friend had drunk orange juice.

Poor motor activity can occur in infants whose mothers have drunk high levels of alcohol.

It is possible that these errors with run and drink may become so widespread as to gain standard status. Indeed, the online dictionary Dictionary.com accompanies the entry for drink with this observation:

drank is widely used as a past participle in speech by educated persons and must be considered an alternate standard form.

“Must be?” Call me “elitist,” but I think that an “educated person” would know better than to write “have drank” in a context that calls for standard English.

The Chicago Manual of Style is not so accommodating:

drink (verb): Correctly conjugated drinkdrankdrunk. Example: “They had not drunk any fruit juice that day.”

I suspect that some speakers deliberately avoid the use of the word drunk because of a strong aversion to the state of drunkenness; they feel that drunk isn’t a “nice” word.

I have no theory as to why incorrect “have ran” should be preferred to correct “have run.”

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6 thoughts on “Verb Review #1 Run and Drink”

  1. Bravo, Maeve! Very well done and written.
    Another bad one said by poorly-educated Americans, especially in the South, like Arkansas: “had did”. Yeech!

  2. Yes! The use of drank where drunk is appropriate seems like a particularly strong aversion. I’ve had people resist it even when it’s pointed out and explained. Ran for run, I agree, is inexplicable for an adult that has had even an elementary level of education. I also hear went for gone a lot anymore. A lot. Of course I am with you that nothing dictates any of this slovenliness (that is pronounced SLUVenleenes) “must” be accepted. The suggestion is unsurprising for the <b<laxicography of today. I’m sure MW is there or close behind.

  3. Differences in language use create a cultural divide wider than socioeconomic status, color, shape, or locality. It is our strongest form of non-verbal communication and the primary way we define ourselves to the broader society.

  4. I always learn from and enjoy DWT, but someone has to say it (quoting from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Online): “Principle is only a noun these days.” I was shocked—shocked, I say!—to see “the principle parts of the verb . . . ” appear twice in the space of a few paragraphs.

  5. Phil,
    No more shocked than I was. Writing “principle parts of the verb” instead of the correct “principal parts” is a particular failing of mine and I’ve absolutely nothing to offer in my defense. I never make the mistake with things like “principal actor” or “principal reason,” just verb parts. This time the errors got past my proof reader as well. I’ve asked Daniel to correct them in the post. Mea maxima culpa.

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