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What’s the Past Tense of Buy? Brought or Bought?

The verb buy has two forms: buy and bought. Bought is the past tense and past participle form of buy.

Buy/bought in context.
Buy/bought in conversation.



What’s the past tense of “buy”? ‍

What’s the past tense of buy? The word and verb buy (sounds like by or bye, and are homophones) describes the action of getting something by paying for it . . . with money. Anyway, let’s begin with some elementary facts on the irregular verb buy:


  • Buy is an irregular verb; i.e., neither of its past verb forms end in “ed”.


  • Both the past tense and past participle forms of buy are bought.


  • Brought is the past tense and past participle of the verb bring—not buy.



Verb forms of “buy”

presentpastfuture
simpleI buyI boughtI will buy
continuousI am buyingI was buyingI will be buying
perfectI have boughtI had boughtI will have bought
perfect continuousI have been buyingI had been buyingI will have been buying
12 tenses of ‘buy‘.

Buy is the present tense: Where did you buy that dress?

Bought is in the simple past tense: I bought it from a friend for £10.

Bought is also the past participle form of the verb: Old bicycles can be bought quite cheaply.

Buy and bring mirror the same ough-construction in their past tenses, which would explain why they’re often confused. This is not an altogether unusual pattern in English, and appears in other past tenses, such as seek/sought, think/thought and fight/fought.



‍Other irregular verbs with one past tense

presentpastpast participle
teachtaughttaught
buyboughtbought
bringbroughtbrought
catchcaughtcaught
seek soughtsought



Bought as a past participle vs. past tense

Past tense: I bought it from a friend for £10.

Past participle: I have bought the cookies.

If bought is used in the same sentence as have/had (auxiliary verbs), then it is as a past participle. The same for the present participle with forms of ‘be’/’am’.

“Buy”, used in sentences

1. During the event on Feb. 10 and 11, those who buy a box can walk to participating businesses which will provide the chocolate.—Cathy Kozlowicz, Journal Sentinel, 11 Jan. 2023

2. He said it was a mistake, but I don’t buy it.

3. These are the best ski helmets available to buy right now. Aaron H. Bible, Popular Mechanics, 10 Jan. 2023

4. Stock prices are low, so now is a good time to buy.

5. And its slip-on loafer is perhaps the easiest one to buy on Amazon. Christian Gollayan, Men’s Health, 10 Jan. 2023

“Bought”, used in sentences

1. He bought me a new coat.

2. He bought the quilt from a local artist.

3. She bought it off eBay for $50.

4. I bought this hat for $10.

5. I bought my car second-hand.

Practice questions: tenses of “buy”

QuestionsAnswer options:
1. True or false:
“Buy” is a regular verb.
a. true
b. false
2. True or false:
Regular verbs end in “ed” to show the past.
a. true
b. false
3. True or false:
“Buy” looks the same in the present and past tense.
a. true
b. false
4. Choose the tense sentence is in:
I bought that exact same shirt!
a. past
b. present perfect
c. past perfect
5. The sentence is in which tense:
I will buy dinner on my way over.
a. present
b. past
c. future
6. Choose the form of ‘buy’ to complete the sentence:
I ____ cookies!
a. bought
b. buying
c. buys



Synonyms of buy

  • purchase
  • acquire
  • deal
  • pay
  • invest

Origin of the word buy

From etymology online on buy (v.):

Middle English bien, from Old English bycgan “get by paying for, acquire the possession of in exchange for something of like value; redeem, ransom; procure; get done,” from Proto-Germanic *bugjan.

‍Other commonly confused verb tenses

Sources

  1. Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of buy.” Online Etymology Dictionary, https://www.etymonline.com/word/buy. Accessed 14 January, 2023.
  2. “Buy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/buy. Accessed 14 Jan. 2023.


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