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What’s the Past Tense of Stick? Stick or Stuck?

The verb stick has two forms: stick and stuck. Stick is the present tense; stuck is the past simple and the past participle form of the verb.

Stick/stuck used in text conversation. By Gflex on Canva.
Stick/stuck used in text conversation. By Gflex on Canva.



The past tense of “stick”

The verb stick (not to be confused with the noun, stick, as in a branch or twig) is understood as ‘to hit or propel (something, such as a hockey puck) with a stick‘. Also, ‘to hold to something firmly by or as if by adhesion: she stuck to her story‘ (as defined by the Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary—thank Noah Webster for his philological services).

Forms of the verb stick

presentpastfuture
simpleI stickI stuckI will stick
continuousI am stickingI was stickingI will be sticking
perfectI have stuckI had stuckI will have stuck
perfect continuousI have been stickingI had been stickingI will have been sticking
12 verb tenses of ‘stick‘.


To stick is the present tense: I forgot to stick a stamp on the envelope.

Stuck is the simple past: I stuck the photos into an album.

Stuck is also the past participle: The little boy had stuck his head through the railings.



‍Irregular verbs like “stick”

Evidently, stick has two forms altogether: stick and stuck. Neither of these ends in –ed, which means that the verb stick is irregular (according to the standards set of regular/irregular verbs by the English language). See the chart of other irregular verbs with two forms:


base verbpast tensepast participle
stickstuckstuck
stingstung stung
swingswung swung
winwonwon
strikestruck struck
Irregular verbs (with two past tense conjugations).



Past tense vs. past participle of “stick”?

Compare these sentences:

Past tense: The nurse stuck the needle into my arm.

Past participle: The key had been stuck in the lock.

In general, what differentiates the past tense from the past participle form of a verb is precisely that the participle is a form of a verb, and not an actual tense, so to speak. Participles are verb-based, and so they pair with an auxiliary/helper verb, which is ‘had‘, (in the second sentence example).

Both the past tense and past participle form of stick (stuck) refer to actions that occurred and were completed fully in the past; how the information is relayed differs slightly. The past participle form in situations where the past event may have an implication on a current or future event; whereas the past simple refers to a fixed point in time in which something took place and was completed. The past participle is also what forms the passive voice and one of the perfect aspects in grammar.

See the verb stick in the present tense (in context)

1. I forgot to stick a stamp on the envelope.

2. Her wet hair was sticking to her head.

3. The glue’s useless—the pieces just won’t stick.

4. Her wet clothes were sticking to her body. (present participle)

5. We used glue to stick the broken pieces together.

Examples of stuck in the past tense (in context)

1. He stuck his hands in his pockets and strolled off.

2. He stuck a stamp on the envelope.

3. The nurse stuck the needle into my arm.

4. She stuck a finger into the sugar bowl.

5. I stuck the photos into an album.

Examples of the past participle stuck (in context)

1. I wouldn’t have wanted to be stuck on a desert island with her

2. The key has stuck in the lock.

3. She had got something stuck between her teeth.

4. The little boy had stuck his head through the railings.

5. He said his car had got stuck in the snow.

Synonyms of stick

  • adhere
  • cling
  • hew
  • clutch
  • fasten
  • cleave

Idioms with stick

phrasesmeaning
sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt mebecause words don’t cause physical harm it may be ignored
stick togetherto stay in close proximity or nearby others/someone
a stick in the mudsomeone who is considered boring/not fun
stick and stay, make it play work hard and stay dedicated to see the results
stick out like a sore thumbto be obvious and conspicuous
the sticksmeaning the woods or forest
the carrot and the sticka way to reward/stimulate activity through motivation
throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticksto make numerous attempts to see what succeeds
stick to your guns stay truthful to yourself and your beliefs
to get the short end of the stick to get an unfavourable outcome/deal

Origin of the verb stick

From etymology online on stick (v.):

Old English stician “to pierce, stab, transfix, goad,” also “to remain embedded, stay fixed, be fastened,” from Proto-Germanic *stik- “pierce, prick, be sharp”.

Read about other verb conjugations!



Sources

  1. Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of stick.” Online Etymology Dictionary, https://www.etymonline.com/word/stick. Accessed 16 January, 2023.
  2. “Stick.” Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. 2015. Farlex, Inc 16 Jan. 2023 https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/stick
  3. “Stick.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stick. Accessed 16 Jan. 2023.

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