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Drank or Drunk? What’s the Past Tense of Drink?

Drink is an irregular verb with three forms: drank is past tense, and drunk is the past participle of the present tense verb, to drink.

Get a gulp of this lesson! What’s the past tense of the verb drink? Is it drank, drunk, or drunken?



“Drink”, “drank” or “drunk”?

"Drank" (simple past tense) in sentence examples.

In English, not all verbs are created equal: some have one form, some have two, and some even have three verb conjugations. How should each form of the irregular verb drink be used? For the short answer, it’s below. For the full answer—you know what to do—read the full post.

The short answer—to drink

To define the subject topic, the verb drink, as described by Collins Dictionary, is “when you drink a liquid, you take it into your mouth and swallow it: he drank his cup of tea.

presentpastfuture
simpleI drinkI drankI will drink
continuousI am drinkingI was drinkingI will be drinking
perfectI have drunkI had drunk *sometimes drankI will have drunk
perfect continuousI have been drinkingI had been drinkingI will have been drinking
12 verb tenses of ‘drink‘.


Note: while drunk is the past participle form of drink, nowadays it’s more often used as an adjective to describe someone as intoxicated or under the influence.


Also in modern use, drunk is sometimes used in the simple past rather than as a past participle. Drank, likewise, is used as a past participle rather than the simple past of drink.


From an historical and technical standpoint this is incorrect form, but it’s been the subject of debate, and some lexicographers (Samuel Johnson) endorsed drunk as a simple past tense variant.

How to use the past tense of drink

In English, regular verbs end in –ed in their past tense forms. Irregular verbs end in something other than –ed.


Drink/drank/drunk are therefore irregular, since they do not use ‘ed’ in their past conjugations. It belongs to the class of irregular verbs with 2 forms (in the past tense).


base verbpast tensepast participle
swimswam swum
singsang sung
drawdrewdrawn
ringrang rung
drinkdrankdrunk
Irregular verbs (two past tense conjugations).



What’s the past tense of drink? Drank or drunk?

The simple past tense of drink (rhymes with shrink) is drank (rhymes with crank). But what’s the difference between the simple past tense drank, and the past participle drunk? When to use drank vs drunk is a separate question altogether. Take a look at these two sentences:

She drank from a tall glass. (past tense)

She has drunk hot chocolate before. (present perfect tense)

Both are in the past tense and mention actions or states that happened entirely in the past. Still, both sentences, and the tenses they form are notably different:

  • To form the past perfect tense, pair the auxiliary [had] + past participle verb form [e.g., drunk].

  • The present perfect tense uses the present tense auxiliary [have/has] + past participle verb form [e.g., drunk].



Side-note: most verbs have the same past tense and past participle verb form, so the difference in tense relies on whichever supplementary/auxiliary verb is used.

  • The simple past tense just uses the past tense conjugation [e.g., drank], without any secondary verbs.



This is because the simple past conjugation is a complete verb tense, whereas participles require helping verbs or auxiliary verbs, such as had/have/has to complete their role as a verb in sentences (by relaying information such as voice, tense and count). Participles do not stand alone as a whole verb in sentences: they always have a helping/auxiliary verb. This is how to identify whether it’s the past tense vs. past participle form that’s in use.



Examples of “drink” (present tense) in sentences

1. I don’t drink coffee.

2. What would you like to drink?

3. In hot weather, drink plenty of water.

4. It’s relaxing to drink cocoa by the fireplace.

5. He doesn’t drink.



Examples of “drank” (past tense) in sentences

1. She drank from a tall glass.

2. Sixty pounds for two greedy people who drank quite a lot.

3. She opened the can and drank thirstily.

4. We drank a bottle of wine between us.

5. I don’t like energy drinks, but I have drank espresso in France before events! — Chantae McMillan, quoted in The Performance Kitchen, 27 Apr. 2017

Examples of “drunk” in sentences

1. She has never drunk hot chocolate before.

2. I have drunk my fill of lemonade this summer.

3. Yes, I have drunk wine before.

4. I think he’s drunk too much.

5. She has never drunk hot chocolate before.

Phrases with the word drink

PhraseMeaning
you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink You can provide someone with an opportunity but can’t force them to take advantage of it.
to be a tall drink of water A way to describe someone as tall and attractive.
to drink with the flies To drink alone, mostly heard in Australia.
to be meat and drink To be especially appealing.
to drink when the sun is over the yardarm A time permissible for cocktails or some other alcoholic drink.
to be the straw the stirs the drink To be the most essential part of something.
to be in the drink To be in water.
to drink like a fish To drink copious amounts of alcohol.
drive someone to drink To cause someone so much stress that they go to alcohol.
to drink someone under the table To be able to drink much more alcohol than someone else.
be like drinking from a fire hose For something to be extremely overwhelming.
eat, drink, and be merry Meant literally; to celebrate and enjoy appetitive pleasures.



Origin of the word drink

From etymology online on drink (v.):

Old English drincan “to swallow water or other fluid,” also “to swallow up, engulf” Proto-Germanic *drenkanan.

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Learn more about verbs

Sources

  1. Thesaurus.com, definition of drink.
  2. Etymology online, origin of drink.
  3. “Drink.” TheFreeDictionary.com. 2023. Farlex, Inc. 17 Nov. 2023 https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/drink


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