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What’s the Past Tense of Drive? Drove or Driven?

The simple past tense of drive (rhymes with hive) is drove (rhymes with trove). Driven is the past participle.

Which form of 'drive' correctly completes the sentence?
Which form of ‘drive‘ correctly completes the sentence?



What’s the past tense of “drive”?

Both drove and driven are past verb forms of the present tense verb, drive. This makes drive another one of those irregular (read: awkward) verbs with multiple past tense forms, like ate and eaten, or bit/bitten. When it comes to these irregular verb conjugations, there isn’t really a rhyme or reason, we just have to memorize them.

Examples of "drove" in the past tense.

Verb forms of ‘drive’

The verb drive refers to when someone “operates a car or other vehicle and controls its movement and direction.” ‍‍The simple past tense form of drive, i.e., drove, shares the same spelling and pronunciation as the collective noun drove, which are “a herd of livestock (or a drove of cattle/livestock)”. For example, “We hurried the drove of cattle into the barn”. This is not the same sense in which we’re using the verb drove in this article (for your information).

presentpastfuture
simpleI driveI droveI will drive
continuousI am drivingI was drivingI will be driving
perfectI have drivenI had drivenI will have driven
perfect continuousI have been drivingI had been drivingI will have been driving
Tenses of ‘drive‘.

1. To drive is the present tense: Don’t drive so fast!

2. Drives is third-person present singular: He drives a Toyota, but is thinking about getting a new car.

3. Driving is the present participle: Driving and texting at the same time is now illegal in most countries.

4. Drove is the simple past: A car drove up to us and a man got out.

5. Will drive is the future tense:  I will drive you to your appointment tomorrow.

6. Driven is the past participle: They were driven to an unknown place in the hills.

When to use drove vs. driven

What’s the difference between the simple past tense drove, and the past participle verb form, driven? When is it correct to use drove over driven, and vice versa? Let’s have a closer look:

My mother drove us to the airport. (past tense)

Some of the people had driven a long way to attend the event. (past perfect tense)

Both sentences mention something that began and ended entirely in the past. Still, the simple past tense differs from the past perfect tense (also called pluperfect), and depicts past actions in a slightly different manner.

The past perfect aspect describes when one past action was completed before another past action, and clarifies the order that they took place. We form the past perfect tense by using the past participle form of the verb + auxiliary verb, had. The past simple doesn’t use auxiliaries or helper verbs, and is ‘simpler’ to use in this way.

Is “drive” a regular or irregular verb?

Drive is an irregular verb because its past forms do not use -ed. See the chart of other irregular verbs in the same class:

base verbpast tensepast participle
drivedrovedriven
flyflewflown
blowblewblown
drawdrewdrawn
eatateeaten
drinkdrankdrunk
Irregular verbs (two past tense conjugations).

‍”Drive” in the present tense (in sentences)

Don’t drive so fast!

Shall we drive or go by train?

It’s a two-hour drive to the beach.

What car do you drive?

You need a special licence to drive a heavy goods vehicle.

“Drove” in the past tense, in sentences

My mother drove us to the airport.

A car drove up to us and a man got out.

3. I drove to work this morning.

The urge to survive is what drove them on.

A stream of black cars drove by.

Examples of the past participle “driven”, in sentences

Some of the people had driven a long way to attend.

The enemy was driven back.

The dairy products market will also be driven by consumer demand.

The work is driven by the need for information sharing.

They were driven to an unknown place in the hills.

Synonyms of drive

  • operate
  • control
  • navigate
  • pilot
  • maneuver
  • direct
  • steer
  • propel
  • motor
  • travel
  • ride
  • guide
  • push
  • accelerate
  • move

Origin of the verb “drive”

From etymology online on drive (v.):

Old English drifan “to compel or urge to move, impel in some direction or manner; to hunt (deer), pursue; to rush against” from Proto-Germanic *dreibanan.

Learn more about verbs

Sources

  1. Merriam-Webster, Definition of drive.
  2. Etymology online, Origin of drive.


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