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What’s the Past Tense of Eat? Ate or Eaten?

To eat is the base verb (present simple). Ate is the past tense, and eaten is the past participle.

What’s the past tense of “eat”?

So, today’s topic: what’s the past tense of eat? Not all irregular verbs are alike; each are irregular in its own way. As is the case with the verb “eat”, which changes from the present, past and in its past participle form.

  • The simple present tense form is eat; ate is the simple past.

  • The past participle, eaten, pairs with auxiliaries to form perfect/progressive tenses (such as have or had).

In other words, its form changes from the present, to the simple past and in the present/past perfect tenses.

Verb forms of eat

Past tense of eat in text conversation.
Verb tenses of eat in text conversation.
simpleI eatI ateI will eat
continuousI am eatingI was eatingI will be eating
perfectI have eatenI had eatenI will have eaten
perfect continuousI have been eatingI had been eatingI will have been eating
12 verb tenses of ‘eat‘.

When to use “ate” or “eaten”

tensesentence examples
simple presentI eat breakfast every morning.
present continuousI am eating breakfast with my friends.
present perfect I’ve eaten dinner already, so you don’t need to cook.
present perfect continuous I’ve been eating apples everyday to “keep the docto away”.
simple past I ate dinner with my friends last night.
past continuousI was eating dinner with my friends before he came over.
past perfect Dan had already eaten breakfast by the time the sun came up.
past perfect continuousI’d been eating sushi for years until I realized the level of mercury.
simple future I will eat dinner with my friends tomorrow.
future continuous I will be eating a lot over the Thanksgiving weekend.
future perfect tense I will have eaten my money’s worth at the buffet by the time it closes.
future perfect continuous I will have been eating for hours by then, so I might be full.
12 tenses of ‘eat’ in sentence examples.

When to use “ate” vs. “eaten”

Compare how the verb ‘eat’ appears in both sentences:

simple pastI ate junk food and stopped working out.
present perfectI haven’t eaten all day.
ate vs. eaten

Both sentences refer to something that takes place initially at a time before the current moment, but the present perfect clearly connects the past and present.

Is “eat” a regular or irregular verb?

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

Eat/ate/eaten, used in sentences

Examples: “eat“, present tense
Don’t you want to eat before we leave?

I never eat this early in the morning.

These things will eat you alive.
Examples: “ate“, past tenses
The family ate dinner together.

They ate sandwiches for lunch.

He ate a huge supper.
Examples: “eaten“, past participle
I haven’t eaten real food in weeks.

Dan had already eaten breakfast by the time the sun came up.

We discovered that the cat had eaten the cheese, but we don’t know what happened to the crackers.

Synonyms of eat

  • consume
  • devour
  • ingest
  • nibble
  • feast
  • graze
  • chomp
  • swallow
  • munch
  • snack
  • gobble
  • dine
  • sup
  • partake
  • taste

Phrases with the word eat

Dog-eat-dog You have to be ruthless to achieve what you want in society.
Don’t crap where you eat Don’t fill your home or place or work with engaging in messy relationships/risky situations.
Eat an elephant one bite at a time You accomplish a onerous task by taking it one step at a time.
Could eat the crotch out of a low-flying duck A way of saying that you’re extremely hungry.
Eat crow/eat humble pie To admit when you’re wrong, even if it’s embarrassing.
To eat one’s cake and have it too To simultaneously have two things that are mutually exclusive.
Eat high on the hog To flourish or otherwise live well.
Eat the bread of idleness A phrase from the bible meaning to eat food one didn’t personally earn.
Grab a bite to eat Meant literally. To go get something to eat.

Origin of the word eat

From etymology online on eat (v.):

Old English etan (class V strong verb; past tense æt, past participle eten) “to consume food, devour, consume,” from Proto-Germanic *etan.

Practice questions: forms of “eat”

QuestionsAnswer options:
1. True or false:
“Eat” 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:
“Eat” looks the same in the present and past tense.
a. true
b. false
4. Choose the correct tense sentence is in:
I’ve already eaten, so don’t worry about making dinner.
a. past
b. present perfect
c. past perfect
5. The sentence is in which tense:
I ate there last night.
a. present
b. past
c. future
6. Choose the form of ‘eat’ to complete the sentence:
___ pizza there a bunch of times.
a. eat
b. am eating
c. have eaten

Learn more about verbs


  1. Merriam-Webster, Definition of eat.
  2. Etymology online, Origin of eat.
  3. “never eat Shredded Wheat.” Wiktionary. 5 Dec 2023, 13:11 UTC. 18 Feb 2024, 01:18 <>.

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