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What’s the Past Tense of Seek? Seeked or Sought?

The verb seek only has one past tense form, sought. Sought is both the past tense and past participle of seek (present tense).

Seek verb forms used in text messages.
Seek verb forms used in text messages.

“Seek not the favor of the multitude; it is seldom got by honest and lawful means. But seek the testimony of few; and number not voices, but weigh them.”

—Immanuel Kant (from BrainyQuote).

The past tense of “seek”

What’s the past tense of seek? Is seeked a word? Why is English so consistently inconsistent as a language? You’ve sought an answer, and you shall receive (what you seek…)

Seeked or sought?

The verb seek is defined by the Oxford Learner’s dictionary as, “to ask somebody for something; to try to obtain or achieve something”.

  • The past tense and past participle of seek are both sought.

  • Seeked is incorrect, and not a recognized word in English.

Sentence with “seek” present tenseSentence with “sought” past tense
It is best to seek a compromise rather than a perfect solution. They sought refuge in the mountain villages.
seek/sought (present and past).

Verb forms of “seek”

simpleI seekI soughtI will seek
continuousI am seekingI was seekingI will be seeking
perfectI have soughtI had soughtI will have sought
perfect continuousI have been seekingI had been seekingI will have been seeking
Tenses of ‘seek‘.

Technically, seeked is not a word in English (though most peopled would understand what is communicated). The correct past tense (and past participle) is sought, which rhymes with brought, which is the past tense of bring. But the present tense of sought does not rhyme with bring, as does sing, or ring

Past participle vs. past tense of seek

Compare these sentences that show seek in the past tense vs. past participle form of a verb:

Past tense:  They sought refuge in the mountain villages.

Past participle:  My mother had sought protection from the cold and harsh climate.

When both past tense and past participle forms are the same, it becomes a bit more confusing which form of the verb is being applied. Here’s a quick tip that’ll make things easier  

Grammar tip!

For participle forms in general, the way to spot them in a sentence is by looking for any auxiliary verbs, such as had/have.

Chances are, if there’s an auxiliary/helper verb (had/have) and the past participle, then it is the participle form of the verb (not the simple past or present). Since the auxiliary had is written before ‘sought‘ in the second sentence above, this indicates it is the participle form of the verb, ‘sought‘ (not the simple past).  

Other irregular verbs like seek

presentpastpast participle
seek soughtsought

“Seek” / “sought”, used in sentences

Examples: “seek“, present tense
We seek a place to rest.

She tried to seek a solution for the problem.

She fled the country and now seeks asylum in Sweden.

Examples: “sought“, past tenses
He searched long and hard, and eventually he found what he had sought.

They sought in vain for somewhere to shelter.

They’d sought alternatives before going with the more drastic decision.

They sought refuge in the mountain villages.

Synonyms of seek

  • explore
  • pursue
  • chase
  • follow
  • investigate
  • undertake
  • request
  • chase
  • solicit
  • inquire

Idioms with seek

  • to seek a knot in a bulrush (to attempt a futile task)
  • to play hide-and-seek (to be hiding)
  • seek pastures new (to look for new and better opportunities/circumstances)
  • seek revenge (to exact revenge)

Origin of the verb seek

From etymology online on seek (v.):

Middle English sēchen “go in search or quest of; strive for, try to attain,” from Old English secan, seocan “search for; pursue, chase; long for, wish for, desire; look for, expect from,” influenced by Old Norse soekja, both from Proto-Germanic *sokjanan.

Other commonly confused verb tenses

Learn more about verbs


  1. Definition of seek from the Collins English Dictionary. Accessed on January 20, 2023.
  2. Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of seek.” Online Etymology Dictionary, Accessed 20 January, 2023.
  3. “Seek.” 2023. Farlex, Inc. 20 Jan. 2023

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