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What’s the Past Tense of Sing? Sang or Sung?

Sing is the simple present, sang is the standard simple past tense, and sung is the past participle.

Which tense of 'sing' correctly completes the sentence?
Which conjugation of ‘sing‘ correctly completes the sentence?



What’s the past tense of “sing”?

Have you ever sung your sweet soul out in the shower? Do you like to sing? If you’d like—sing a song about the proper tenses of the verb sing—now would be a good time do so. Let’s answer some common questions on the verb and topic of today’s post: what’s the past tense of sing?

“Sang” or “sung”: which is correct?

  • Sing is the base verb and simple present tense.


  • Sang is the simple past verb form;


  • Sung is the past participle used in perfect/progressive tense constructions with auxiliaries.


Altogether, the irregular verb sing uses two past tense conjugations sang and sung. “Sung” is the past participle form used with auxiliaries, (e.g., had in the past perfect; have in the present perfect, respectively).



Conjugations of “sing”

presentpastfuture
simpleI singI sangI will sing
continuousI am singingI was singingI will be singing
perfectI have sungI had sungI will have sung
perfect continuousI have been singingI had been singingI will have been singing
12 verb tenses of ‘sing‘.


tensesentence example
Simple present tenseI like to sing.
Present continuous tenseI am singing a song.
Present perfect tense I’ve never sung onstage before.
Present perfect continuousI have been singing for years.
Simple past tenseI sang on-stage last night.
Past continuousI was singing while my friend played guitar.
Past perfect tenseI had sung this song before.
Past perfect continuousI had been singing while my friends played guitar.
Simple future tense I will sing onstage tomorrow night.
Future continuous tenseHe sings with his heart.
Future perfect tenseI will be singing at the talent show tomorrow.
Future perfect continuousI will have been singing for two hours by the time you arrive to the party.
12 tenses of ‘sing’ in sentence examples. Auxiliary verbs are in bold.



When to use sang or sung

simple pastShe sang the national anthem.
present perfectShe had sung onstage before, but stopped because of her stage fright.
sang vs. sung

Both forms of the past tense depict events which started and ended in the past, but the present perfect carries a different relation to the present than the simple past. Remember that simple tense constructions are complete tenses that don’t use auxiliaries. Perfect and continuous tenses are easy to identify because they use auxiliaries; namely, forms of “to be” and have/has/had.


We use the past perfect to stress the order in which past events unfolded. For example, “she’d sung onstage but fallen off within minutes while the crowd applauded“.


This sentence is in the past perfect tense, and it helps make it clear that the singing took place before the falling off of the stage. To write in the simple past tense, we do not require a helping/auxiliary verb, such as has, had or have. If this is all confusing,  we recommend Grammarflex’s article on participles and verb tenses (which are a real linguistic crackerjack, to be sure).

Sang vs sung: what’s the difference?

Is sing a regular or irregular verb? The difference between regular and irregular verbs is regular verbs end in –ed in their past tense forms. Irregular verbs end in something other than –ed. This makes the action and verb sing quite irregular, since its past tense forms end in something other than –ed in both the simple past tense and past participle: sang and sung). See other verbs in the same class of irregularity:


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



Sentences with “sing” (simple present)

I wish I knew how to sing.

Wow, she might love to sing, but she shouldn’t quit her day job.

You sing beautifully!

People that can sing have a cherished gift and talent.

She’s a great actress, and she can dance and sing, too.



Sentences with “sang” (simple past)

Rob played piano and Lucy sang.

She sang the anthem.

She sang in her church choir.

I sang in an a cappella group in college.

“I was born singing. Most babies cry, I sang an aria.”

—Gail Carson Levine, Fairest

Sentences with “sung” (past participle)

She had sung with them on tour.

The mother had sung many songs by the time the baby fell asleep.

She had sung in her church choir when she was young.

They had sung and danced the night away.

The night of their wedding they’d sung at the tops of their lungs.



Phrases with “sing”

PhraseMeaning
it’s not over until the fat lady singsthe final outcome of a situation can’t be determined until it’s entirely finished
if you sing before breakfast, you’ll cry before nightif you’re too optimistic at the start of the day you may end up having a bad day
lay low and sing smallto be inconspicuous
to sing someone’s praisesto speak highly of someone or something
to sing for one’s supperto obtain something by working for it
to sing a different song/tuneto change one’s opinion or view of something
to sing from the same songbook/hymnbookto “be on the same page” as someone, or share the same view/understanding of a situation

Origin of the word sing

From etymology online on sing (v.):

Middle English singen, from Old English singan “to chant, sing,” especially in joy or merriment; “celebrate, or tell in song” from Proto-Germanic *sengwan.

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Learn more about verbs

Sources

  1. Forms of sing: sang-sung.
  2. Etymology online, origin of sing.
  3. “Sing.” Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. 2015. Farlex, Inc 30 Oct. 2023 https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/sing


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