The verb “wake” and its past

In “A Dictionary of Modern American Usage” Bryan Garner writes that the verb wake and its past and past participial forms “are perhaps the most vexing in the language.” We received confirmation of that this past week.

In a story last week, we used this construction, “had just woke up.” That vexed some readers. They correctly pointed out that “had woke” is bad grammar.

Here are the preferred forms:

I wake up.I woke up.I had waked up. (Waked is preferred in American usage; British usage chooses woken, according to Garner. But some usage experts say that woken is the first choice. )

Here is a list of irregular verbs and their forms from David Appleyard’s World of English.

We might have avoided the consternation if we had written “had just awakened.”

Second thoughts: “Awakened” might raise objections from some who would reserve it for use as an active, transitive verb: The mother awakened the children from their afternoon nap. In that case, it is a more poetic synonym for “waken.”

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language has an interesting entry on wake.

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.