past tense of shrink

Let’s say that your partner has a sweater that he loves more than any other piece of clothing he owns. It’s a great-looking sweater, so you kind of get why he loves it so much. But it’s also incredibly delicate and can’t be put in the dryer (the joys of high-maintenance clothing).

Now imagine pulling your freshly cleaned laundry out of the dryer one day only to suddenly feel your heart sink in your chest – you accidentally put your partner’s beloved sweater in the dryer. Yikes!

When you call your sister to tell her what happened (i.e., freak out), what will you say? Will you say that you shrunk his sweater? Will you say that you shrank his sweater? Or might you even say that you shrinked his sweater?

Which past tense of shrink would you bet your money on? Pick one because we’re about to break down the past tense of shrink.

Shrank

In most cases when you need to use the past tense of shrink, shrank is the word you want to use. You can use shrank in sentences like these:

  • “Honey, I shrank your sweater.”
  • “I swear my jeans shrank. I couldn’t have gained this much weight.”
  • “It looks like the snowman shrank.”

Notice how we said that shrank is the correct word in most cases (as in not in all cases). The past tense of shrink is another example of how English is complex (and downright maddening) sometimes. Why? Because the past tense of shrink changes depending on when in the past you’re referring to.

Shrank is the right word when you’re describing something that happened at a specific, discrete point in the past. In other words, you use shrank when you need to use the simple past verb tense.

Shrunk

In comparison, shrunk is the right word when you want to describe something that happened at an undefined point in the past. That is, you use shrunk when you need to use the present perfect verb tense (yes, we know the name is confusing). You can use shrunk as the past tense of shrink in sentences like these:

  • “Honey, I have shrunk your sweater.”
  • “I swear my jeans have shrunk. I couldn’t have gained this much weight.”
  • “It looks like the snowman has shrunk.”

To make things even more complicated, there’s another situation where you need to use shrunk: when you’re writing in passive voice. Here’s how you use shrunk in passive voice sentences:

  • “Honey, your sweater has been shrunk.”
  • “My jeans have been shrunk. I couldn’t have gained this much weight.”
  • “The snowman has been shrunk.”

Shrinked

When should you use shrinked as the past tense of shrink? Never. (Finally something simple!)

Use the correct past tense of shrink

Shrink is a lucky verb. It doesn’t have just one past tense form; it has two of them! Use shrank when describing something that got smaller at a specific, discrete moment in the past. And if you’re describing something that got smaller at an undefined point in the past or you’re writing in passive voice, use shrunk.

Would you use forward or foreword in this sentence: “They raced to the ______ section of the deck”? Find the answer in our post on the difference between forward vs. foreword.




What’s the past tense of shrink?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.