NGD Preparatory Academy, Vol. 6

The three words I'm considering are as follows (and I quote): drink, drank, drunk. Early in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ford Prefect is warning Arthur Dent that hyperspace jumps are unpleasantly like being drunk. Arthur asks what is so unpleasant about being drunk -- Ford replies: "You ask a glass of water."

The joke hinges on the confusing nature of certain irregular English participles. A participle is the form of the verb that can be used as part of a compound verb, or as an adjective. The participle of the verb be is been, as in I have been confused. Most often the participle in English is identical to the past tense: I have walked to the store. But in certain cases, where the word has a long history and frequent usage -- verbs like be, do, get, eat, think, all the basic verbs human beings use all the time because human beings are almost always being, doing, getting, eating, or thinking something -- you get irregular participles.

And when you get irregular participles, you get confusion. I swim, but have I swam or have I swum?

Current grammatical common sense declares that drank is the past tense and drunk is the participle. Last night I drank some wine/Last night some wine was drunk by me. But drunk can also be used as an adjective as well as the past tense of the verb -- in fact, this problem has been confusing native and non-native English speakers for centuries now.

The Practical deals with this problem in an incredibly snobbish manner:

The Practical is an arch-suck-up, and only the writings of respected (white, male, usually dead) authors (who may be attempting to sound archaic on purpose) count. There is quite a list, as though Noble Butler wants to overwhelm you by sheer quantity of evidence:

Incidentally, my very favorite participle in English is quite rare and getting rarer. It is dolven, the past participle of delve. As in: This mine shaft was dolven in 1902.