A reader responded to my post about irregular verbs last week to express confusion about when to use “awake” and when to use “wake” (and their various past-tense forms). Well, she’s not alone. I’ve done some dictionary diving and was daunted by the prospect of explaining it all, as to give a proper explanation, you have to go into word origins, transitive and intransitive verb distinctions, and probably other things, none of which I quite had the heart to write about at length today.
Even Garner, whom I cite near-weekly, acknowledges that these verbs are tricky, especially the past-tense forms.
Luckily, Maeve Maddox, of the Daily Writing Tips blog, has done a bunch of legwork to lay out the details.
In a nutshell, it’s generally ok to use wake or awake as both transitive verbs (a verb that is performed upon an object or, in this case, creature) and intransitive verbs (“I awoke” or “he woke” when the subject of the sentence is the one waking up). Garner provides the following table for the past-tense and past-participial forms:
|wake||woke||waked (or woken)|
|awake||awoke||awaked (or awoken)|
|wake up||woke up||waked up|
Since there’s so much interchangeability among the verbs, you’re probably usually going to be ok using whichever sounds the best to you (ie, maybe you want two syllables to fit the rhythm of your sentence). Some of the forms do imply shades of meaning, but I don’t know that for most of us, they’re worth fussing over too much. For many more details and examples, head on over to the post I mention above.