Do you use "sank" or "sunk" as the past tense of "sink"? I think that in BrE it is "sank" and in American English it is "sunk". Please let me know.


Has sunk

The ship sank off the coast of Charleston in 1784.
Thanks, GG!

...and I asked this question because my dictionaries say that sunk can be used as the past tense of sink.

Would native ears cringe if they heard something like this:

What sunk the boat?


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Sure enough - either sank or sunk can be the simple past.
The way I was taught:

Because of rough weather, the ship sank.

As a result of the tsunami, many of the boats in the harbor have sunk. (Or, WERE sunk.)

The rescuers were able to recover much of the cargo from the sunken ship.

-- Typeaux
Not to argue which is 'right' but to observe that the -ink/-ank/-unk paradigm is in serious trouble. Remember the movie 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids?'. The title grated on me, but I don't recall a hue and cry over this grammatical faux pas. Today on NPR I heard an interview where both host and guest said something like 'This debris sunk below the surface'. There's a drift toward regularization of verbs in general, and it looks like the simple past form is losing out to the past participle in sets like these. It will be long before the teacher red-pencils the -ank form, but the user may eventually come to be regarded as a fuddy duddy.
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robinsjoRemember the movie 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids?'. The title grated on me, but I don't recall a hue and cry over this grammatical faux pas.
It's not a new phenomenon. Shrunk as a past tense form has been in American dictionaries for decades. Perhaps even longer, I don't know. That doesn't mean that every American uses it. People usually frown upon anything they are not used to and think is wrong. Those who have used shrunk in the past tense all their life find nothing strange about it.

AnonymousThe way I was taught
The way I teach:

Group 1. i - a - u [5]

begin began begun
swim swam swum
sing sang sung
ring rang rung
drink drank drunk

Group 2. i - a - u OR i - u - u [4]

This is an intermediate group between 1 and 3. These verbs can belong to either group, depending on the speaker.

sink (sank) sunk
shrink (shrank) shrunk
stink (stank) stunk
spring (sprang) sprung

Group 3. i - u - u [14]

win won
strike struck
stick stuck
swing swung
spin spun
hang hung
dig dug
sting stung
wring wrung
string strung
fling flung
cling clung
sling slung
slink slunk