"On this shrunken globe, men can no longer live as strangers".
Stevenson, Adlai E.
So, we’re coming to the end of January and life is well and truly back in full swing. For me, and for many of you out there too, this means more deadlines, more words, and more grammar. In fact, I think I have had more grammatical debates this month than any other. Not really sure why that is…perhaps everybody’s grammatical juices are flowing to excess after weeks of Christmas films and culinary overindulgence turning their brains to mush. Anyway, one of the most interesting discussions I had was the extremely common misuse of "shrank" and "shrunk".
Shrink. Become or make small in size or amount (Oxford Dictionary).
This verb can be used both transitively and intransitively, as shown below.
The company is shrinking at a rapid rate.
I have a tendency to unintentionally shrink my clothes.
I think that most of us are all okay up to this point. The problem comes when we try to use this deceivingly simple verb in the past tense. First, let’s distinguish between the perfect and the preterit.
I have eaten.
(Example of the perfect tense, describing an action that has an effect on the present moment.)
(Example of preterit tense, describing a completed action that happened at a single point in time in the past, which has no effect on the present moment.)
Now let’s put this into practice with "shrink".
The past participle of "shrink" is "shrunk", NOT "shrank". Therefore, "my mum has shrunk my jumper", or "my mum had shrunk my jumper" is correct.
"My mum shrunk my jumper" is, in fact, completely and utterly grammatically INCORRECT. Contrary to popular usage, "shrank" is the preterit form of the verb "to shrink".
So, to review:
I have shrunk my jumper ✓
I shrank my jumper ✓
I have shrank my jumper ✗
I shrunk my jumper ✗
This should be relatively simple to learn really. Just remember: the same rules apply for "sink" ("the boat sank" OR "the boat has sunk") and "drink" ("the girl drank all the gin" OR "the girl has drunk all the gin"). But, wait; don’t get caught out, as the past participle of "think" is not "thunk", it’s "thought". In fact, "thought" is also the preterit form of "think". Oh, and we don’t say "lunk" or "lank" for the past tense of "link". It’s just "linked". Got it?
On top of this, we also have "shrunken". This should NOT be used to express the past:
I have shrunken my t-shirt ✗
No, no, no…. it really pained me to write this one. It hurt almost as much as the time when someone behind me in a queue in Debenhams said that she "had thunk about it a lot".
"Shrunken" should be used as an adjective. As in the shrunken head from Harry Potter.
So, to clarify "Honey, I shrunk the kids" is, in fact, grammatically INCORRECT. I shall leave you to correct it.
Let me know your thoughts on the matter!