Rules Project #10: Ate vs. Eaten

Ate and eaten are two words that I have never thought much about when using them.  However, in an article I was just reading I noticed that they wrote “if you have eaten…” and the thought popped in my head.  Should they have used eaten in the sentence or should they have used ate?  Here’s some tips to help you decide when to use them!


Ate-“Ate” is the simple past tense

Eaten-“Eaten” is a past participle and is used in conjunction with another word to form a different type of past tense – ex:  “I had eaten the apple” (past perfect  or “I have eaten the apple” (present perfect)).

The past participle (in this case, “eaten”) is also used in passive forms, ex:  “The apple was eaten by me”.

Simple rule: If there is another word between the person doing the eating and the verb, then use “eaten”; otherwise, it’s just “ate” — so you’d say “Bill ate his dinner”, but “Bill has eaten his dinner”.


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