Drank, Drunk, or Dranken?

by fortmarinus

“I’ve dranken a lot more than I drank tonight.” – Ron of the Jersey Shore.


I happened upon this sound bite as I cycled through the channels, lamenting the fact that ‘there’s nothing good to watch on TV’. No, seriously, I was only flipping channels; I don’t really watch this show. It’s true! No need to pick on Ron though. I have heard various mutations of drank, drunk, ‘dranken’, and drunken in common speech. Perhaps it is a bit confusing. Many tend to avoid the construction completely. Fear not, be confident as you conjugate ‘drank’, and allow me to take you to school:

TENSE                     EXAMPLE
Present                   "He drinks"
Past                      "He drank"
Future                    "He will drink"
Present  Perfect          "He has drunk"
Past     Perfect          "He had drunk"
Future   Perfect          "He will have drunk"
Present  Conditional      "He would drink (if...)"
Perfect  Conditional      "He would have drunk (if...)"

Returning to Ron, we imagine that he meant to convey that he had done more drinking in the past than the drinking that occurred that evening. Speaking from the present time, he first references past completed events: this is called the ‘Perfect’ tense. He might say, “I have drunk”. Next, he speaks of a past event without reference to its completedness: this is called the ‘Simple Past’ tense. He might say, “than I drank tonight”. Assembling the phrase, we have “I have drunk a lot more than I drank tonight”.

The phrase sounds a bit archaic perhaps. The modern ear may even prefer ‘dranken’, as it matches the paradigm for ‘eaten’ or ‘written’ for example. Ironically, ‘dranken’, though not proper English of any kind, sounds like the Old English Past Participle word form, ‘druncan’.

But, language is a funny thing. If we clearly understand the meaning of something, when does correction become pedantic?