We usually use only a verb’s past participle when we
need to make an adjective out of it, not its past
tense—but not always. Sometimes we even use both forms
but assign these two diﬀerent meanings!
For example, even though using broke as the past
participle for the verb break is now considered
obsolete, we still use that old form today for the
verb’s corresponding predicate adjective in sentences
- Now I’m broke.
Using that obsolete form there in (1) means something
quite diﬀerent from what it mean here:
- Now I’m broken.
Since both are adjectives, why do we sometimes use
an obsolete form for one sense but another form for
another possible sense? Why don’t we always use the
same more-standard form for both senses?
This leaves break with two diﬀerent inﬂections
available for potential use as adjectives, either the
past or the past participle, since historically broke
once alternated with broken as that verb’s past
participle but no longer does so. Do other verbs ever
work like break works in this respect? I’m
especially looking for now-obsolete past participles
still used today as adjectives that are spelled just
like the verb’s present or past forms instead of how
its past participle is spelled in perfect constructions
Other examples with differences in adjective usage/meaning/collocation for past particples:
(1) For work we have worked and wrought ("chiefly archaic"—OED)
Worked into shape by artistry or effort
carefully wrought essays
Elaborately embellished : ORNAMENTED
Processed for use : MANUFACTURED
Beaten into shape by tools : HAMMERED —used of metals
Deeply stirred : EXCITED —often used with up
gets easily wrought up over nothing m-w
Wrought derives from Middle English worken, the past participle of our very familiar verb work, following similar verb patterns still
in use today (caught, bought, taught). Nowadays, however, we simply
use the standard –ed suffix for work: m-w
That has been subjected to some process of development, treatment, or
a newly worked field
The watch is equipped with a new 22-karat rose gold open-worked oscillating weight. m-w
Prepared so as to demonstrate the steps required.
Place each error opposite its supposed number, as in the worked example. Wiktionary
Similarly, from overwork we have overworked and overwrought.
Exhausted by overwork; worked to excess. Also in extended use:
over-excited; nervous; distraught.
Excessively elaborate; over-laboured. Also (occasionally) figurative. OED
That has been overworked; that has been worked too hard or to excess.
Also in extended use. OED
(2) We have cleft, cloven and cleaved for the verb cleave (with the meaning of separate/divide), all in use:
A cleft palate, a cloven hoof, and cleaved proteins.
In addition, we might give honorable mention to:
= cloven adj. and n., formerly frequent, still occasionally in verse; rarely as adjective. OED
(3) shrunk and shrunken for to shrink
A shrunken head (or a shrunken appearance) and preshrunk clothes
(The OED notes that the attributive use of shrunk is "now somewhat rare.")
Reduced in size : made less or smaller m-w
A netbook is a laptop with a shrunken screen, an undersize keyboard and a processor that’s so slow, you’d have laughed at it in 2007.
preshrink, preshrank, preshrunk (v.)
To shrink (a fabric) before making into a garment so that it will not
shrink much when washed m-w
Of a fabric or garment: having undergone a shrinking process during
manufacture to prevent further shrinking after washing or cleaning.
The youth shirts are blue-gray preshrunk 100% cotton. OED
(4) Both past participles of strike (struck and stricken) are also adjectives; however, only struck is used to refer to a labor strike:
Struck with a blow.
Into fiery splinters leapt the lance, And out of stricken helmets sprang the fire
Of a person, community: Afflicted with disease or sickness;
overwhelmed with trouble or sorrow, and the like. Of the face: Marked
with or exhibiting great trouble.
H. James—Roderick’s stricken state had driven him..higher and
further than he knew. OED
Subjected to a blow or stroke. OED
Closed by or subjected to a labor strike
a struck factory
a struck employer m-w
(5) For beat we have both beat and beaten:
I was beat and slept most of the next day.
The store was definitely off the beaten path.
Being in a state of exhaustion : EXHAUSTED
Sapped of resolution or morale m-w
Hammered into a desired shape
Much trodden and worn smooth also : FAMILIAR
a beaten path
Being in a state of exhaustion : EXHAUSTED m-w
(6) For melt we have the past participles melted and molten ("chiefly archaic"—OED).
I dipped the cookies in melted chocolate. Then I made a molten chocolate cake.
Fused or liquefied by heat : MELTED
Having warmth or brilliance : GLOWING
the molten sunlight of warm skies m-w
(We wouldn’t say the melted sunlight, unless a photo was left on a radiator.)