Stink, Stank, Stunk

Funny Sounding Verbs

By Annette Rey

How often do you hear anyone say stank? It’s one of those words people think sound quirky, like it’s not a real word at all. People usually say, “The place really stunk!” I guess that’s okay among friends, in informal conversation.

But, as a writer, you need to show a higher level of education. You need to sound credible. You need to know the correct tense of a word to use in your sentences.

I explain English language use from a very basic beginning for the sake of all writers. But mostly I am aware of the struggle writers have whose primary language is not English. My efforts are primarily aimed toward them. So, for those of you more proficient in English, this is a review.

First, the words stink, stank, and stunk are verbs. Verbs are the action words in a sentence. And tenses of verbs give us an indication of time.

The word stank sounds odd to me. That’s probably because it is used so rarely, it sounds unfamiliar. Let’s look at the correct way to use the tenses of the verb stink.

Present tense:

This outhouse sure stinks.

The sentence is implying the person saying this is standing close to the outhouse. He is describing his current experience with the outhouse.

Past tense:

The outhouse really stank.

The sentence is implying the person saying this is no longer nearby the outhouse. He is telling someone of his past experience with it.

Past perfect tense:

The outhouse had stunk up the area.

The sentence is implying the area had not smelled that way before the outhouse was in place. The past participle (stunk) is used to show a comparison between two actions in the past; in this case, the air was once clear, then it wasn’t.

Also, notice the past perfect tense requires a helping wordhave, has, or had – for the past participle stunk.

One sentence may make this clearer:

My dog’s breath does not stink today, but stank yesterday, and has stunk up the house for years.

Use the above explanation as an aid to plug in other verbs.

For example –

My bird can fly today, and flew a lot yesterday. He has flown quite well since he left his nest.   (fly, flew, has flown)

I cry when I am grieving and I cried this morning. I have cried a lot since my brother’s death.   (cry, cried, have cried)

I can bring you some cookies today as a change from the doughnuts I brought to you before. I have brought many treats to you, haven’t I?   (bring, brought, brought)

I hope this post helps you with your writing.




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