Shook or Shaken: Understanding the Past Tense Forms of “Shake”

  • Shook” is the past tense form used to denote an action completed in the past.
  • Shaken” is the past participle that is used with auxiliary verbs or in passive constructions.
  • Knowing the correct usage of “shook” and “shaken” improves grammatical precision in English.

The English language is rich with verbs that change form depending on their tense, and “shake” is one of those irregular verbs that require memorization of its distinct forms. The present tense “shake” turns into “shook” when talking about past events, and transforms into “shaken” when constructing perfect tenses or the passive voice.

Shook or Shaken – Which is the Past Tense and Past Participle of Shake?

The verb “to shake” is one that often confuses learners because it has two different past forms. To clarify the proper usage, consider the definitions and contexts in which these forms are used.

Shook is the simple past tense of “shake.” It describes an action that was completed in the past. For example:

  • She shook the rug to remove the dirt.

In contrast, shaken is the past participle form. It is used with auxiliary verbs to form perfect tenses or passive voice constructions. For instance:

  • The bottle had been shaken before use.

The following tables summarize the use of these forms according to the context:

Simple Past TenseUse
ShookDescribes a completed action in the past (e.g., Yesterday, he shook the box)
Past ParticipleUse
ShakenUsed with auxiliary verbs to form perfect tenses or passive constructions (e.g., The documents have been shaken by the wind)

When teaching these forms, it is beneficial to provide students with bullet point lists of examples:

  • Simple Past Tense (Shook):
    • He shook his head in disbelief.
    • They shook hands after the agreement.
  • Past Participle (Shaken):
    • The foundations of the building have been shaken by the earthquake.
    • Her confidence was shaken after the presentation.

It is imperative to note that “Shaked” is not considered a standard form in English; therefore, it should not be used.

Bolded words throughout this section are to highlight the key forms and usage patterns for clarity. Understanding these distinctions ensures accurate and clear communication in both written and spoken English.

Present Tense Usage with verb “shake”

In English grammar, the verb “shake” has different forms depending on the tense used. This section will explore how “shake” is used in various present tense formats including simple present, present continuous, and present perfect. Each of these tenses serves a unique purpose in conveying actions that are current, ongoing, or completed at the present moment.

Present Simple

The simple present tense of “shake” expresses a habitual or general truth. This form is straightforward and is used for facts or regular occurrences.

  • Singular:

    • He/She/It shakes
  • Plural:

    • They shake

Present Continuous

The present continuous tense indicates an action that is currently happening or is in progress. It consists of the present tense of the auxiliary verb “to be” and the present participle form “shaking”.

  • Form:
    • Subject + is/are/am + shaking
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SubjectAuxiliary VerbPresent Participle

Present Perfect

The present perfect tense relates to actions that have happened at an unspecified time before now. The exact time is not important. It’s used for actions that are completed at the time of speaking or are still relevant. The verb “shake” forms the present perfect tense with the auxiliary verb “have” and the past participle “have shaken”.

  • Form:
    • Subject + has/have + shaken
  • Examples:
    • I have shaken the rug already.
    • They have shaken many hands today.

Origins of ‘Shake’

The verb “shake” comes from Old English “sceacan,” which means to move to and fro, often rapidly. Over time, “shake” has maintained its base meaning but has expanded to include various idiomatic expressions in the English language. The origins of ‘shake’ help us understand its transformations and how its various present-tense forms have come to be standardized in modern English grammar.

Past Tense Forms with verb “shake”

The verb “shake” has distinct forms when used in the past tense, each conveying different timeframes and aspects of action.

Simple Past

In the simple past tense, the verb “shake” is transformed to “shook.” This form indicates that an action took place at a specific point in the past and has been completed.

  • Examples:
    • He shook the bottle vigorously.
    • She shook her head in disbelief.

Past Continuous

The past continuous tense is constructed with the helping verb “was” or “were” followed by “shaking,” which is the present participle of “shake.” This tense is used to describe an action that was ongoing at a particular moment in the past.

  • Examples:
    • They were shaking with cold throughout the night.
    • He was shaking his gift excitedly before unwrapping it.

Past Perfect

The past perfect tense employs “had” followed by “shaken,” the past participle of shake. This form is used to talk about an action that was completed before another event occurred in the past.

  • Examples:
    • By the time we arrived, the bartender had shaken the cocktail to perfection.
    • She had shaken the rug out before it rained.

Each tense offers a nuanced way of looking at past actions, allowing the speaker to convey different aspects of time and sequence in relation to the main verb “shake.”

Past Participle Usage With verb “shake”

The correct past participle form of “shake” is “shaken,” essential in constructing perfect tenses and passive voice sentences. The verb “shake” is an irregular verb, which means its past tense and past participle forms do not follow a regular pattern.

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Perfect Tenses

In the perfect tenses, “shaken” is used following an auxiliary verb to indicate actions completed in relation to another point in time.

Past Perfect Tense:

  • Example: Before the trial, the lawyer had shaken the belief of the jury in the defendant’s innocence.

Present Perfect Tense:

  • Example: They have shaken the industry with their innovative approach.

Future Perfect Tense:

  • Example: By next year, they will have shaken the entire market.

Table of Perfect Tense Usage with “shaken”:

TenseAuxiliary VerbPast ParticipleExample Sentence
Past Perfecthadshaken“They had shaken the foundations.”
Present Perfecthave/hasshaken“She has shaken the bottle.”
Future Perfectwill haveshaken“They will have shaken hands by then.”

Passive Voice

The past participle “shaken” is also employed when forming passive voice constructions, where the subject is acted upon by someone or something else.

  • Active: The bartender shakes the cocktail vigorously.
  • Passive: The cocktail is shaken vigorously by the bartender.

Table of Passive Voice Use with “shaken”:

SubjectAuxiliary VerbPast ParticipleAgentPassive Voice Construction
The cocktailisshakenby the bartenderThe cocktail is shaken by the bartender.
The foundationswereshakenby the earthquakeThe foundations were shaken by the earthquake.
The beliefhad beenshakenby the evidenceThe belief had been shaken by the evidence.

Future Tense Predictions with verb “shake”

When using the verb “shake” to discuss events that will occur, it is essential to understand how to properly use it in different future tenses. Knowing the distinction between future simple and future perfect tenses can significantly improve the clarity and precision of one’s predictions or statements about shaking actions that are yet to happen.

Future Simple

The future simple tense, often referred to as the simple future tense, is used to describe actions that will happen at a later time. The structure for this tense when using the verb “shake” is as follows:

  • Subject + will + base form of the verb (shake).

Here are a few examples:

SubjectFuture Simple Tense
II will shake the bottle.
YouYou will shake hands tomorrow.
He/SheHe will shake the rug outside.
  • It is used to express spontaneous decisions made at the moment of speaking.

    • Example: “It looks like rain. I will shake out the umbrella before bringing it inside.”

Future Perfect

The future perfect tense is used to describe actions that will have been completed by a specific future time. This tense provides a more precise timeframe for the action. To form the future perfect tense, the structure includes “will have” followed by the past participle of the verb which, in the case of “shake,” is shaken.

  • Subject + will have + past participle of the verb (shaken).

Consider these examples:

SubjectFuture Perfect Tense
II will have shaken the salad dressing thoroughly.
YouYou will have shaken all the dust off by then.
TheyThey will have shaken the business world.
  • This tense indicates the completion of an activity by a certain point in the future.

    • Example: “By this time next year, she will have shaken up the industry with her innovations.”
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Utilizing the correct form of the future tense with the verb “shake” can help convey messages with greater accuracy, whether one is making a prediction, a spontaneous intent, or stating a fact about future actions.

Grammatical Consistency

For the verb shake, understanding the distinction between “shook” and “shaken” involves recognizing their grammatical roles: one as the past tense and the other as the past participle. Regular verbs follow a standard pattern in the formation of these forms, often adding -ed for both the past tense and past participle. However, shake is an irregular verb and does not follow this pattern, leading to the distinct forms of shook and shaken.

Conjugation of “Shake”

Past Participleshaken
Present Participleshaking

“Shook” is the simple past form used for actions completed in the past, while “shaken” serves as the past participle used in perfect tenses or as an adjective.

Examples in Sentences

  • Past Tense:
    • He shook the package to guess what was inside.
  • Present Perfect:
    • She has shaken the foundations of our theory.

Remember that present and past participles also differ: the present participle of verbs ending in -ing, such as shaking, is used for continuous tenses and as adjectives.

Verb Tense Consistency

Maintain the same verb tense throughout a single sentence or related body of text, unless a shift in time frame is required. This practice ensures the writing is clear and coherent.


  • She shook the bottle yesterday and has shaken it again today.


  • She shook the bottle yesterday and shake it again today.

Common Mistakes and Clarifications

When it comes to the verb shake, it can be confusing to distinguish between its past tense and past participle forms.

Past Tense:

Correct UsageIncorrect Usage
She shook her head.She shaked her head.

Past Participle:

Correct UsageIncorrect Usage
The bottle had been shaken.The bottle had been shook.

A frequent mistake involves confusing shook with shaken. The word shook is the simple past tense form, describing an action that occurred in the past and was completed. On the other hand, shaken is the past participle form used in the perfect tenses and passive voice.

  • Shook (Past Tense Example):
    • He shook with fear during the storm.
  • Shaken (Past Participle Example):
    • They were shaken by the sudden turn of events.


  • Upset and agitated are often associated with the action to shake but are not interchangeable with shook or shaken.
  • Incorrectly using shook instead of shaken, or vice versa, may lead to grammatical errors that can upset the sentence structure and leave the reader agitated.
  • The use of shake and its forms often conveys a sense of instability or fear, which must be portrayed accurately in the past tense and past participle.

In summary, one must be cautious not to shake up the proper use of these forms to maintain grammatical integrity. Remember, shook is the past tense indicating a completed action, whereas shaken serves as the past participle required for compound tenses and is used with helping verbs.

Shake in Idioms and Expressions

These idioms enrich the language, providing color and context beyond the literal meaning of the words. Below, we’ll explore some common idioms involving the word “shake.”

Idioms with “Shake”

Positive Connotations

“Shake things up”To introduce changes or new ideas
“Shake a leg”Hurry up; move faster
“More than one can shake a stick at”A large number or amount
  • Shake things up often encourages breaking from the norm to rejuvenate or invigorate a situation.
  • Shake a leg is a playful expression to prompt someone to hasten their pace.
  • More than one can shake a stick at humorously expresses an abundance that surpasses expectations.

Negative Connotations

“Shake down”To extort money; a thorough search
“Shake in one’s shoes”To be extremely frightened
“Shake like a leaf”To tremble with fear or nervousness
  • A shake down implies either a corruption-infused demand for money or a rigorous search, usually conducted by law enforcement.
  • When one says they shake in their shoes, it illustrates intense fear, evoking the image of literal trembling.
  • To shake like a leaf vividly describes the uncontrollable quivering one might experience during extreme apprehension.

These idiomatic expressions show the versatility of the word “shake” and underscore its descriptive power within the English language. Whether indicating urgency, fear, sheer quantity, or the act of revitalization, “shake” contributes to the dynamism of idiomatic speech.


Definition of shake from the Collins English Dictionary

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