Showed or Shown: Understanding the Past Tense and Past Participle Forms of “Show”

  • Showed” is the simple past tense of “show,” denoting a completed action.
  • Shown” is the past participle of “show,” used with auxiliary verbs to express a past action’s relevance to the present.
  • Understanding the usage of “showed” and “shown” is essential for accurate and clear communication.

The choice between “showed” and “shown” affects sentence structure and meaning. While both forms derive from “show,” their applications vary, with “shown” often paired with “has,” “have,” or “had,” and “showed” standing independently as a representation of past action. In addition, recognizing the verb “show” in its various conjugations is helpful in both written and spoken English, enabling us to express nuances in timing and aspect of actions.

What is the definition of the word “show”?

This term has various meanings, each contingent upon the context in which it is applied.

Show in its most basic usage signifies:

  • To display or make visible
  • To present or exhibit
  • To demonstrate a fact, truth, or one’s skills
  • To guide or point out to inform

In essence, when one shows something, they make it perceptible to the senses, particularly sight. The purpose can be to inform, entertain, or instruct.

Here is a breakdown of the primary definitions in a more structured way:

DisplayTo make visible to others
PresentTo exhibit something for others to see or consider
DemonstrateTo prove or make clear through evidence or explanation
GuideTo lead or direct someone to knowledge or a location

The verb “show” can be inclusive of various nuances, as illustrated by the associated contexts:

  • Illustrative: When one employs an object or action to illustrate a point or idea.
  • Revealing: In situations where something is revealed or made known that was not previously clear or understood.
  • Educational: Within a teaching or informative scenario where someone is instructed or given information.
  • Entertainment: In the realm of performance where performers entertain an audience.
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Showed or Shown: Which is the past tense and past participle of show?

One common verb that exemplifies this is “to show.” Understanding the correct context for “showed” and “shown” is crucial for proper grammar usage.

Showed is the simple past tense form of “to show.” It describes an action that was completed at a specific time in the past. Here are characteristics and examples in a table:

Simple Past TenseDescriptionExample Sentence
ShowedAction completed in the pastYesterday, she showed the photo.

Shown, on the other hand, is the past participle form of “to show.” It is used with auxiliary verbs like “has,” “have,” or “had” to form perfect tenses or in the passive voice. Here’s how it’s typically used:

  • Present Perfect: “She has shown expertise in her field.”
  • Past Perfect: “By the time you arrived, he had shown all the signs of recovery.”

The use of “shown” is broken down further in a list:

  • Present Perfect: has/have shown
  • Past Perfect: had shown
  • Passive Voice: is/was shown

Shown is also necessary when forming passive sentences, in which the focus is on the action rather than who performed it.

Past ParticipleUsage in Perfect TensesUsage in Passive Voice
ShownShe has/had shown resilience.The secrets were shown to him.

Grammar and Usage of verb “show”

The verb “show” is an integral part of English grammar with distinct forms used in the past tense and as a past participle.

Past Tense vs. Past Participle of “show”

“Show” is an irregular verb, and this affects the formation of its past tense and past participle. The simple past tense form is “showed.” In contrast, “shown” functions as the past participle and is typically preceded by forms of “have” or “be” in perfect tenses or passive voice constructions.

  • Past Tense: She showed the documents yesterday.
  • Past Participle: The documents have been shown to the committee.
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Table 1: Usage in Perfect Tenses

Perfect TenseConstruction
Present Perfecthas/have + shown
Past Perfecthad + shown
Future Perfectwill have + shown


  • Present Perfect: She has shown considerable improvement.
  • Past Perfect: They had shown all the symptoms before the diagnosis.
  • Future Perfect: By then, the artist will have shown his new artwork.

Note: While “showed” can sometimes appear as a past participle, this usage is less common and not standard.

Forms and Conjugations with “show”

“Show” also has various forms used across different tenses and voices, including the present participle “showing.” Proper conjugation ensures clear communication and grammatical precision.

Present and Past

  • Present: I/You/We/They show, He/She/It shows
  • Past: I/You/We/They/He/She/It showed

Table 2: Conjugations with “be” and “have” in Different Tenses

TenseActive VoicePassive Voice
Presentshow/showsis/are shown
Present Perfecthas/have shownhas/have been shown
Pastshowedwas/were shown
Past Perfecthad shownhad been shown
Futurewill showwill be shown
Future Perfectwill have shownwill have been shown
Present Continuousis/are showingis/are being shown
Past Continuouswas/were showingwas/were being shown
Future Continuouswill be showingwill be being shown

Example Sentences:

  • Active Voice: The teacher is showing the student how to solve the problem.
  • Passive Voice: The solution is being shown by the teacher.

Infinitive and Present Participle:

  • Infinitive: to show
  • Present Participle: showing

Regular vs. Irregular Verb Comparison:

  • A regular verb typically forms its past tense and past participle by adding -ed or -d to the base form (e.g., talk, talked, talked).
  • An irregular verb like “show,” however, eschews this pattern, hence the forms show, showed, shown.
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Usage of “-ed,” “-d,” and “-ing” Forms:

  • Verb forms ending in -ed or -d are often used to indicate the simple past tense of regular verbs.
  • The -ing ending denotes the present participle form, used in continuous tenses and gerunds, as in showing.

Practical Applications and Variations of verb ‘show’

This section explores practical applications, details about verb forms, and the intricacies of maintaining tense consistency. Synonyms and idiomatic expressions broaden the ability to express concepts related to ‘show’.

Usage in Sentences

The verb ‘show’ has several applications in sentences. It can illustrate an action in active voice or a state of being in passive voice, each with its implications on meaning.

  • Active: “He shows his passport.”
  • Passive: “The passport is shown to the official.”

Future tense usage can express a desire or definitive plan:

  • “They will show the documentary tomorrow.”

Whereas in the present perfect tense, ‘show’ implies an action that has relevance to the present time:

  • “She has shown remarkable skills in her work.”

Verb Forms and Pronunciation

‘Show’ is an irregular verb in English with distinct forms for the past tense and past participle. Here is a table illustrating the forms:

TenseVerb FormExample Sentence
Simple Presentshow“I show my work to the class.”
Simple Pastshowed“Yesterday, he showed me the painting.”
Past Participleshown“She has shown dedication.”

The pronunciation of ‘show’ is /ʃoʊ/, but when it comes to its past form ‘showed’, it follows with a /d/ sound, and ‘shown’ ends with an /n/ sound.

Tense Consistency in Writing

Tense consistency is key to clear communication. While simple past tense, like ‘showed’, indicates a completed action, the past participle ‘shown’ often requires an auxiliary verb to indicate time or aspect.

Consider these in a narrative context:

  • “The artist showed and then sold her painting.”
  • “The painting had been shown to potential buyers before the sale.”

Switching tenses improperly can confuse readers and disrupt the flow of text.

Synonyms & Idioms of “show”

The English language is rich with synonyms and idioms that can replace ‘show’ to enrich language and convey nuance. Synonyms include display, exhibit, and demonstrate.

Here is a list of idioms using ‘show’:

  • Show one’s hand – to reveal one’s intentions.
  • Show the ropes – to teach someone how to do a particular job or activity.
  • Steal the show – to get a lot of attention or praise because you perform the best.


Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of show.” Online Etymology Dictionary

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