What is the Past Tense of Steal: A Quick Grammar Guide

The past tense of “steal” is “stole.” This form is used when talking about a completed action in the past involving theft or the unlawful taking of something.

For example, one might say, “He stole the purse from the store last week.” It is essential to remember this irregular form when speaking or writing in English to ensure correct grammar and clear communication.

In addition to the simple past tense “stole,” it is also crucial to understand the past participle form, “stolen.” This form is used in perfect tenses or in a passive voice construction.

For example, one could say, “The jewels have been stolen from the museum,” or “She had stolen the bicycle before being caught by the police.” With this understanding of the past tense and past participle forms of the verb “steal,” you can accurately convey different situations and time frames that involve theft.

The Past Tense of ‘Steal’

The Simple Past: Stole

The simple past tense of the verb ‘steal’ is ‘stole’. This form is used when describing an action that occurred in the past and is now completed. For instance, She stole a candy bar from the store. When conjugating ‘steal’ in the simple past tense, it remains consistent for all subjects (I, you, he, she, it, we, they):

  • I stole
  • You stole
  • He/She/It stole
  • We stole
  • You stole
  • They stole

Past Participle: Stolen

The past participle of ‘steal’ is ‘stolen’. This form is used in conjunction with auxiliary verbs, such as ‘have,’ ‘has,’ or ‘had,’ to form the present perfect, past perfect, and future perfect verb tenses.

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For example, She has stolen a total of twenty books this year. Here are some examples of its usage in various tenses:

  • Present perfect: I have stolen, you have stolen, he has stolen…
  • Past perfect: I had stolen, you had stolen, she had stolen…
  • Future perfect: I will have stolen, you will have stolen, they will have stolen…

Irregular Verb Characteristics

‘Steal’ is an irregular verb, meaning it does not follow the standard -ed ending rule for creating past tense and past participle forms. This is a common characteristic of many English verbs. Some examples of other irregular verbs include ‘eat’ (ate, eaten), ‘write’ (wrote, written), and ‘sing’ (sang, sung). As with all irregular verbs, it is essential to memorize these forms to ensure proper conjugation and usage.

To summarize, the simple past tense of ‘steal’ is ‘stole’, and its past participle is ‘stolen.’ Becoming familiar with these forms is necessary, as ‘steal’ is an irregular verb that does not adhere to standard grammar rules for creating the past tense and past participle forms.

Contextual Use of ‘Steal’ in Past Tense

Examples in Sentences

The past tense of “steal” is “stole” while the past participle is “stolen.” These forms are appropriate to use when describing past events. Here are some examples of the word “stole” in sentences:

  • She stole the candy from the store yesterday.
  • They stole a car and went on a joyride.

When using the past participle “stolen,” combine it with a helping verb like “has” or “had”:

  • The thief has stolen several wallets today.
  • He had stolen the purse before the police caught him.
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Past Perfect and Perfect Continuous Tense

In other forms of past tense, the use of “stolen” is more common. For example, in the past perfect tense, “stolen” combines with “had”:

  • Before she returned the item, she had stolen it from the store.

For the past perfect continuous tense, the phrase “had been” is paired with “stealing”:

  • They had been stealing from the company for months before getting caught.

The following table provides a summary of the different forms of the verb “steal” for various tenses:

Past TenseShe stole the candy.
Past Participle (with helping verb)He has stolen my wallet.
Past Perfect TenseThey had stolen the money.
Past Perfect Continuous TenseThey had been stealing for years.

Understanding the contextual use of “steal” in its various forms of past tense is essential to convey information accurately in sentences. Keep in mind the differences between “stole” and “stolen” as well as their use in past perfect and perfect continuous tense.

Nuances in English Language and Variations

The English language is diverse with variations not only in pronunciation but also in the usage of words, phrases, and tenses. Various factors such as geography, word origin, and cultural differences contribute to these nuances. This section discusses the past tense of “steal” and its nuances in British and American English, as well as synonyms and related terms.

British versus American English

In both British and American English, “steal” is an irregular verb. Its past tense form is “stole,” and its past participle is “stolen.” The usage and meaning of the word “steal” remain consistent across both dialects. However, certain variations exist, such as the preference of using synonyms or related terms in specific contexts.

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Some words may be more commonly used in British English, while others are more frequent in American English. For example, the term “pilfer” might be more prevalent in British English, while “embezzle” is more common in American English.

Synonyms and Related Terms

“Steal” has various synonyms and related terms, each with slightly different meanings or implications. Below is a list of some examples:

  • Kidnap: To take someone away by force and hold them captive, usually for ransom.
  • Pilfer: To steal small amounts or items of little value, often repeatedly.
  • Theft: A general term for the act of taking someone else’s property without their consent.
  • Embezzle: To steal money or assets, especially by abusing a position of trust or authority.

These synonyms and related terms help demonstrate the need for understanding the nuances in English and variations across different dialects. By appreciating the subtle differences and connotations of each word, users can communicate more effectively and accurately in both written and spoken English.


Alternative words synonymous with “steal” include pilfer, embezzle, and burglarize. The verb “steal” is widely used in various idioms, such as “steal the show,” “beg, borrow or steal,” and “steal a glance.”

In summary, understanding the different forms of the irregular verb “steal” is essential for accurate usage in various tenses. The simple past tense of “steal” is “stole,” while its past participle form is “stolen.”

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