Whats the Past Tense of Fall: Fell or Fallen? Understanding Verb Tenses

  • Fell” is the simple past tense of “fall,” used to indicate an action completed in the past.
  • Fallen” is the past participle form, used with auxiliary verbs to create perfect tenses.
  • Correct usage of “fell” and “fallen” is critical for mastering English verb conjugation.

The term “fallen” is not the simple past tense but rather the past participle form of the verb, which is commonly used with auxiliary verbs to create perfect tenses, such as the present perfect or past perfect. The past participle is used in sentences like: “She has fallen in love,” or “The leaves had fallen before the first snow.” Understanding the correct use of “fell” and “fallen” is essential in mastering English verb tenses.

What’s the Past Tense of Fall? Fall, Fell, or Fallen?

“Fall” is an irregular verb, which means it does not follow a standard pattern of tense changes.

Simple Past Tense of “Fall”:
The simple past tense of “fall” is “fell.” It is used to describe an action completed at a definite time in the past.

Examples:

  • She fell on the ice yesterday.
  • Last autumn, the leaves fell gently to the ground.

Past Participle of “Fall”:
The past participle form of “fall” is “fallen.” It is typically used with auxiliary verbs to form perfect tenses.

Examples:

  • The picture has fallen off the wall.
  • By the time we arrived, night had already fallen.

Verb Forms of “Fall”

Here is a table summarizing the different forms:

TenseForm
Infinitivefall
Simple Pastfell
Past Participlefallen

Correct Usage in Sentences

To reinforce understanding, here are examples using the simple past and past participle forms:

  • Simple Past:
    • He fell during the marathon.
  • Past Participle:
    • The ancient civilization has fallen into obscurity.
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Verb Tenses of Fall:

Distinguishing between “fell” and “fallen” is particularly essential as they represent the past tense and past participle forms, respectively.

How Do You Use Fell vs. Fallen?

“Fell” is the simple past tense form used to describe an action completed in the past. In contrast, “fallen” is the past participle form, typically combining with an auxiliary verb such as “have” or “be” to show perfect tenses or passive constructions.

Fell – Simple Past Tense

  • I fell off the bike yesterday.

Fallen – Past Participle

  • She has fallen in love already.

Fall in the Present Tense (in Sentences):

In the present tense, “fall” inflects based on the subject. Below is a table illustrating how “fall” varies in the present tense:

SubjectVerb
Ifall
Youfall
He/She/Itfalls
Wefall
Theyfall
  • He falls asleep during the movie.

Fell in the Past Tense (in Sentences):

When using “fell,” it’s indicative of an action that has been completed at a definite point in the past. It remains unchanged regardless of the subject.

  • They fell out of the hammock.

Fallen (Past Participle) Used in Sentences:

“Fallen” must be accompanied by an auxiliary verb to denote the perfect tenses or to form the passive voice.

Present Perfect:

  • He has fallen from the top of the leaderboard.

Past Perfect:

  • She had fallen by the time we arrived.

Passive Voice:

  • The tree by the road has been fallen during the storm.

Synonyms of “Fall”

Choosing the right synonym for “fall” often depends on what kind of fall is being described – whether it’s a physical descent, a decrease in quantity or quality, or a metaphorical fall.

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Physical Descent:

For describing a physical descent, one might use the following terms:

  • Tumble: Used for a sudden and clumsy descent.
  • Plunge: Conveys a forceful and possibly deliberate descent.
  • Drop: A general term for something moving downward.
  • Slip: Implies an accidental descent, often on a surface that causes one to lose their footing.

Example Synonyms:

VerbUse-case Example
Tumble“The books tumbled off the shelf.”
Plunge“The diver plunged into the water.”
Drop“The ornament dropped to the floor.”
Slip“She slipped on ice and fell.”

Decrease in Quantity or Quality:

When referring to a decrease in quantity, level, or quality, consider these alternatives:

  • Dip: Often used for temporary or slight decreases.
  • Decline: Indicative of a gradual reduction.
  • Sink: Can denote a significant drop in level or status.
  • Dwindle: Implies a gradual decrease to the point of disappearance.

Example Synonyms:

VerbUse-case Example
Dip“Stock prices dipped after the announcement.”
Decline“Her health has been in decline lately.”
Sink“The company’s profits sank dramatically.”
Dwindle“Resources are dwindling in the area.”

Metaphorical Fall:

In a metaphorical sense, such as a fall from power or grace, these words might apply:

  • Topple: Typically used when something or someone is removed from a position of authority or status.
  • Capsize: Sometimes used metaphorically to signify the complete overturn or defeat.
  • Subside: Can refer to a reduction or failure of power, support, or effects.
  • Degenerate: Indicates a decline in physical, moral, or cultural quality over time.

Metaphorical synonyms for “fall”:

  • Topple
  • Capsize
  • Subside
  • Degenerate

Origin of the Word “Fall”

The term “fall” is deeply rooted in the English language, with its usage spanning over a thousand years. “Fall” originates from the Old English verb “feallan,” which held a multitude of meanings such as to drop from a height, to fail, or to perish.

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Old EnglishProto-Germanic
feallan*fallanan

This Old English word derives from the Proto-Germanic “*fallanan,” which similarly meant to fall or to collapse. Over time, the word evolved across various Germanic languages:

  • Old Saxon and Dutch: fallan/vallen – to fall
  • Old Norse: falla – to fall
  • Old High German: fallan – to fall
  • German: fallen – to fall

The historical forms of “fall” demonstrate how the word’s fundamental meaning has remained consistent through the ages, denoting a sense of descent or downfall.

LanguagePast TensePast Participle
Old Englishfeollfeallen
Englishfellfallen

By tracing the etymology of “fall,” one can see its transition from Old English “feoll” to the modern past tense “fell,” and from “feallen” to “fallen” for the past participle.

  • Irregular verb: A verb that does not follow the standard patterns of conjugation.

Source

2. Harper Douglas, “Etymology of fall,” Online Etymology Dictionary https://www.etymonline.com/word/fall

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