Which is it: Threw or Thrown? Understanding the Past Tense of Throw

  • Threw” is the simple past tense form of “throw,” indicating a completed action.
  • Thrown” is the past participle form, requiring an auxiliary verb for correct tense construction.
  • Throw” is an irregular verb, not following the regular -ed pattern for past tense formation.

Regular verbs follow a predictable pattern of adding -ed to form the past tense. However, irregular verbs like “throw” do not follow this pattern, which can cause confusion. “Threw” is used when referring to an action that has been completed in the past, and it does not require an auxiliary verb. In contrast, “thrown” must be used with an auxiliary verb, such as “have” or “has,” to correctly form the present perfect tense.

Defining the Word and Verb “Throw”

The term “throw” refers to a physical action where an object is propelled through the air using the hand or arm. As a verb, throw is categorized as irregular, meaning its past tense and past participle forms do not follow a standard pattern. The past tense of “throw” is threw; this form is used to describe an action that has already happened. For instance, one might say, “She threw the ball yesterday.”

Past Participle Form:

  • The past participle of “throw” is thrown. This form is often used with auxiliary verbs to create perfect tenses, e.g., “He has thrown the ball.”

Different Forms of Throw:

TenseForm
Presentthrow
Pastthrew
Past Participlethrown

The action of “throwing” can be done in different manners:

  • Underhand or overhand tossing.
  • Lobbing, a gentle throw with an arc.
  • Hurling, throwing with force.

Examining Verb Tenses of “Throw”

Present Tense:

  • Base Form: throw
  • Third Person Singular: throws

Past Tense:

  • Simple Past: threw

Past Participle:

  • Thrown

Present Participle:

  • Throwing

Below are two tables that summarize the various tenses and common uses of “throw”:

Table 1: Tense Conjugation of “Throw”

TenseConjugationExample
Simple Presentthrow / throwsI throw the ball. / She throws the ball.
Simple PastthrewThey threw the ball yesterday.
Present ParticiplethrowingHe is throwing the ball.
Past ParticiplethrownThe ball has been thrown.

Table 2: Usage of “Throw” in Sentences

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TenseAuxiliary VerbExample
Present Perfecthas/haveShe has thrown the ball three times.
Past PerfecthadThey had thrown the ball before we arrived.
Future Perfectwill haveHe will have thrown the ball by tomorrow.
Present Passiveis/am/areThe ball is thrown by the pitcher.
Past Passivewas/wereThe ball was thrown by the pitcher.

When constructing sentences, it’s important to use the correct form of the verb to express the desired time frame and aspect:

  • Simple Past: “threw” denotes an action completed in the past.
    She threw the ball swiftly.
  • Past Participle: “thrown” is used with an auxiliary verb to indicate actions in various perfect tenses or the passive voice.
    The ball has been thrown.

Deciding: Threw or Thrown – Which is Correct?

“Threw” is the simple past tense of “throw,” indicating an action that has already been completed. Here are the instances where “threw” is used correctly:

  • She threw the ball.
  • They threw a party last weekend.
SubjectVerb
He/Shethrew
We/Theythrew

Conversely, “thrown” is the past participle form of “throw,” and it is used with auxiliary verbs to create the perfect tenses. See the examples below:

  • The vase had been thrown.
  • The papers have been thrown away.
Auxiliary VerbPast Participle
has/havethrown
hadthrown

When deciding whether to use “threw” or “thrown,” consider the following points:

  • “Threw” reflects a completed action in simple past tense.
  • “Thrown” is used to indicate a past action in relation to another time (present perfect or past perfect).
  • Past participle forms like “thrown” always need an auxiliary verb to complete their meaning.
  • Determine the tense: simple past for “threw,” present perfect or past perfect for “thrown.”
  • Look for the auxiliary verb: if there is has, have, or had, you’ll likely need “thrown.”
  • If the action is standalone and completed in the past, “threw” is the way to go.
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Examples of “Throw” in the Present Tense (in Sentences)

Here are some examples of how this verb is utilized within sentences:

Table 1: Singular Forms

SubjectSentence Example
He/She/ItHe throws the ball with precision.
He/She/ItShe throws a party every year.
He/She/ItIt throws a shadow on the wall.

Table 2: Plural Forms

SubjectSentence Example
TheyThey throw caution to the wind when investing.
WeWe throw ourselves into our work wholeheartedly.
YouYou throw the best events in town.
  • In the third person singular form, “throws” is used: “He throws the paper into the bin.”
  • In the plural form or with the pronoun “you,” “throw” remains unchanged: “They throw a frisbee back and forth.”

The word “throw” is often associated with physical movement:

  • She throws her hands up in frustration.”
  • The machine throws up a lot of dust when it’s operating.”

However, “throw” can also be used in an abstract sense:

  • The news throws them into a state of panic.”
  • “The plot twist throws the audience for a loop.”

Examples of “Threw” in the Past Tense (in Sentences)

Simple Sentences:

  • She threw the ball.
  • He threw the papers into the air.

Compound Sentences:

  • Tom threw the ball, and it sailed over the fence.
  • Jane threw the bouquet, but nobody caught it.

Complex Sentences:

  • Before the storm arrived, the wind threw leaves across the yard.
  • Although he threw his hat into the ring, he didn’t win the election.

Usage with Adverbs:

  • He threw the ball powerfully.
  • She quietly threw the note into the fire.

Table of Examples with Direct Objects:

SubjectVerbDirect Object
Theythrewa surprise party.
Ithrewmy hat into the ring.

Table of Examples with Indirect Objects:

SubjectVerbDirect ObjectIndirect Object
Shethrewher frienda lifeline.
Hethrewmethe keys.
  • During the match, the tennis player threw his racket in frustration.
  • The child threw a stone into the pond, watching the ripples spread.
  • They threw themselves into the work, completing the project in record time.
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By using “threw” properly, we can concisely narrate past actions involving throwing.

Examples of the Past Participle “Thrown” (in Sentences)

The Past Perfect Tense:
Utilizing thrown within the past perfect tense indicates an action that was completed before another action in the past.

SubjectAuxiliary VerbPast ParticipleRest of the Sentence
Shehadthrownthe ball before the game ended.
Theyhadthrowna surprise party for their friend last year.

Passive Voice Construction:
When forming sentences in the passive voice, thrown describes an action performed on the subject of the sentence.

  • The vase was thrown across the room.
  • The rules were thrown out the window during the holiday.

Using “Have” or “Has” with “Thrown”:
To form the present perfect tense, thrown pairs with “have” or “has,” showing that an action occurred at an indefinite time in the past or has relevance to the present moment.

  • I have thrown out all the expired food from the refrigerator.
  • He has thrown himself into the project with great enthusiasm.

Synonyms for “Throw”

Here are some common synonyms listed according to their general use.

General Use:

  • Toss: A light or gentle throw.
  • Fling: To throw forcefully or carelessly.
  • Lob: To throw in a high arc.
  • Hurl: To throw with great force.

Technical or Specific Context:

  • Cast: Often used in fishing or figuratively, to let something go forcefully.
  • Launch: To send off with force, like a spacecraft or a new initiative.
  • Sling: To throw with a swinging motion.
General ThrowsDescriptive Throws
tossgently throw an object
flingthrow without care
lobthrow in an arc
hurlthrow with force
Specific ThrowsContext
castmainly used in fishing
launchsend off with force; like a rocket
slingthrow with a swinging motion

Phrases Incorporating “Throw”

Common Idiomatic Expressions

  • Threw in the towel: To give up on something; an idiom derived from boxing.
  • Thrown off balance: To be surprised or confused.
  • Threw for a loop: A state of bewilderment or shock.

Table of Collocations

Verb + ThrewMeaningExample Sentence
He threwTo propel something with force“He threw the ball with precision.”
She threwTo organize an event, typically with little notice“She threw a surprise birthday party.”
Verb + ThrownMeaningExample Sentence
Has been thrownDenotes the past passive voice of ‘throw’“The message in a bottle has been thrown into the sea decades ago.”

Daily Phrases with “Throw”

  • Throw away: To discard. “Don’t throw away the old books; donate them.”
  • Throw out: Similar to throw away, but can also mean to expel. “The unruly guest was thrown out of the hotel.”
  • Throw up: To vomit. “The child threw up after riding the roller coaster.”

Unveiling the Origin of the Word/Verb “Throw”

Old English Roots
“Throw” descends from the Old English verb “þrawan,” which bore the meaning to twist, to turn. This base also gave birth to the word “thraw,” indicating a twisting motion.

Old EnglishMiddle EnglishModern English
þrawanthrowenthrow

Proto-Indo-European (PIE) Ancestry
Going even further back, the PIE root *terə-—meaning to rub, turn—serves as the ancestor of “throw.” This root connects to various actions associated with turning and transformation.

  • Terminology Connections: The PIE root is linked to terms like “thrust” and “thread,” indicating motion and, by extension, the act of throwing involves a dynamic movement.
  • Irregular Verbs: As verbs evolved, “throw” became irregular, not adhering to the standard ‘-ed’ ending for past tense.

Influence Through Languages
The path from Old to Modern English showcases the linguistic interplay:

  • Middle English: “throwen” meant to twist, wring.
  • Modern English: The current form “throw” captures the action of sending something through the air with force.

Current Usage
Today’s usage of “throw” encapsulates the interconnected concepts of movement, energy, and dynamism, reflecting its deep linguistic roots.

MeaningRepresentation in Usage
MovementThrowing a ball
EnergyThrowing a punch
DynamismThrowing a party

Sources

1. Wikipedia. 2023. “Indo-European ablaut.” Wikimedia Foundation.

2. Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of throw.” Online Etymology Dictionary.

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