Using the Correct Word

We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

Today is the fourth post in the series on misused word pairs. These are words which are frequently substituted for each other even though they don’t have the same meaning.

Today’s word is not part of a pair in the same sense as those discussed in the earlier posts. Today’s word is a misconjugation of a verb.

You remember conjugating verbs sometime back in school? Present tense, past tense, past participle, and so forth? Oh, you were asleep that day? Pity.

Anyhow, the use of the proper tense of the verb tells your reader or listener when the action or state of being you are trying to convey took place. Is it taking place right now (present tense)? Did it take place yesterday or at some other specific time in the past (past tense)? Or has it taken place numerous times in the past (past participle)?

Most of us can conjugate most verbs without any trouble, but there’s one verb in particular that seems to baffle many of us. For some reason, we have trouble conjugating the verb to dive. Since dive rhymes with drive, we want to make its past tense rhyme with drove.

Since we drive today and drove yesterday, we want to say we dive today and dove yesterday. If that were so, I supposed we should say we have diven many times in the past. Wouldn’t that make sense? Yet, no one ever says that. We know diven is not correct. Why don’t we go ahead and learn that dove is not correct either.

The past tense of the verb to dive is dived. So is the past participle. I dive today. I dived yesterday. I have dived many times in the past.

When you use dove for your past tense, spellcheck will approve it, because d-o-v-e does spell a word. Unfortunately, that word describes a game bird. It’s a noun, not a verb.

Let’s try to remember this point. To dive is a fairly common verb, and its past tense is one of the most frequently misused words in the language. Correcting that is a simple matter. Just remember that no one has ever diven. Maybe that will help us all to remember not to dove for a verb. It’s dived.

Let’s all learn this simple rule of word usage so we can write more intelligent and coherent prose.

What grammatical misuse bothers you? What particular area of grammar would you like help with? I’d love to hear and help.


For more information about David N. Walker, click the “About” tab above.

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About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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19 Responses to Using the Correct Word

  1. Pingback: How to write a novel | grammatical tense « Mike10613's Blog

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  5. Karlene says:

    David, I was talking about this to my husband, so he pulls out the dictionary (Random House College Dictionary, most recent copyright 1980) and found Dove, as a past tense of dive.
    So I wondered and checked out and this is what I found.
    2    [dohv] Show IPA
    a simple past tense of dive.

    So now I am very confused.


    • Sorry about the confusion, Karlene. I teach grammar as it was taught to me. I realize that at times repeated misusage of words ends up getting the misused word accepted as correct. This, apparently, is one of those words. My English teachers would have thrown erasers at me for using dove as the past tense of dive, and I just can’t bring myself to use it either.

      A question arises, though. If dove is the past tense, does that make diven the past participle? Logic says it should.


      • Karlene says:

        I don’t know what to say either. Taking logic out of the equation, if the dictionaries of today say it is, but teachers of the past taught another… who is accurate? Does language alter, shift and change with the generations? What if… I’m not saying this is the case…but what if this is one of those exceptions of the past participle and dove is correct. Maybe those teachers made and assumption. And yet, how many times has the comma usage changed? I watched it with my kids attending school.
        Things I said, “no, that can’t be right.” And yet they showed me in their books.
        Interesting discussion. Thank you!


  6. Julie Glover says:

    Yes, indeed! I have probably said dove once or twice, but it doesn’t sound right, so I hope I corrected myself. I also find that past tenses of sneak and hang are difficult for people to remember. Perhaps you could clear that up! 🙂


  7. Karlene says:

    Wow! I didn’t know this. Thank you. But I dived yesterday sounds so strange to me.


  8. David – I would have given you 40 likes if I could have. Yes, I like this post but best of all-I hit on your book trailer – and triple awesome it is. Wow – one look and it’s a rush. Two looks and it sends chills down the spine (the good kind). Three looks and it’s got me twirling me round the room saying yes, yes, yes – – – this is it. Now – on a more serious note – what are our friends at Tribber doing – I don’t want to link to Faceblook and all those other folks – they seem bound and determined to force us to do so. I refuse to allow any automatic feeds of anything I write. I want control and I’m not a control freek – perhaps I’ve been with white collar crime (invetigating not commiting the stuff for too long) but I refuse to sign up for permission for anyone to do anything with my words) – – – I like tribber — I’ve met great people I’d never have met before and you made it happen. Now I’m mad at them but I want to stay for the fight. Back to your blog because that’s why I’m really here – Keep up the good work. Awesome, awesome, awesome.


  9. Yes, I run into so many people who call my daughter a dolt. However, if you’d put your punctuation inside the quotation marks, they’d all quit.


  10. Lynn says:

    I didn’t know that. I’m quite sure I always use “dove” to indicate the past tense of “dive”. No wonder people think I’m a dolt! LOL!


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