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Last Saturday at one of our usual house parties, I stopped drinking early. The reason was that for the past month, all I had was a pint of beer and suddenly all that alcohol in me didn’t feel good. So when asked why I wasn’t refilling my glass any more, I said, “Because I haven’t drunk in a month.” My friend A jumped on it and said my usage of “drunk” is incorrect and that it should have been “drank”. My husband agreed, and I couldn’t believe that he, out of all people were trying to convince me that it had to be “drank”. Now drunk or not, I know my grammar. And here’s the reason I stuck to why “haven’t drunk” was correct.

So “have” is an auxiliary verb. What are auxiliary verbs? I have told you this before, but quick refresher: These are verbs that change the meaning of the main verb to give it one or more of the following functions: passive voice, progressive aspect, perfect aspect, modality, or emphasis. Put in simpler terms, an auxiliary verb helps express the perfect aspect of a main verb in a clause, as in I have eaten my dinner, where eaten is the main verb, and by adding the auxiliary verb have we are simply expressing the perfect aspect of the statement.

Now, in case of present and past tenses, the auxiliary verb always takes the past participle form of the main verb. What is past participle? A past participle indicates past or completed action or time. In the sentence His hair was not brushed, the word brushed  is the past participle of the word brush.

So now, in my sentence, I haven’t drunk in a month, you can see why I was right from both sides.

Side 1:

Have is an auxiliary verb giving meaning to the main verb drunk to make it a present perfect sentence (a grammatical combination of the present tense and the perfect aspect, used to express a past event that has present consequences). So when I say that have not drunk in a month, drunk is my main verb and by adding have I am making my sentence present perfect.

Side 2:

Have is an auxiliary verb that will always take the past participle form of the main verb. Here the main verb is “drink”. The simple past tense of the main verb is drank and the past participle of it is drunk. So the correct way to say my sentence would always follow this order:

Subject + Have + Past Participle + Rest of the sentence

I + Haven’t + Drunk + In a month

Point made? Do tell me if I made this post unnecessarily convoluted, which I think I might have.

And, now I have to get drunk! It’s the festival of colours today in my neck of the woods. Happy Holi!