Mab of the Antipodes (mab_browne) wrote in fandom_grammar,
Mab of the Antipodes

Answer: what is the proper use of 'awakenened' vs 'woke'?

theantipam asked: How do you use "woke" versus "awaken", specifically in the past tense? ("He had woken up in the middle of the night, hungry and cold." vs. "He had awakened in the middle of the night, hungry and cold.")

I picked this question because I didn’t know the answer myself and thought it would be interesting to find out. The short answer is that you can choose whichever one you prefer and retain your meaning. There is, of course, a longer answer, and it’s under the cut.

English is an untidy, changeable language. Many years ago, Old English had verbs that were both ‘strong’ and ‘weak’, and had specific endings to indicate those usages. Those Old English nuances have blurred over time, giving us a plethora of forms that we use to say that someone, for whatever reason, is not sleeping. They’re awake. They’re in the process of waking. They were sleeping before, but now they’ve been awakened.

To wake, to awaken, and to awake all essentially mean the same thing, but are conjugated slightly differently, as shown at these pages at

Also, someone can wake up or be woken up but nobody gets to be awakened up or awaked up. Let's demonstrate various usages with Jim and Blair from 'The Sentinel'.

Jim Ellison woke up Blair when he heard yet another psychopathic killer creeping around outside.

Jim awakened Blair early but offered him the promised good cup of coffee.

Jim awoke suddenly, covering his ears against a shock of noise, and vowed that Blair had better have an excellent reason for turning the stereo up that high.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some finer shades of nuance in the usage of the words, as well as regional differences. My spell-check doesn't recognise awaked, for example, and suggests awoke. Awaken and sometimes awake are generally regarded as the more formal, ‘literary’ words. Awaken in particular has connotations relating to theology and matters of spiritual, moral and intellectual enlightenment. ‘Wake up and smell the coffee!’ has quite a different feel to it than ‘The Soul’s Awakening’. However, theantipam’s more mundane use in her example, "He had awakened in the middle of the night, hungry and cold," is perfectly fine too.

Sources for information in this post:

Daily Writing Tips


The Grammar Exchange
Tags: !answer, author:mab_browne, language:old-fashioned, pos:verbs, pos:verbs:tense:past, word choice:correct use, word choice:similar words

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