For a long time I was wondering why there is I win instead of I won. I met such usage in a lot of games and movies.

For me, it's logical to say I won, because this winning action is done already. I win for me seems like I'm winning right now.

Can anyone clarify this for me?

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    I often find myself wondering the same about "I forget" vs "I forgot".
    – RegDwigнt
    Oct 8 '10 at 9:17
  • "I forget" is interesting - probably worth a separate question. I wonder whether there's a regional influence. I know I avoided "I forget" for a long time because it was understood as repeated forgetting, while "I've forgotten" was preferred.
    – Mark
    Dec 19 '10 at 16:18
  • 1
    Well, "I forget" implies to me that I'm still in the process of forgetting - I haven't remembered yet. "I forgot" at least sometimes means "I forgot then, but now I remember". Feb 9 '11 at 14:51
  • In Portuguese when sampling something new such as a food, one doesn't say "I like it" but "I liked it." Perhaps this is similar.
    – ErikE
    May 24 '11 at 7:41
  • @Mark (and RegDwight): It definitely is worth a separate question. In my opinion, both "I forget" and "I win" (in common usage) are idiomatic, defying simple grammatical rules.
    – John Y
    Jul 21 '12 at 14:31

I disagree with the accepted answer in its explanation. If you've just had lunch, you'd say "I ate" (past-tense) and not "I eat" (present tense) - even if you're saying it "just a few seconds after" having lunch. It is absurd to argue that "I win" is used because the winning has only happened in the recent past, it is being carried over to the present (although a runner might say "I win" as he is overtaking another runner).This is sledging, whereas the usage above is clearly about semantics/phraseology.

When you say "I win," you're being helpful - by effectively speaking for/on behalf of an umpire/adjudicator (or a referee), who is the proper authority to declare the winner. Conventionally, an umpire would say "Player X wins", and not "Player X won".

If there was a third person (acting as an adjudicator) physically present, and he declares one of the two players the winner, you'd certainly say "I won!" even if it was immediately/seconds after.

In linguistics, there are three honorifics assigned to any discourse : the speaker, the hearer and the bystander. Here, the speaker is speaking for the invisible bystander.

You're also likely to say "I won!" with a particularly tough-to-beat opponent, implying incredulity/emphasis.


The statement "I win" is typically used to declare that the subject has just won the game. Before the statement, it may well not be known that a "win" has occurred. Indeed, because the action is so extremely recent in the past, it is effectively considered the present. While you technically may be right in that the win occurred in the past, language does not make this distinction. Call it an idiomatic usage case, if you will. I wouldn't over-analyse the reason.

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    I'n British usage "I won" is almost impossible here, because unlike "I've won" it must refer to a point fully in the past: I believe that this is not true in North America. "I win" and "I've won" are both common, and I think there is a difference in nuance: a person would say "I win" as they played the winning move, whereas "I've won" might be then or some time later when they realised that they had won.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 8 '10 at 14:53
  • I'm not sure it's idiomatic, but it certainly varies in use around the world. Consider recounting the story later - "Then I make my final move and win"... Does "you lose" sound strange as well?
    – Mark
    Dec 19 '10 at 16:23
  • @ColinFine, would you mind if I ask you, why would a person say "I win" as they played the winning move and not I'm winning. As far as I understand English now, from Murphy's English Grammar, present simple is used for some repeated actions. So I win should mean that I constantly, every time win. Oct 23 '15 at 13:01
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    Interesting question @user907860. Generally, what Murphy says is true. But in the case of win, I am winning means "I am in a winning position in a game which is still continuing", and would not be said at the moment of winning the game. This use of I win is somewhat anomalous - I'm not sure if it is a special property of the verb win, or whether it might be a sort of ritualistic pronouncement, like I declare this bridge open or I award you the first prize.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 23 '15 at 14:49

I think you can use both. I win means I've won when the game has just finished. I've won means for example that you've won 30 minutes ago. You can call something that happened 2 minutes ago by present, not past.


There are elements of RaghuramMK's and Noldorin's answers at play here. I do think an exclamation of "I win!" at least in part serves as an answer to "OK, so who wins?" (even if that question wasn't explicitly asked). I believe this is its grammatic function, if you will. It's a declaration, like a shorter form of "I am victorious!".

I also think there is some period of time beyond which the winner stops saying "I win" and switches to saying "I won", and it's not very long. But how long depends a lot on the venue and the emotional magnitude of the victory. Someone who has just won a world championship might be screaming "I win! I win! I win!" for what seems like quite a long time, as they run around in celebration. Whereas if my brother beats me in a casual game of cards, he might say "I win" as he plays the last card, with the "winning moment" lasting less than one second.


Usage varies, of course, but I would only use I win in situations where it's pseudo-future. Chess commentaries commonly say '...and Black wins in 3 moves', meaning that the game, though technically still in progress, is effectively over. There, wins could be replaced by will have won, since the game reported on has finished (presumably by White's resignation); if I were Black in that situation I could say I will win in three moves or I win in three (or, of course, Mate in three). The gloating phrase would be "I've won!"


I'm winning

  • I'm winning this time (while the game continues).

I've won

  • I've won this time. (after it is over).
  • You should probably not use the perfect present together this time.
    – apaderno
    Oct 31 '11 at 7:25

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