Per Merriam-Webster (https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/is-boughten-a-word) boughten is an adjective.

According to my non-native-English-speaking friend the sentence "I've boughten many vinyls" is not grammatically correct. Is he right?

Adjectives (boughten) can be used to describe pronouns (many), so although my sentence may be odd in today's times, is it grammatically correct? If not, what rule is it breaking?

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    Short - similar to others: A word does not HAVE to break any rules to either be wholly incorrect or so little used that it makes the user appear uneducated. | Boughten is archaic or poetic at best. It would essentially never now be used in everyday speech and would cause 'raised eyebrows' almost anywhere. In the above context "bought" can instead be used. As of 2008, bought is about 3,000 times more common than boughten in general English usage. ... Commented May 24, 2017 at 0:31
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    @RussellMcMahon That tells you nothing, really. Those of us who use those words do not use them to mean the same thing. There's good data that boughten is preferred as the adjective in some dialect communities.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 24, 2017 at 1:29
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    "Adjectives (boughten) can be used to describe pronouns (many)" Do you have any example of an adjective modifying a pronoun? I agree with RBZ's answer below that "many" needs to come before "broughten". Commented May 24, 2017 at 5:24
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    Do you really want to ask about the adjectival form, or about the verb form? You can tell by substituting a different word for boughten: which fits better in your sentence where you currently have boughten, old ("I've old many vinyls") or purchased ("I've purchased many vinyls")? If the first is more like your sentence, you do have an adjective, but we would normally re-order the adjectives to "many boughten" instead of "boughten many". If the second substitution is closer to your meaning, then you're talking about a form of the verb, not an adjective.
    – 1006a
    Commented May 24, 2017 at 18:49
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    Many is not a pronoun in your sentence—it’s a determiner. And adjectives can modify neither pronouns nor determiners. @Abstraction Yes, it’s touché, not *tuchet’. And broughten probably sounds familiar from the quote “Oh, it’s already been broughten!” popularised by Not Another Teen Movie. Commented May 25, 2017 at 9:12

5 Answers 5


Of boughten the OED writes:

boughten, ppl. a. [irreg. f. bought ppl. a. by assimilation to foughten] = bought ppl. a. used poet. for the sake of metre, otherwise only dial. and in U.S. in application to purchased as opposed to home-made articles.

Under the OED’s entry for buy, in the section on that verb’s inflections and their historical spellings, at no point does anything even vaguely like boughten ever enter the picture for that verb’s past participle.

In Bryan Garner’s Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style (2000), he writes on page 51:

The form boughten (= store-bought as opposed to home-made) is an archaic past-participial adjective formed on the analogy of words such as broken, driven, and frozen. It still occurs in dialectal speech in the North and Northeast (in the sense “store-bought”), but not elsewhere. E.g.: “In those days any boughten [read store-bought] cookie we would see in Maine was made by the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company, which had a huge brick factory near the railroad tracks in Boston’s North End” (Christian Science Monitor).

In Standard English boughten is never a past participle the way you have used it here. It is at most only ever a participial adjective, either in dialect speech or else in the United States for things you have purchased rather than made yourself.

In those dialects that still use it, boughten is usually just an adjective, not a past participle. It’s one of those oddities of a verb that presents a four-fold paradigm: the base verb, past tense, past participle, and then a distinct participial adjective ending in -en not seen in the past participle.

In this way it works somewhat like the verb drink works:

  • drink, drank, drunk, drunken
  • buy, bought, bought, boughten

So as adjectives we can say a drunken sailor or a store-boughten item, but those are still just have drunk and have bought when past participles.

Another example of this model can be found in U.K. speakers who wouldn’t be caught dead using gotten as a past participle even in the situations where North American speakers would use it, and yet those same U.K. speakers find nothing amiss with using it as a participial adjective in only-begotten son.

As the OED notes, this old participial adjective form of boughten is now reduced to dialects only or in the U.S. for a particular application. For example, it can still be heard in Cornwall and various places around the American Midwest.

But since Standard English isn’t so fond of it, if it is not already in your dialect, you should not use it, especially in formal writing. If you’re writing dialogue or just chewing the fat with friends, don’t worry about it.

My own rural dialect from the southeastern corner of Wisconsin retains boughten items, and I do use it in that fashion, but I don’t enjoy constantly having to justify this to people whose dialect lacks it and who are unaware of the word’s existence let alone its history.

On Correctness

In comments, the asker repeats the question about whether have boughten is “correct”, and whether there exists some definitive grammatical “rule” providing a simple yes or no answer respectively supporting or disputing the “correctness” of the have boughten construction.

If you’re a kindergarten teacher guiding your young charges into a normalized form of Standard English, then you will want to suggest to them that they not say that. Prescriptive normalization can have its place, and some would argue that this is one of them.

However, from a linguist’s perspective, the question doesn’t really make much sense. That’s because it presupposes tacit acceptance of the proposition that “correct” is even a thing, and moreover that it is a thing which is either black or white. That’s not how linguists describe the language they observe. It’s something of a category error that is apt to puzzle them; it’s the wrong question to ask them because it doesn’t make sense given how they look at language.

So-called grammatical “rules” are just codifications of collected observations about how real people actually speak. So grammatical just means “sounds ok to a native speaker”, while ungrammatical just means “doesn’t sound ok to a native speaker” — nothing more and nothing less. There can be infinitely many gradations of grey acceptability stretching between those two black-and-white fenceposts of yes and no.

The bottom line is that Standard English does not gladly admit have boughten, but various dialects do. If that’s your dialect, then so be it, but be warned that you may suffer the social opprobrium and stigmata commonly associated with dialect speech; check your wrists to make sure you’re still ok.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 15:45

It depends what you mean by “correct”. Different varieties of English — e.g. standard US English, or standard British English, or various regional dialects — work differently. He snuck round the back is correct in US English, but not in British English, where it would be He sneaked round the back. From a linguistic point of view, ‘correct’ means that some sentence follows the way that native speakers/writers of that variety of English would speak or write; ‘textbook’ rules are just careful descriptions of how some variety works — typically, formal standard US or British English. In popular use, ‘correct’ is often used to mean ‘correct in formal standard US or British English’ — but this is rather unfortunate, because (among other reasons) it often leads to non-standard dialects and their speakers getting stigmatised as wrong, ignorant, simplistic, and so on.

In standard English (either US or British), the sentence is not correct, because boughten is not a word of standard English at all. This is probably what your non-native speaker friend means.

In standard English, the past participle of buy is just bought, so it should be I’ve bought many vinyls.

In some regional varieties of English, it is perfectly correct. This is presumably what you mean.

In some dialects, the word boughten is the past participle of buy, analogous to eaten, the past participle of eat. So since you would indeed say I’ve eaten many vinyls (not a recommended diet, but certainly grammatically correct), you would similarly say I’ve boughten many vinyls.

In other dialects, though, boughten exists but is only used as an adjective, not a participle — analogously to drunken, with which you can say a drunken man but not *I have drunken many beers. So in these dialects, your example sentence is not correct.

Either way: if you are a native English speaker and it sounds right to you, or if you heard this sentence from a native English speaker and it wasn’t a slip of the tongue because they’d drunken too many beers, then yes, it’s almost certainly correct at least in the regional/subcultural variety of English that you/they learned to speak in.

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    "because they’d drunken too many beers" - thanks for the laugh! Commented May 23, 2017 at 10:25
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    You say its not a word. But it is. Check merriam webster! And google!
    – Meep
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 13:01
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    @Meep: that sentence starts with a qualifier: "In standard English". It says "In standard English, there is no such word as 'boughten' ". Everyone has their own viewpoint about what qualifies as standard English. You shouldn't make bets about things that you can't define objectively.
    – herisson
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 16:38
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    @Meep: I didn’t mean to say it’s not a word at all — have edited to clarify. I just meant that it’s not a word of standard English — and dictionaries (Merriam-Webster and the OED) confirm this, marking it as dialectal/regional. It’s a perfectly cromulent word for plenty of people, and I don’t mean to disrespect that at all.
    – PLL
    Commented May 24, 2017 at 10:57
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    @DCShannon Hmm, maybe it's regional. I'm from the Midwest, with a decade spent in California, and 'round sounds vehdy vehdy British to me. I find many examples of "snuck around the back" both online generally and in Google books, many fewer for "snuck round the back", and fewer still with "snuck round back". The alleged results in Books are 1,340 : 163 : 3, and in the interweb generally 454,000 : 5,990 : 894. Of course those are not all "real" results, but the ratios are probably still informative.
    – 1006a
    Commented May 24, 2017 at 21:20

Your link includes the following:

Boughten is also used in some dialects as a past participle of buy. The past participle of buy (and also the simple past tense form) in Standard English is bought. We say "I will buy some cookies soon," and later "I have bought the cookies." But boughten is also used by some: "I have boughten the cookies" (emphasis mine).

Notice it says "used by some." In this case, "some" probably means .0005% of the population. I've never used the word boughten. It's grammatical for those whom it's grammatical.

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    I've never used boughten as a past participle, but certainly it’s a common enough adjective in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 2:22
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    This book says there is a 57:2 ratio of boughten:bought in North-East US. So >98% boughten. books.google.com/…
    – DavePhD
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 12:25
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    @DavePhD Excellent reference! It’s hard to pretend that a catsup-like 57:2 ratio is actually a 1:2000 ratio. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 13:01
  • @tchrist and definitely not 1:200,000. :)
    – DavePhD
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 13:15
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    I've never even heard of it.
    – Casey
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 19:58

As others have noted, "boughten" can be used as a verb (in some dialects) and an adjective.

The OP wants to know if the sentence is correct with respect to its use as an adjective, and to that I would have to say no.

Quite correctly, the OP states that an adjective can be used to describe a pronoun, and that "many" can be used as a pronoun. However, it can also be an adjective or, as in this particular example, a determiner.

Determiners (e.g. a, the, some, other) precede adjectives in a noun phrase, so "I've many boughten vinyls" becomes the correct ordering of the sentence.


Others have pointed out that the usage of boughten is common in some regional dialects, but that its usage is uncommon elsewhere. Here is some more data:

According to google ngram viewer, usage of boughten peaked around 1939. Of Google's very large sample of published material in 2007, bought was used 99.958% of the time versus 0.042% for boughten (a ratio of about 2,388 to 1). That's not uncommon enough for me to have never heard of it, but it is uncommon enough that I would never use it.

Disclaimer: This data comes from published books, and does not count usage in formal or informal speech.

Source: Google Books Ngram Viewer


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