This is a question people seldom ask. In the English language, past participles are verbs that usually end with -ed. But bear is one exception. It has bore and borne as past participles, but not beared. Why do they even exist? That doesn't make any sense.

Update 1: I'm not familiar with Germanic languages in general, past tense forms, irregular verbs, or inflectional morphology.

Update 2: Borne is the trickiest verb form I have heard from in the English language so far.

  • 3
    I'm curious what your mother tongue is; most natural languages have at least a few irregularly inflected words, and learning irregular verbs and nouns is a common challenge when learning any new language, not just English.
    – choster
    Commented Dec 28, 2020 at 21:39
  • See 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 2:03
  • @tchrist I don't understand how 8, 11, and 12 are supposed to answer my question, as they talk about particular words rather than strong verbs in general. As for 5, it links right to the top of its target page rather than the first answer which should otherwise be the solution.
    – Adamant
    Commented May 3 at 22:33

3 Answers 3


To be clear, it is not standard to use "bore "as the past participle of bear. Bear has borne as a past participle, and possibly also born, if you consider the "be born" construction to function in present-day English as a passive form of "bear." (To me, the connection between "be born" and "bear" seems more a matter of history, not so much an active connection.)

Many past participles end in -en, -n or -ne. Past participles formed with a suffix containing /n/ are considered irregular today, but they come from the historical conjugation of "strong" verbs, which are a large and important category of Germanic verbs.

Most relevantly, the past participles of tear, wear, swear are torn, worn, sworn. Some other past participles not ending in -ed are done, gone, eaten, broken. There are many more examples. So "borne" is not very exceptional in not using -ed. The fact that it takes the spelling -ne rather than -n (if we leave out the "be born" construction) is more surprising.

All past participle forms, whether formed regularly with -ed or irregularly in some other way, can be ambiguous with adjectives. Many adjectives have the form of past participles: for example, frozen, excited, dejected, disappointed.


“Bear” has two past participles, depending on the meaning you want. We use “borne” for most meanings, but “born” for passive constructions referring to birth:


"carried, sustained, endured," past tense and participle of bear (v.) in all senses not related to birth. Distinction between born and borne (q.v.) is 17c.


  • 1
    The quote reads as though "I have born my son" is correct. A little more detail is required here, I think.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 22:22
  • @AndrewLeach - “born” for passive constructions referring to birth. Your example in not a passive construction. “My son was born.....”
    – user 66974
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 22:23
  • 1
    I stand by my comment. More detail is required in the answer.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 22:25
  • @AndrewLeach - sorry, more details about what?
    – user 66974
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 22:26
  • 3
    "Thanks to the vagaries of English spelling, bear has two past participles: born and borne. Traditionally, born is used only in passive constructions referring to birth: I was born in Chicago. For all other uses, including active constructions referring to birth, borne is the standard form: She has borne both her children at home. I have borne his insolence with the patience of a saint."
    – herisson
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 1:40

The word bear started out as a perfectly normal strong class 4 verb in Old English. Because of this, it has a Germanic root which is the origin of the past forms bore, born, and borne. Bear is currently classified as an irregular verb because people normally do not add -ed to the end of the word when they use a specific past form.

  • You might want to take a look at: lie, lay, lain AND lay, laid, laid.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 20:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.