This is a question that people have seldom ever asked. In the English language, past participles are verbs that usually end with "-ed" (or "-ore" for those whose present participles end with "-ear"). But bear seems to be an exception. It not only has bore as a past participle, but also borne. That doesn't make any sense. At first glance, people may mistake borne as either an adjective or adverb when it isn't really either.

  • 4
    Because English. – Hot Licks Feb 24 at 22:17

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.

| improve this answer | |

“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.


| improve this answer | |
  • The quote reads as though "I have born my son" is correct. A little more detail is required here, I think. – Andrew Leach Feb 24 at 22:22
  • @AndrewLeach - “born” for passive constructions referring to birth. Your example in not a passive construction. “My son was born.....” – user121863 Feb 24 at 22:23
  • I stand by my comment. More detail is required in the answer. – Andrew Leach Feb 24 at 22:25
  • @AndrewLeach - sorry, more details about what? – user121863 Feb 24 at 22:26
  • 1
    "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 Feb 25 at 1:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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