Posts tagged ‘shine’


Shining like the shone

Here’s something that you’d think that I, as a native speaker of English, would know, but that I apparently don’t, and sitting here on the speeding 7:40 express without the iPad’s cellular service turned on, I can’t just look up.

What’s the past tense of “shine”?

Well, “shined” is a word (nu?), and all it can be is that, so that must be it.

On the other hand, during the sportsball news on the radio this morning the announcer person said that some particular player really “shone” in the game last night, and that only sounded slightly wrong. And thinking about it, saying that he really shined would also have sounded slightly wrong!

Maybe “shone” is actually correct there; it sounds right in, say, “polished them until they shone”. The perceived slight wrongness might be from the similarity to “shown”, which is always a past participle-thing (show, showed, shown; shine, shone, shone?).

But if “shone” is correct there, what is “shined” for? Thinking about examples, my tentative theory is that the intransitive “shine” goes shine, shone, shone (polished it until it shone, had shone like gold for centuries), whereas the transitive (and more quotidian) “shine” goes shine, shined, shined, not getting “shone” even in the participle-thing (I shined my shoes yesterday, by the time I arrived he had finished shining his pate).

Which among other things produces the amusing “shined them until they shone”, which actually sounds about right.

This suggests a few things if true. For instance, that English is definitely a weird language. Also, since it’s hard for me to imagine I’ve never noticed this before, also that one of the many rewards of age and dotage is that you get to rediscover all sort of amusing things all over again. :)

Updates now that I am online again: Here is someone saying basically the same thing that I do above, and here is someone saying oh wait now it’s more complicated than that (with lots of comments offering further viewpoints and complications).

So there we are!