“Eaten” or “Ate”: Feed Your Curiosity By Learning The Difference

Don’t let confusion around the difference between eaten and ate eat you up inside.

In this article, we’ll explain when and how to correctly use ate and eaten, explain what makes eat an irregular verb, and provide examples of how the different forms of eat are used in sentences.

Quick summary

Ate and eaten are forms of the irregular verb eat. Ate is the past tense form, as in I ate macaroni last night. Eaten is the past participle form and is used to form the perfect verb tenses, as in She has eaten every flavor of ice cream they offer (present perfect tense) and She had eaten every ice cream flavor before they added five new ones (past perfect tense). Eaten is also used in passive constructions, as in Ice cream should be eaten slowly to avoid brain freeze.

eaten vs. ate

Ate and eaten are two forms of the irregular verb eat. Ate is the past tense form and eaten is the past participle form.

For example:

  • I ate lunch at the park today.
  • She had eaten three pieces of cake before anyone else even finished one.

Verbs are typically considered to be irregular verbs if their past tense form and/or past participle are not formed by adding -ed or -d to the end of their root form. This is the case with eat (as neither the past tense nor the past participle are eated).

For many, the main point of confusion is which form of eat should be used in the perfect verb tenses. Since the perfect tenses always use the past participle, the correct choice is eaten, as in I have eaten too much (not I have ate too much).

For example:

  • Present perfect: I have eaten at this restaurant.
  • Past perfect: I had eaten at this restaurant twice before tonight.
  • Future perfect: After tonight, I will have eaten at this restaurant three times.

As with other past participles, eaten is the form used when using eat in the passive voice. When used this way, eaten is accompanied by one of the forms of the helping verb be (is, was, are, etc.). The form of be that you use is determined by the subject and/or a modal verb.

For example:

  • The almonds were eaten by a bunch of squirrels.
  • He recommended that the decadent truffle be eaten for a special occasion.

Don’t let verbs make you tense. Review all the verb tenses here.

Similar verbs

The pattern of ate and eaten is similar to the forms used for the verb give, in which the past tense is gave and the past participle is given. The past participles of a number of other irregular verbs also end in -en.

For example:

  • beat: beaten
  • drive: driven
  • take: taken
  • rise: risen
  • write: written
  • choose: chosen

Examples of eaten and ate used in a sentence

Hopefully, you still have a little room left for some word dessert—here’s a heaping helping of examples of how to use ate and eaten in sentences.

  • I got sick after I ate that moldy bread.
  • She told me she has eaten 20 different kinds of apples.
  • Dan had already eaten breakfast by the time the sun came up.
  • We discovered that the cat had eaten the cheese, but we don’t know what happened to the crackers.
  • You ate at my uncle’s restaurant, but you still have never eaten his world-famous lasagna.

See how much you have learned with our quiz

Satisfied with what you’ve read about these past tense forms? If so, you can take our quiz on these forms of the verb eat. You may surprise yourself with what you’ve learned!

You'll be singing a new tune once you review the difference between "sang" and "sung."

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