Flew or Flown? Difference Explained (Helpful Examples)

Learning the differences between the past tense forms is vital with irregular verbs. The past tense of “fly” is a perfect way to try and figure this out, and this article will explore the two options that we can use to refer to “flying” in the past.

Flew or Flown: Which Is Correct?

“Flew” and “flown” are both correct as the past tense of “fly” depending on the context. “Flew” is the simple past tense, where no extra rules or verbs are required. “Flown” is the past participle, where we include an auxiliary verb to get it correct as a perfect tense.

Flew or Flown: Which Is Correct?

The following examples will help to explain the main differences:

  • The plane flew high above the mountains, giving us a great view.
  • The helicopter has flown for much longer than it needs to.

It might also help you to see the following:

VerbFly
PastFlew
Past ParticipleFlown
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When Is “Flew” Correct?

“Flew” is correct when using the simple past tense. We do this when we want to think back to a time when some “flying” took place in our lives. Often, we do it to look back at something, even though we can’t change the outcome of it.

You will always keep “flew” in the same form no matter what pronoun comes with it.

  • I flew
  • She flew
  • They flew
  • We flew

Example Sentences Using “Flew”

Since it’s the easier of the two forms, we won’t spend too much time on these examples.

  1. The plane flew out last weekend.
  2. He flew across the country to see you, and you didn’t care about that!
  3. I flew a long way to get here, so it better be worth it.
  4. The airline flew a lot of planes out last week, so you’ll have to be more specific.
  5. We flew for what felt like a full day before arriving!
  6. You flew to the end of the earth to find some treasure.

“Flew” is the simple past tense. We use it to think about a past event of “flying” that has happened long ago. There is no way to impact or change that event in any way in the present.

When Is “Flown” Correct?

There are three ways we can use “flown” correctly in a sentence. However, it’s important to know how these three ways work because if you ever try to use “flown” on its own, you’ll find that it’s incorrect.

“Flown” is correct when accompanied by a helping verb. We can use “have” in most cases, but other verbs will also work to assist the past participle “flown.” With auxiliary and helping verbs, we can create one of three perfect tenses.

The perfect tenses are an important construct in English. We should know how each one works before trying to use them and getting them wrong. Refer to the following to help you understand:

  • Past perfect: Had flown
  • Present perfect: Have flown
  • Future perfect: Will have flown

The past participle never changes form. It doesn’t matter what tense we use; we simply leave the spelling as “flown” no matter what. The only thing that we do change the form of is the tense of “have” (or whatever other helping verb we might use).

The past tense of “have” is “had,” which is why “had flown” is the correct form for the past perfect tense.

Of course, we keep “have” the same in the present perfect tense.

In the future perfect, we use “will have flown” as an additional auxiliary verb to show that something will be likely to happen in the future, provided that someone carries out the correct actions to achieve it.

Example sentences using “Flown”

Since “flown” comes with extra rules, it’s not something we can explain with simple examples. Instead, we’ll make sure to split this part up into three different sections (one for each perfect tense).

Past Perfect

  1. We had flown out to see our family before the storm hit, but it wasn’t wise.
  2. You had flown a long way to get here before they told you that you were in the wrong place.

The past perfect uses “had flown” to talk about someone “flying” in the past. It also refers to how things might have occurred chronologically and that the “flying” happened before another action or event took place.

Present Perfect

  1. The plan has flown to the two countries for as long as we can remember.
  2. You have flown out to see them again, even though I told you not to!

“Have flown” and “has flown” (depending on the pronoun choice) are both correct. The present perfect tense works when someone “flew” in the past and is continuing or finishing the action in the present.

Future Perfect

  1. I will have flown for five thousand miles by the end of this trip.
  2. You will have flown for a lot longer than that if you keep up with these adventures!

“Will have flown” is the future perfect tense. We use this to talk about a likely scenario that could occur in the future. The scenario is entirely dependent on our present actions, and we have a large impact on whether it happens or not.

“Have Flew” Vs. “Have Flown”

While “have flown” is clearly correct as the present perfect tense, do the same rules apply in any way to the simple past tense “flew?” Can we use “have flew” in the same manner?

“Have flew” is never correct. There are no verb combinations that work in this case, as the auxiliary verb and simple past tense cannot be combined. This would be like grouping two verbs together in a sentence with no similar meaning.

You should only ever stick to the perfect tense when writing in this way:

  • Correct: I have flown out to see my parents for the weekend.
  • Incorrect: You have flew higher than many people realized.

Final Thoughts

“Flew” is the simple past tense, while “flown” is the past participle. Since “fly” is an irregular verb, we need two past tense verb forms to get it right. Remember, “flown” requires a helping verb like “have” to turn it into one of the available perfect forms.

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