The past tense of “slay” is something that we need to understand. Irregular verbs are tricky to get your head around straight away, and this article will aim to solve any issues you might have related to the past tense of “slay.”
Slew or Slain: Which Is Correct?
“Slew” and “slain” are both correct. We can use “slew” as the simple past tense to show that “slaying” has already happened. We can use “slain” as the past participle, which can work in many ways to talk about past, present, or future “slaying” actions.
These examples will help you to get a better idea:
- You slew the dragon, and the people were so pleased.
- I have slain the beast as you wanted, and now I want my reward.
The following forms will be covered more throughout this article:
When Is “Slew” Correct?
“Slew” is an easier form to understand. We’ll start with the simple past tense before moving on.
“Slew” is the simple past tense. We use it only when talking about “slaying” something in the past. There is no further impact of the “slaying” action on the present or future.
The form of “slew” will always stay the same. It’s a past tense form, meaning that it never changes. Sometimes, present-tense verbs will change based on our pronoun choice (i.e., “I slay” but “she slays”). However, the same does not apply for the past tense:
- I slew
- She slew
- We slew
- It slew
Example Sentences Using “Slew”
Some examples might make “slew” a little easier to understand for you:
- I slew the dragon, and the townsfolk cheered.
- We slew a monster together.
- I slew the snake, just like they asked me to.
- I slew the thing that crept out of the walls.
- He slew the demented beast, just like we knew he would.
- They slew that thing, and we couldn’t be happier.
“Slew” is the simple past tense. We can use it whenever someone has completed the “slaying” action in the past, and there’s nothing more to do about it. It’s mostly done to think back to the events.
When Is “Slain” Correct?
“Slain” only works as the past participle. There is a little more learning involved with the past participle, so you might want to pay closer attention to this part.
We can use “slain” correctly when an auxiliary verb like “have” is present. This turns it into one of three potential perfect tenses (past, present, or future). On its own, “slain” can never work, and it will always need an auxiliary verb.
You’ll want to remember the following forms of each of the perfect tenses to help you out with your understanding:
- Past perfect: Had slain
- Present perfect: Have slain
- Future perfect: Will have slain
As you can see, we never change the form of “slain.” It’s the past participle, and no past tense forms ever need to change, no matter what tense we use with them.
Instead, we change the auxiliary verb tense. This is the easiest way to work out when using the perfect tenses. You’ll see from the above examples that “have” changes form based on the tense we want to use.
“Had” is the past tense of “have,” which is why we use it as the past perfect tense.
Also, “have” stays the same in the present perfect tense since it’s already a present tense verb.
Finally, adding “will” next to “have” is the way to show how something will happen in the future, which is what the future tense aims to do.
Example sentences using “Slain”
Since “slain” is the past participle, there are a few extra language rules we need to cover. For that reason, we thought it would be helpful to break this part into sections, with each section demonstrating a different perfect tense.
- I had slain this dragon before, but it came back somehow.
- We had slain those beasts before going back to the tavern to rest.
“Had slain” works when showing how things happened in the past. Usually, we show how the “slaying” action occurred before another action, and the past perfect tense works to give us an idea of how things happened.
- I have slain the dragon, and I’m here to claim my reward!
- You have slain the last of them, and we’re very impressed with your service.
“Have slain” works when someone has “slain” something in the past. The action continues in the present or may have just finished a few seconds before using the present perfect tense.
- You will have slain all the beasts by the time I get back, right?
- I will have slain them all because they asked me to; I just need more time.
“Will have slain” works to show that someone will “slay” things in the future. While the event hasn’t happened yet, our actions in the present will govern the likelihood of them, which is what the future perfect tense works to achieve.
“Have Slew” Vs. “Have Slain”
We’ve seen that “have slain” is correct already. After all, it’s the present perfect tense, which uses an auxiliary verb and the past participle. This is a correct way to format your tense in a sentence.
However, can we also use “slew” in the same way? Is there ever a case where the simple past tense works with an auxiliary verb?
“Have slew” is never correct. We cannot use the simple past tense in this way because there is no way to correctly put two verbs together like this. Instead, we must only use “have slain,” as it’s the present perfect tense, which works in many cases.
Here’s a helpful reminder of that for you:
- Correct: I have slain the dragon and saved the town!
- Incorrect: We have slew the snakes that infested this plane.
“Slew” is the simple past tense of “to slay,” while “slain” is the past participle. Both forms are correct, and it mainly comes down to what form and tense we write with to decide which one we need to use in a sentence. Remember, “slain” always needs an auxiliary verb.
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