The past tense of “steal” comes in two different forms (like so many other verbs in English). We can use the simple past tense “stole” or the past participle “stolen” differently, and this article will explore how they both work to help you understand them.
“Stole” is the simple past tense, which we use alongside a pronoun to talk about “stealing” in the past. “Stolen” is the past participle, which we need to use with an auxiliary verb like “have” to turn it into a perfect tense. On its own, “stolen” does not make sense.
You might be interested to see the following examples to help you understand the key differences between the two verbs:
- I stole a lot of money from my mother over the weekend.
- We have stolen more than we realized, and we’re in a lot of trouble now.
“Stole” is the simple past tense, which we use to talk about “stealing” in the past.
“Stolen” is more complicated because it’s the past participle of “steal.” We must include an auxiliary verb (“have”) to turn it into the perfect tense. “Have stolen” is the present perfect tense, which is one of three options we’ll touch on later.
For now, refer to this information to help you with the verb forms you should expect:
|Simple past tense||Stole|
Let’s start with the simple past tense form, which is the easiest to use.
“Stole” is correct with a pronoun when talking about something being “stolen” in the past. We often look back to a past event in this way, as there’s nothing that can be done to impact it at present.
- We stole
- He stole
- They stole
- It stole
The simple past tense is fairly easy to understand, but we’ll show you some examples nonetheless.
- We stole a lot of money from the register!
- You stole everything from me, and I can never forgive you.
- We stole the things on the list and nothing more!
- I stole a lot in my youth, and I’m not proud of it.
- She stole my heart!
- They stole the ruby! You must stop them!
“Stole” talks about stealing something in the past. There is nothing that can be done in the present to change that thing from being “stolen” as the action has already happened.
Of course, “stolen” is the more complicated of the two verb forms. It’s best if we cover all the different meanings and uses we can get with it before moving it.
“Stolen” is not correct on its own and always requires an auxiliary verb to turn it into one of three perfect tenses. We can use the past, present, or future perfect tenses when writing with the past participle.
The form of the past participle stays the same no matter which tense we use. “Stolen” is a uniform spelling of the verb form in this case.
The auxiliary verb is what we change when using different perfect tenses. The following information will demonstrate what we mean by this:
|Past perfect||Had stolen|
|Present perfect||Have stolen|
|Future perfect||Will/would have stolen|
The past perfect uses “had” to talk about “stealing” in the past. The past perfect tense refers to something that has previously happened that we think back to in the present.
The present perfect uses the present tense “have” as its auxiliary verb form. It means that someone “stole” something in the past and is either continuing to do so or just finishing doing so in the present.
The future perfect uses both “will” or “would” with “have” to show a future situation. It means that something hasn’t happened yet, but it might happen based on the events or actions of the people involved with it in the present.
We’ll split this part into three sections so that you’re not left wondering about the three different perfect tenses. Pay attention to the auxiliary verb forms we use for each case.
- I had stolen an entire year’s worth of supplies, but I returned them when I realized they were no good to me.
- You had stolen my heart for a long time, but I learned the truth about you and moved on.
“Had stolen” is the past perfect tense. It talks about something “stolen” in the past, which might have an impact on the actions we take in the present. We use it mostly to think back to or reminisce about something.
- You have stolen a lot of money, and it would be wise if you returned it immediately.
- We have stolen all that we could carry, but we don’t think it’s enough yet!
“Have stolen” is the present perfect tense. It talks about “stealing” something in the past but continuing to do so or just finishing doing the action in the present.
- You would have stolen an awful lot of money if we allowed you to get your way.
- She will have stolen my heart yet again if I let her talk to me like that!
“Would” or “will have stolen” are the future perfect tenses. We use both to set up a hypothetical future situation that might come true based on our decisions or actions in the present.
“Have stolen” is the only correct form because “stolen” is the past participle. We need to include “have” with it when we want to turn it into the present perfect tense; otherwise, “stolen” does not work alone. “Have stole” is never correct.
|Correct||You have stolen all of my valuables, and you will pay for that!|
|Incorrect||She has stole my heart, and I don’t know what to do about it.|
“Stole” works as the simple past tense, which doesn’t need any extra language rules to get right. You need to pay attention when using “stolen” because it’s the past participle, which needs an auxiliary verb like “have” before we can use it correctly in any sentence.
You may also like: Spoke or Spoken: Which Is Correct? (Helpful Examples)