Lesson #208: “Don’t go frightening the princess”: Ten English Verbs ending with -en

In last Monday’s Lesson we looked at adjective groups based on their endings; we saw how they were different from verb forms that look similar.

In today’s Lesson we are going to also look at verbs ending with -en, many of which are created from adjectives. ✏️

👉 For this reason, some of them will be familiar to you or, even if new, will be verbs whose meaning you can easily guess just based on the adjective word root!

I like to introduce some children’s classics into my lessons, and today I have the pleasure to share with you one that is special for two reasons: George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin (1872). Firstly, because it helped to influence C.S.Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, and secondly because it was the very first book I ever bought for myself (as a 10-year-old child) and I can still remember the excitement of enjoying a chapter of it every night! 🌛

It is an easy book to read for any student at CEFR Level B1 and higher, so why not consider reading it sometime? There is an audiobook version on Youtube and free kindle versions on the Project Gutenberg website. ⭐

I hope very much that you enjoy the small excerpts (short passages) that I will be sharing with you today to illustrate -en ending verbs in English.

📝 # DIFFERENT TYPES OF -EN ENDING VERBS

Most -en ending verbs are verbs that increase the quality of the adjective they describe. They generally fall under four categories, either describing:

  • Light and colour – e.g., brighten, lighten, darken, blacken, redden, whiten, etc.
  • Dimensions and shape – e.g., shorten, lengthen, lessen, straighten, etc.
  • Density and composition – e.g., thicken, soften, toughen, harden, etc.
  • Others – e.g., happen, open, sweeten, ripen, etc.

These kinds of verbs can be either transitive or intransitive, depending on the context.

# EXAMPLES OF 10 -EN VERBS FROM ‘THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN

✏️ 1) Open

📙 ‘Then she tumbles off her chair, and runs out of the door, not the same door the nurse went out of, but one which opened at the foot of a curious old stair of worm-eaten oak, which looked as if never any one had set foot upon it.’

– George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

Since this is an easy verb (hopefully!) and I don’t need to provide a definition of it, I am including here its basic verb forms:

Infinitive: to open

Gerund: opening

Past particple: opened

Simple past: opened

✏️ 2) Hearken – to listen to, pay special attention to something

📙 ‘She laid her ear first to one of the doors to hearken if it was there— then to another.’

– George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

Basic verb forms:

Infinitive: to hearken

Gerund: hearkening

Past participle: hearkened

Simple past: hearkened

✏️ 3) Frighten

📙 ‘”Don’t go frightening the princess,” said the nurse.’

– George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

Basic verb forms:

Inifinitive: to frighten

Gerund: frightening

Past participle: frightened

Simple past: frightened

✏️ 4) Listen

📙 ‘He woke in the middle of the night, and thought he heard curious noises outside. He sat up and listened; then got up, and, opening the door very quietly, went out.’

– George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

Basic verb forms:

Infinitive: to listen

Gerund: listening

Past participle: listened

Simple past: listened

✏️ 5) Sharpen – make more sharp, acute, attentive

📙 ‘He had not kept the position for one minute before he heard something which made him sharpen his ears.’

– George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

Basic verb forms:

Infinitive: to sharpen

Gerund: sharpening

Past participle: sharpened

Simple past: sharpened

📝 NOTE: English speakers usually use this verb in the context of making tools or memory more sharp – we don’t often use it to describe listening with our ears, in the way that MacDonald does in this quotation. But his use of it here is very descriptive and effective in its own way – and perfectly correct too of course!

✏️ 6) Threaten – make a threat, warn someone agressively that they are in danger if they don’t do something

📙 ‘They were making new houses for themselves, to which they might retreat when the miners should threaten to break into their dwellings.’

– George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

Basic verb forms:

Infinitive: to threaten

Gerund: threatening

Past participle: threatened

Simple past: threatened

✏️ 7) Hasten – to hurry, to make something or someone go or happen at a faster rate

📙 ‘A few blows would doubtless be sufficient— just where his ear now lay; but if he attempted to strike there with his pickaxe, he would only hasten the departure of the family, put them on their guard, and perhaps lose their involuntary guidance.’

– George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

Basic verb forms:

Infinitive: hasten

Gerund: hastening

Past participle: hastened

Simple past: hastened

✍️ TIP: This word is a more advanced word to add to your vocabulary as a synonym of ‘hurry’ – aim to use it more in writing than in speaking.

✏️ 8) Happen

📙 “But it does not happen above five times in a hundred years that any one does see it.”

– George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

This sentence means that people do not see it (in our case, the Grandmother’s magic moon) more than five times in a hundred years – that is what ‘above five times in a hundred years’ means.

Basic verb forms:

Infinitive: to happen

Gerund: happening

Past participle: happened

Simple past: happened

✏️ 9) Fasten – to attach [something] to something else so that it doesn’t separate

📙 “You are to take it with you. I’ve fastened the end of it to the ring on your finger.”

– George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

Basic verb forms:

Infinitive: to fasten

Gerund: fastening

Past participle: fastened

Simple past: fastened

✏️ 10) Tighten – to make more tight, secure, and firm

📙 ‘Another thing which helped to keep up her courage was, that as often as she uncovered a turn of the thread, instead of lying loose upon the stones, it tightened up; this made her sure that her grandmother was at the end of it somewhere.’

– George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

Basic verb forms:

Infinitive: to tighten

Gerund: tightening

Past participle: tightened

Simple past: tightened

I am sure that you will start to notice even more verbs ending in -en from now on. There are many more than we have been able to consider here today, so keep your eyes open for them! 😃