Lesson #213: On Anthony Trollope (and 3 Easily Mistaken Verb Forms)

📘 ‘Lady Carbury, having finished her third letter, threw herself back in her chair, and for a moment or two closed her eyes, as though about to rest. But she soon remembered that the activity of her life did not admit of such rest. She therefore seized her pen and began scribbling further notes.’

– Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (1875)

This Lesson is going to hone in (focus) on three verbs whose forms are often mixed up by language students – either because the spelling of two of the verbs forms is almost exactly the same except for one letter (e.g. began/begun, sang/sung), or else because the verb’s two forms have very different meanings (hung/hanged).

We will look at the differences between:

  • Began vs begun ✏️
  • Sang vs sung ✏️
  • Hanged vs hung ✏️

And to end the Lesson, I will share

  • some of the several ways we might find the word ‘hanging’ in different contexts. ✏️

All these words are important – if you mix them up you risk creating a misunderstanding! 😯

Of course, we need a lively and eventful novel to illustrate these different forms in context, and what better volume than Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now (1875). It tells the story of a wealthy family with mysterious riches, whose daughter attracts marital attention on account of her wealth, leading to the uncovering of deep secrets … 🗝️

Without further ado, let’s look at the differences between these verb forms listed above (this Lesson is in 4 parts to make it easier to navigate)!

✍️ In one sentence, the main difference between the 3 pairs of words listed here is that while one is a simple past conjugation, the other is the same verb’s past participle.

A verb’s simple past tense describes how a subject performed or received an action in the past, e.g., ‘I lost …’

A past participle does the same but requires an auxiliary verb (also known as a ‘helping verb’) and is itself a fixed word that is sometimes used as an adjective, e.g., ‘I had lost …’ or ‘I was lost.’

#1 📝 BEGAN (SIMPLE PAST) vs BEGUN (PAST PARTICIPLE)

Began (simple past):

📘 ‘She therefore seized her pen and began scribbling further notes.’

– Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (emphasis mine)

👉 Notice how ‘began’ is in the exact same tense as ‘seized’ (meaning grabbed or reached after something very quickly and energetically) – it is just spelled differently (that is, not spelled with the usual -ed ending).

Began (+ infinitive): (a very common construction in English)

📘 ‘He looked into her face as she spoke, and gradually began to perceive the working of her mind.’

– Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (emphasis mine)

Begun (past participle):

📘 ‘[Henrietta] had already begun to sigh for the glories of a literary career. A career of some kind,— sufficient to repay her for the sufferings of her early life,— she certainly desired.’

– Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (emphasis mine)

✍️ Notice how we often use this construction: ‘began / begun + infinitive’.

#2 📝 SANG (SIMPLE PAST) vs SUNG (PAST PARTICIPLE)

Sang (simple past):

📘 ‘Then Lord Nidderdale,— who no doubt felt that it behoved him to show a good face before his late intended father-in-law,— sang the refrain of an old song, which it is trusted my readers may remember.’

– Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (emphasis mine)

Sung (past participle):

📘 ‘But I told her what was quite as serviceable to you as though I had sung your virtues by the hour without ceasing.’

– Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (emphasis mine)

#3 📝 HUNG vs HANGED

⚠️ The most important difference between these two forms of the verb ‘to hang’ lies in their very different meanings!

One of them is a verb form that we use almost daily (hung); the other is a verb that describes how someone can be killed (hanged) – so you can see why you wouldn’t like to mix these up! ⚠️

..

HUNG (the more commonly used word) – to suspend something that is attached to another surface at one end

✍️ ‘Hung’ is often followed by a preposition or adverb:

  • ‘hung … round’

📘 ‘Her silken hair, almost black, hung in a thousand curls all round her head and neck.’

– Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (emphasis mine)

  • ‘hung on …’

✒️ e.g., ‘I hung the towels on the radiator to dry.’

  • ‘hung … onto / on to’

📘 ‘The old man in his anger had tried to expel the girl; but she had hung on to the bed-post and would not go; and he had been frightened, when the maid came up crying and screaming murder.’

– Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (emphasis mine)

..

HANGED (an older word) – to kill someone by tying a rope around their neck and releasing the ground support under them

📘 ‘There was the second purpose of enticing readers by crushing authors,— as crowds used to be enticed to see men hanged when executions were done in public.’

– Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (emphasis mine)

👉 It is from this second meaning that we get the emphatic or exaggerated word ‘hanged’ sometimes still used nowadays, meaning simply ‘to punish severely’ or ‘be/place in great trouble’.

📘 ‘Poor Marie, when she heard her fate, would certainly have gladly hanged Mr. Scudamore.’ (In other words, Marie here was angry, furious, and wanted to punish Mr Scudamore severely).

– Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (emphasis mine) 

Here is another example from Trollope:

📘 “Then I’ll be hanged if I don’t prosecute him for stealing it.” (He [Mr Melmotte] will end up in great trouble if he doesn’t prosecute Sir Felix Carbury).

– Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (emphasis mine)

#4 📝 ‘HANGING’

You may be wondering now, so what does the word ‘hanging’ mean?

Here is a careful explantion of its (many) possible meanings or uses – either as a noun, as a present participle, or as an adjective.

..

‘HANGING’ – AS A NOUN

As a noun it can have one of either two meanings.

  1. something that hangs, especially something made of fabric that is suspended in a room, like a curtain

📘 ‘In the smaller room of the two the hangings were all white, and the room was sweet with May flowers; and he brought a white rose from the hot-house, and placed it in a glass on the dressing table.’

– Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (emphasis mine)

2. (thankfully outdated) an execution carried out by hanging a person from a gibbet

..

‘HANGING’ – AS A PRESENT PARTICIPLE / ADJECTIVE

📘 ‘Then she rose from her chair and stood before him with her arms hanging listlessly by her side.’

– Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (emphasis mine)

..

‘HANGING’ – AS A PRESENT PARTICIPLE WITH A PREPOSITION OR AN ADVERB

  • e.g., with ‘about’: ‘hanging about’ means idling time away in a particular place or with a person

📘 ‘The clerks were hanging about doing nothing, as though it were a holiday.’

– Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (emphasis mine)

📘 ‘And now with all her troubles thick about her,— while her son was still hanging about the house in a condition that would break any mother’s heart …’

– Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (emphasis mine)

  • e.g., with ‘over’:

📘 ‘Ruby was very fond of dancing,— perhaps liked it better than anything in the world. It was heaven to her to be spinning round the big room with her lover’s arm tight round her waist, with one hand in his and her other hanging over his back.’

Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (emphasis mine)

  • e.g., with ‘onto’ or ‘on to’:

📘 “Yes, sir; she’s at home,” said Ruby, with a baby in her arms and a little child hanging on to her dress.’

– Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (emphasis mine)

I trust that this has helped to establish the differences between these sometimes confusing words.

If it helps, bookmark this Lesson so that you can come back to it again and review all the examples and explanations given here.

Make sure that you are clear in your understanding about it before moving on – it will definitely make a difference to how well you speak and write in English! 📝