The Past Tense of Seek: Here’s What It Is and How to Use It

Learning languages can be a really exciting way to learn about a different culture, its country, and its people.  However, language can also pose several challenges due to the fact that languages often do not follow their own rules.  Anyone who has ever studied a second or even third language can attest to the fact that grammatical rules can be the most difficult part to learn, especially if you are trying to learn English.  From complicated verb forms to noun declensions that cover both singular, plural, gender, and case, to the lists of pronouns that older languages like Latin supply. In short, grammar is difficult.

The English language is widely considered to be one of the most difficult languages to learn just based on the fact that it tends to struggle with following most of its own rules.  Part of the reason for this is that English grammar borrows (or just completely steals) most of its grammar from other languages.  American English is an etymological mashup of several different languages, which causes several common grammar mistakes.

In this article, let’s explore our word of the day, the infinitive “to seek,” learn its proper use, how to use its past tense, look for its synonyms, and learn its etymology and context.

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What Is the First Form of Sought?

To first understand a word, its history, and how to use it properly, it is important to first define what it actually means.  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word seek can be defined as, “to go in search of: look for, to try to discover.”  Some secondary meanings include “to resort to or go to,” “to try to acquire,” or “to make a search or inquiry.”  Overall, there are nine commonly accepted definitions of the word “to seek” in both the transitive and intransitive forms.

According to, the correct conjugation for the past tense of the verb “to seek” is actually “sought.”  While the third person singular present tense of the verb is “he/she/it seeks,” the past tense completely changes the spelling, and the form seems to be that of an irregular verb.  This is part of the problem with English that was discussed earlier, in that the irregular forms of words and the exceptions to the rules often outnumber the normal rule-following words.  However, in short, the past tense of seek is sought in any context; we will discuss context later on in the article.        

How Do You Use the Word Sought?

The proper usage of the word “sought” is as the past tense or even the past participle of seek.  For example, you would use the word “sought” any time you wanted to describe an action that has occurred in the past or an action that has been completed.  “I have sought the answer” is the correct form, whereas “I have seeked the answer” is incorrect.  

Is It Sought or Seek?

Both words are correct: sought and seek are both proper forms of the verb.  However, the correct form comes down to whether or not you are talking about an event in the past, present, or future.  Additionally, you have to know your audience and know the level at which they are able to communicate.  No matter what the method is that you choose for your communication, it is incredibly important to be able to read your audience and choose what is beneficial to them.  

Choosing the complexity of your words may throw them off; it may be better to choose a synonym that is less confusing and irregular.

The fact is that the irregularity of the word seek and its past tense sought can actually be an extreme source of confusion; because it breaks the common rule of “add ‘-ed’ or ‘-d’ to create the past tense.”  

What Tense Is Sought?

Sought is the past tense, but can also be the past participle if preceded by “have” or “has.”  For example, “He has sought” describes an event that has been completed.  

The History and Origin of the Word

One of the best ways to understand a word is to learn where it came from.  A word’s etymology can reveal a lot about the changes a word has gone through to get to where it is today in modern English.  According to, the word seek comes from Old English, and its root word “secan” actually comes from the Norse “soekja” and the Proto-Germanic “sakanan,” which all mean “to inquire, search for, pursue, or long for.”  

Many modern English verbs actually find their roots in Old English, Old German, and Dutch, whereas most nouns actually find their root in ancient Latin and Greek.  The irregularity of these verbs is due in part to their more Anglo-Saxon origins and etymology.   

Examples of the Word in Context

Another great way to learn how to use a word is to explore the word being used correctly.  Either reading the word in its proper context or hearing someone else use it in conversation.  Here are some common examples of the word “to seek” (and its past tense, sought) in context:

  • “Seek, and you will find; knock, and the door shall be opened to you.”
  • “If you want to find the buried treasure, you will have to seek it in many strange places.”
  • “Have you truly sought the meaning of this text?  If so, then we can actually discuss it.”

Synonyms for Seek

Finally, to really solidify a word into your vocabulary, it is useful to explore words with similar or same definitions.  The more words you know that can fit into a specific context, the easier it will be to remember which ones to use.  Here are some synonyms for the verb “to seek”:

  • Look, a verb similar to seek that may not be as extreme or focused
  • Search, a word with almost exactly the same meaning and context
  • Pursue, a word that describes seeking action as well