Most English verbs follow a set pattern when conjugated into the past tense. These are called regular verbs, and they are changed simply by adding -ed onto the end of the word.
Not all verbs in English fit this mold, however, and sing is one of them.
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering whether to use sang or sung in your writing, you’re not alone. This is one of the more commonly misused irregular verbs. Even practiced writers and native speakers mix up these two conjugations, but you don’t have to.
Sang is the simple past tense form, whereas sung is the past participle form.
Not sure what that means? I’ll explain everything you need to know before.
What is the Difference Between Sang and Sung?
In this article, I’ll compare sang vs. sung and explain whether a situation calls for sung or sang. I will also use each verb form in a sentence to show you how to use them. Plus, at the end, I will show you a helpful trick to remember which is which.
When to Use Sang
What does sang mean? Sang is the past tense form of sing. Simple past tense describes something that has already happened. This event is not necessarily linked to any other event, at least in the context of the sentence. Therefore, sang refers to singing that happened in the past.
Here are some examples:
- In 1965, Julie Andrews sang for some children.
- I sang “Happy Birthday” to my cousin last Sunday.
- Each night, the whippoorwill sang its lonely song.
- Yet Stefani sang plenty of new stuff from “This Is What the Truth Feels Like,” which she made with the Top 40 pros behind hits by Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez. –L.A. Times
When to Use Sung
When does sung mean? Sung, meanwhile, is the past participle form of the irregular verb sing. Past participles refer to actions that are linked to other actions, and should always be used with a helping, or auxiliary, verb, like has or had.
Here are some examples:
- The fat lady had already sung her fat lady song.
- The pop star had sung our favorite song first, so we missed it.
- I had sung “Happy Birthday” so many times I was tired of it.
- Gradually escalating the mood toward a song like Wale’s “Lotus Flower Bomb,” with lyrics that are both sung slowly and rapped at lightning speed, helps diners leave excited for the rest of their night. –The Wall Street Journal
Trick to Remember the Difference
When you need to write about singing that took place in the past, choosing between sang and sung can be difficult. It’s hard to remember which is which, but misusing them weakens your writing and could give readers a poor impression of your intelligence.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to keep the difference in mind.
Since sung is a past participle, it must always be used with a helping verb, such as had. For a full list of helping verbs, see here.
Sung rhymes with “hung,” so if you can remember the phrase “sung must be hung from a helping verb,” you shouldn’t have any trouble remembering when to use each word.
Summary: Sung vs. Sang
Is it sung or sang? Sang and sung are both past tenses of the verb sing.
- Sang is the simple past conjugation of sing.
- Sung is the past participle conjugation of sing.
- Sung, being a past participle, should always be used with a helping verb.
Although these words are confusing because of their similarity, there’s an easy way to keep them straight—simply remember that sung should be hung from a helping verb. This mnemonic should help you conjugate the irregular verb sing correctly, and you’ll be a better writer as a result. You can always refer back to this article, too, if you need a refresher.