I want to know the difference between word drunk and drunken.

I looked up the dictionary and found that two words have same meaning, someone drinks alcohol too much.

About drunk, it could be interpreted as two meanings, one is meaning of past participle form of verb drink and the other is meaning of adjective (also someone drinks alcohol too much).

Here, I am curious about usage of two adjectives drunk and drunken.

My teacher said

"He was drunken" is ungrammatical, whereas "a drunken driver" and "He was drunk" are grammatical.

I'm really curious that why he was drunken is not accepted but he was drunk is okay.


3 Answers 3


We have the adjective drunk which means "inebriated, physically and mentally showing the effects of having consumed too much alcohol".

It is used as a predicate complement:

That man is very drunk. Stop serving him and find him a taxicab.

His car was broadsided by a man driving drunk.

It is used also as an adjective before the noun:

He was broadsided by a drunk driver.

drunken is an older form of the past participle of the verb drink, and it hasn't been used much as past-participle for the last 200 years though it exists alongside drunk as an adjective.

You drunken hooligans, get out of my donut shop now, or I'll call the police!

  • It feels better to me to say drunken hooligans than drunk hooligans. Do you agree? Why is that?
    – Bob Stein
    Jul 7, 2020 at 11:37

The past participle is "drunk", but it can also be a verb noun or adjective. It generally means intoxicated, and is usually the predicate adjective, "He was drunk."

"Drunken" is only ever an adjective (its use as the past participle is obsolete). I have drunk the water, while my drunken father has drunk another beer.

Drunken is characterized as lots of drinking. You might talk about a drunken party.


As to the reasoning behind the difference, there is no reason that has present-day relevance. A great deal of grammar and diction has to do with word-history (of which, in this case, I am ignorant) and pure tradition! There is a poem by Rimbaud (I think) called "The Drunken Boat," and one says "He went on a drunken rant," but "He was drunk."

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