Friday, August 19, 2011

Verbs ending in -en based on adjectives

There are a small number of verbs made from adjectives (or occasionally nouns based on adjectives) with -en added, meaning to make something more of that quality the adjective describes.
These verbs fall into certain categories:
  • Dimensions and shape - lengthen, shorten, straighten etc
  • Light and colour - brighten, darken, whiten etc
  • Density and composition - harden, soften, thicken etc
  • Others - freshen, ripen, sweeten etc
These are ergative verbs, which means they can be transitive or intransitive, and where the object of the transitive verb becomes the subject of the intransitive verb.
  • The hot summer ripened the fruit earlier than usual.
  • The fruit ripened in the sun.
For more on ergative verbs see my post - Ergative verbs? What on earth are they?
Here are three short exercises based on -en verbs

The verbs have been divided up at random; each exercise follows the same form - fill the gaps with an appropriate form of the verb. Careful! There are one or two -ing participles, at least one passive. There are also some common collocations, and in the third group, an idiom.

Exercise 1

whiten   ·   deaden   ·   moisten   ·   loosen   ·   flatten   ·   freshen   ·   shorten   ·   lessen   ·   broaden   ·   redden   ·   soften
1.The young child's face from embarrassment.
2.She uses a face cream her skin.
3.It is said that travel the mind.
4.You can the effect of jet lag by drinking plenty of water.
5.He took off his jacket and his tie.
6.Isn't there something I can buy my teeth?
7.You can the sound by putting egg boxes on the walls.
8.The air considerably after the thunderstorm.
9.As she got to know him better, her attitude towards him began .
10.Yesterday's hurricane several houses in the area.
11.I need these trousers, they're too long.

Exercise 2

tighten   ·   lengthen   ·   thick   ·   fasten   ·   deepen   ·   harden   ·   sweet   ·   worsen   ·   strengthen   ·   brighten   ·   quieten
1.You can use honey as a healthier way to food.
2.The two companies have decided to their relationship.
3.I'll go and the children, they're making an awful lot of noise.
4.As the papier-mâché dries out, it .
5.Heat the sauce gently until it to the consistency of cream.
6.Please your safety belts, Ladies and Gentlemen.
7.The financial situation seems to be rather than improving.
8.These exercises your stomach muscles.
9.At last the sun came out and the sky began .
10.Couldn't we our stay from one to two weeks?
11.With the current economic crisis our belts is essential.

Exercise 3

darken   ·   awaken   ·   quicken   ·   weaken   ·   sadden   ·   stiffen   ·   straighten   ·   dampen   ·   widen   ·   lighten
1.He cracked a joke, the sombre mood somewhat.
2.His pace with anticipation as he neared her house.
3.As he , he heard the welcome sound of breakfast being prepared.
4.She got up from her chair, her crumpled dress.
5.He to hear the news of his uncle's death.
6.I don't want to your enthusiasm, but it's just started to rain.
7.Get out of my house and never my door again! (idiom)
8.He took a strong drink to his resolve.
9.They our road at the moment.
10.He kept refusing to come with us, but he at the last moment.


  • Ex 1 - 1. reddened, 2. to moisten, 3. broadens, 4. lessen, 5. loosened, 6. to whiten, 7. deaden, 8. freshened, 9. to soften, 10. flattened, 11. to shorten
  • Ex 2 - 1. sweeten, 2. deepen, 3. quieten, 4. hardens, 5. thickens, 6. fasten, 7. worsening, 8. strengthen, 9. to brighten, 10. lengthen, 11. tightening
  • Ex 3 - 1. lightening, 2. quickened, 3. awakened, 4. straightening, 5. was saddened, 6. dampen, 7. darken, 8. stiffen, 9. are widening, 10. weakened

Printer friendly post

You can make a teacher copy with answers by clicking on 'Show All'. Make sure you 'Clear All' before printing student copies. Or you can print normally and the answers will appear on a separate page (Page 3). The lesson is on Pages 1-2. I strongly recommend doing a Print Preview first. You might want to change your margins and you certainly won't want to print every page.


  1. So helpful... Thanks for sharing!

  2. Here there's a full list of verbs ending in -en obtained from Just in case someone needs a full reference:

  3. almost imposaiboe 3rs excercise Lol

  4. This is terrific. Thanks for sharing.