Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Would you please explain the difference(s) between the verbs to wake and to awake/awaken? I am not even sure what the infinitive of the latter is, so I am certain that I have misused it. Thanks. JS
Dear JS:

The Awakening is a Robin Williams movie. A wake is the party one has after a funeral.

Oh, but we jest. And not very well, we fear (look, it's been a hard week — we're packing up for a move).

In the literal sense, you may use whichever verb you choose. Both verbs refer to that miserable part of the day when one is ripped from slumber. Not that anyone asked, but we haven't slept past 6 a.m. in years because our household is plagued with small children. If you are speaking figuratively, however — say, you have come to understand that life with a two-year-old and a five-year-old is murder on the REM cycle — then you must used "awakened."

For such questions, we love our dictionary. There are several good ones online; our most frequent source (in no small part because they pay us and our friends work there) is Encarta.

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