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Give vs. Gave: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 6, 2023
"Give" is the present tense form, meaning to present or hand over something; "gave" is the past tense, indicating the action has already happened.

Key Differences

Give is a present tense verb that implies the act of presenting or handing something to someone, while gave is the simple past tense form of the same verb, indicating the action has been completed in the past. For instance, "I give you my word" is a present promise, whereas "I gave you my word" refers to a promise made earlier.
Give suggests a current or future action, where the subject offers something to another. Gave, on the other hand, is retrospective, looking back on an action of offering that has already taken place. "They give their time to charity" shows ongoing or intended generosity, contrasted by "They gave their time to charity," which acknowledges past acts.
In instructional or hypothetical contexts, give can serve as a base form or imperative, such as in guides or commands. Gave cannot assume this role as it is fixed in the past; its use is confined to narrative or reportive contexts. "Give me your attention" commands focus now, while "She gave me her attention" reports on a previous occurrence.
Grammatically, give pairs with present, future, or present perfect tenses, while gave is used with the past or past perfect tenses. "I will give you a call" promises a future action, differing from "I gave you a call," which recounts an action that has taken place.
The present form give may also be used in continuous tenses to show ongoing action ("I am giving a speech"), whereas gave does not have this capability and is solely used for actions that have been completed ("I gave a speech yesterday").

Comparison Chart


Present tense
Past tense

Time of action


Usage in sentences

Can be imperative
Cannot be imperative


"I give her advice."
"I gave her advice."

Associated tenses

Present, future, perfect
Past, pluperfect

Give and Gave Definitions


To present voluntarily.
I will give a speech at the conference.


Provided or supplied before.
They gave assistance to the affected families.


To yield or concede.
The metal will give under intense pressure.


Performed or executed previously.
She gave a captivating performance.


To provide or supply.
They give food to the shelter.


Presented voluntarily in the past.
He gave a presentation at the meeting.


To perform or execute.
The actor will give a dramatic reading.


Yielded or conceded previously.
The bridge gave under the weight of the truck.


To administer.
The doctor will give the patient a vaccine.


Administered in the past.
The nurse gave the medication at 8 AM.


To make a present of
We gave her flowers for her birthday.


Past tense of give.


To place in the hands of; pass
Give me the scissors.


Past participle of give


To deliver in exchange or recompense; pay
Gave five dollars for the book.


What is the infinitive form of 'gave'?

The infinitive form is 'to give'.

Can 'give' indicate a repeated action?

Yes, 'give' can describe habitual actions.

Is 'gave' ever correct in the present tense?

No, 'gave' is exclusively past tense.

Is 'give' an irregular verb?

Yes, 'give' is an irregular verb.

What is the past perfect form of 'give'?

The past perfect form is 'had given'.

Can 'gave' be used to describe current actions?

No, 'gave' is used only for past actions.

Can 'give' be used in passive constructions?

Yes, e.g., "The gift is given by her."

Can 'give' be a noun?

No, 'give' is not commonly used as a noun.

Is 'give' used for future actions?

Yes, 'give' can indicate future actions.

What is the past participle of 'give'?

The past participle is 'given'.

What is the third-person singular form of 'give'?

It is 'gives', as in "She gives."

How is 'gave' used in a sentence?

'Gave' is used to describe an action completed in the past.

Are there any idioms with 'give'?

Yes, like "give it your best shot."

What is the subjunctive form of 'give'?

The subjunctive form is 'give', as in "I suggest that he give..."

Can 'give' be used reflexively?

Yes, as in "give yourself a break."

Does 'give' have different meanings?

Yes, 'give' can mean to present, supply, yield, etc.

Can 'give' be used in the imperative mood?

Yes, 'give' can be used as a command.

Does 'gave' change in the third-person singular?

No, 'gave' remains the same in all persons.

Can 'give' be used as a modal verb?

No, 'give' cannot be used as a modal verb.

Is 'gave' ever used in a conditional sentence?

Yes, in past conditional sentences.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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