Choose, Chose, and Chosen: How to Choose the Right Word

The terms are all different grammatical forms of the same verb

Little girl choosing an ice cream flavor from a display
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"Choose" is an irregular verb, with "chose" as the past form and "chosen" as the past participle form. The terms are like other irregular verbs that follow a similar pattern, such as "break," "broke," "broken"; "steal," "stole," "stolen"; "freeze," "froze," "frozen"; and "speak," "spoke," "spoken." Understanding when to use "choose," "chose," and "chosen" requires knowing how the terms work grammatically.

How to Use "Choose," "Chose," and "Chosen"

The verb "choose" (which rhymes with "news") means to select or decide on something from two or more possibilities. (Don't confuse the noun "choice" with the verb "choose.") The simple past form of "choose" is "chose" (which rhymes with "nose"). 

The past participle form of "choose" is "chosen" (which rhymes with "frozen"). A helping verb (such as " has," "have," or "had") usually comes before the past participle form "chosen." The present participle form of "choose" is "choosing" (which rhymes with "losing").

Examples

Seeing how the different forms of the verb are used in context in common language can help clarify when and how to use each.

You can use "chose," the present tense of the verb, to mean select, as in:

  • You can "choose" any course in life that your heart desires.
  • Please hurry up and just "choose" one candy apple.

Or, you can use the past tense of the verb, "chose," again to indicate that someone selected something, for example:

  • She took some time, but she "chose" a beautiful dress for the church service.

Or use the past participle, "chosen," such as:

  • She has "chosen" a simple path in life; she never wanted to stand out or ask for too much.

Note how the past participle requires the use of the helping, or auxiliary, verb had preceding it. An auxiliary verb is a verb that determines the moodtensevoice, or aspect of another verb (in this case "chosen") or a verb phrase. You can also use the three words in the same sentence, as in:

  • Last week I "chose" all my classes for next semester, but I haven't yet "chosen" a major. It's hard to "choose" between political science and criminal justice.

How to Remember the Difference

Tell yourself that "choose" has "chosen" to add an "o." This mnemonic device also reminds you that "chosen," as the past participle, must be preceded by an auxiliary verb. You can extend this device by noting, I "choose" blue for the present tense, but I "chose" a rose in the past.

Practice

Try this brief exercise to test your knowledge of "choose," "chose," and "chosen."

  1. "The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to _____ one thought over another. (Attributed to William James)
  2. "You'll be introduced to the stylist and shown racks and racks of clothes. She's been given your sizes ahead of time and has ____ to ignore them." (Tina Fey, "Bossypants")
  3. Last year, she _____ to ignore me, but now I have _____ to ignore her.

Answers

  1. "The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another."
  2. "You'll be introduced to the stylist and shown racks and racks of clothes. She's been given your sizes ahead of time and has chosen to ignore them."
  3. Last year, she chose to ignore me, but now I have chosen to ignore her.

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