When and How to Use "Done" - dummies

By Geraldine Woods

The word done is never a verb all by itself. A true party animal, this verb form insists on being accompanied by helping verbs. In grammarspeak, which you do NOT have to learn, done is a past participle of the verb to do. Naked, shivering, totally alone participles, such as done, never function as verbs. Here are some examples:

WRONG: He done all he could, but the sky fell anyway.

RIGHT: He had done all he could, but the sky fell anyway.

ALSO RIGHT: He did all he could, but the sky fell anyway.

WRONG: She done him wrong.

RIGHT, BUT A BAD SENTENCE: She has done him wrong.

ALSO RIGHT, ALSO A BAD SENTENCE: She did him wrong.

BETTER SENTENCE: What she has done to him is wrong.

ANOTHER OKAY: What she did to him is wrong.

You may blame the fact that so many people create sentences like the first example (He done all he could) on one of the many joys of English grammar. Some verb forms can stand alone or pair with a helping verb. Consider the verb to walk:

I walked twenty miles.

I have walked twenty miles.

These sentences both contain the word walked. It’s a verb in the first example and part of a verb in the second example. Bottom line: Don’t use done by itself as a verb. It’s a combination form only!