Sharp Sharpen, Hard Harden and Other Words Like Them – Learn How to Use Correct Vocabulary while Distinguishing between Adjectives and Verbs Ending in -En


Uh-oh, the dog is loose

There are a number of adjectives that have a verb ending in –en. Or the other way around: there are a number of verbs ending in –en that have a corresponding adjective without the –en ending. Sometimes there is a noun with the same root, such as: strong (adjective), strength (noun), strengthen (verb).

Here is a List

Here is a list that is probably not exhaustive (= there are more words like this).

I’ll give you an example of each of them.

Hard <>harden

When the paint has dried, it becomes hard.

You need to learn to harden your heart, if you don’t want to get hurt time and time again.

Sharp <> sharpen

That pencil is sharp as a razor.

I can’t write with this pencil before I’ve sharpened it.

Strong <> strength <> strengthen

I hope the rope is strong enough to hold the piano.

If you don’t eat properly you’ll lose your strength.

In order to protect your back you must strengthen your stomach muscles.

Long <> length <> lengthen

Your hair is so long it covers your eyes.

What’s the length of this table?

The days have lengthened since June.

Wide <> widen

This skirt is too wide on my waist. Do you have a smaller size?

Her eyes widened in amazement.

Broad <> broaden

The river is very broad here and easy to navigate.

Travelling abroad will broaden your horizon.

Fat <> fatten

I’ve worked a lot this month, so now I’m expecting a fat pay check.

Farmers fatten the geese before they slaughter them.

Loose <> loosen

In the past when women slept around, you’d have said she was a loose woman.

His tie was too tight, so he loosened it.

Tight <> tighten

These shoes are so tight they give me blisters.

As Phoebe is out of work now we’ll need to tighten our belt.


You can do this exercise online, here.

Write the correct form of the word. In the case of verbs, you sometimes need to use past tense etc.

Hard <>harden

Her vision on life in the city_____________ after she lost her son in a mob attack.

Do you want a ____________-boiled egg or a soft-boiled egg?

Sharp <> sharpen

Watch out! That knife is ____________.

Satisfied users of soft drugs say it ____________ their senses when they smoke.

Strong <> strength <> strengthen

You’re very ___________ for such a small girl.

These exercises ______________ your back.

After an illness you slowly gain back your _____________.

Long <> length <> lengthen

I’ll need to __________ the table to make room for all the guests.

She told the hairdresser she wanted to keep her hair all at the same __________.

I haven’t seen you in ___________.

Wide <> widen

The birds stretched their beaks __________ for their mother to feed them.

When we renovate our house we’ll __________ the sitting room windows.

Broad <> broaden

You’ll need to __________ your knowledge of current affairs if you want to be a reporter.

We’re looking for someone with a ______________ education.

Fat <> fatten

The corn cobs have ___________ and turned golden, so they’re ready to harvest.

Kermit called Miss Piggy a __________ cow, after which she broke off the engagement.

Loose <> loosen

The neighbour’s dog is ____________ again. Keep your children inside.

Mervin’s excruciatingly shy. He needs to _________ up.

Tight <> tighten

These screws want some more _____________.

We can’t afford a new car, as money is __________.

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