Heave - heaved - hove

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The common verb 'to heave' can give problems with the past tense. The usual (and correct) form nowadays is heaved - except in certain contexts, mostly nautical, where the preferred form is hove. There is no such word as hoved. The general sense is 'to raise', 'to lift', usually with a strong sense of effort or great exertion. (The imperative heave, Scotland, heave!" is a cry to be heard directed at the scrum in Rugby More particular uses in current general language (i.e. where the recommended past participle and past tense are both heaved) include:

  • figurative uses, such as in "Strong political excitement‥heaves a whole nation on to a higher platform of intellect and morality" (Wendell Phillips (1963) 'Woman's Rights' in Speeches, Lectures and Letters, Boston [Mass.] p. 28, cited OED).
  • To bring an emotion, or the expression of an emotion, 'out of' oneself; to express a feeling, perhaps in a painful way (most often 'heaving a sigh': "He heaved a sigh when told the bad news", although 'heaving for breath' is an alternative term for 'panting', and the chest may heave with effort as well as emotion); and the action of vomiting or retching may be expressed as 'heaving up one's breakfast [or dinner, etc]'

Uses where nowadays the older hove is still the preferred past tense form are mostly found in the language of the sea. The following constructions may be of note: if you use them in the past tense, you should use the form hove.

  • To heave up is to raise, by manual effort, such things as sails, masts,and store: "the anchor was hove up".
    • One may heave [a boat] into or out of a larger vessel, and indeed anything moved in by effort. Stores may be hove aboard, or, in a storm, hove overboard, or jettisoned. "After the fight, the pirates unceremoniously hove the dead and wounded overboard."
  • To heave to, of a ship, is to come to a stop in the water without anchoring; in sailing vessels, this is done by setting some sails to drive the vessel forwards until a point of equilibrium is reached, when other sails drive her backwards, in the form of a continually repeated small arc of a circle.
  • To heave down a boat or ship is to haul her down on a beach, etc, to allow maintenance such as painting to be carried out on her bottom: "When the stores had been carried above the high water mark, we hove our ship down on her beam ends to inspect the damage to her keel." This practice is obsolete on large modern vessels - you may like to consult careen, which is a synonym.
  • The phrasal verb to heave into sight is different from the above. It is intransitive: something or someone is pictured as hauling itself into the range of vision of the observer. The image may owe something to the rise and fall of waves, which so affects visibility at sea, where the expression originates.
  • Heave ho is a cry formerly much in use at sea, to order great effort, often from a team, for example when hauling a great ship towards a dock, or hoisting a mast.
    • Heave-ho (hyphenated) was also, in slang, a noun meaning 'a dismissal', or what in current (2010) slang is known as a 'dumping'. A girl rejecting a fiancé might "give him the old heave-ho" (or 'heave him out the door), ~ 'she binned him', or more formally, 'she terminated their relationship'. This usage can be applied to inanimate objects, well as people. You are not advised to use this informal expression in academic writing at all.
etymological Note: the verb 'to heave' is the modern English form of a common Germanic strong verb: the 'strong verbs' are those which formed their past tenses and participles by changing the vowel. Hove is thus the most regular form, historically, of the past. Several forms of the past tense are recorded in the different dialects of Old and Middle English: hóf, hove, hofen, hoif, hoef, hoven; huven, huif; hef, hæf, heaf, heof, heef, heve; heven, hefven, heoven; hevynhuve; haf, have; hefde, hevede, heved, hewid, -it, heywit, ME heyffyt, 15 huit, heaved; and in the sixteenth century heft. Additional forms of the past participle are hafen, hæfen; ihove, hove; heven, hefod, iheved, and in Scots, heywit, hevyd, hewede. (You may be interested to see also Heft.)
With the increasing standardization of the English language away from its roots, heaved (the 'weak' inflection) seems a more normal form for the past tense and participles.

See also Heave (irregular verb)