These words often trip up writers and speakers. All four of them have similar meanings, though some have usages the others cannot perform. Let’s start with some with unique features.
Only wake can appear in expressions like waking and sleeping or every waking moment. Also, wake combines with up to form a complement verb. None of the others do. Thus:
He waked (or woke) up.
Some experts insist that waken acts only as a transitive verb (the sound of traffic wakened him) and that awaken acts only as an intransitive verb (she awakened with the first rooster crow). But many great writers have used waken intransitively (she wakened with the first rooster crow) and awaken transitively (the sound of traffic awakened her).
Most savvy writers turn to awake and awaken in figures of speech:
When Fred lost the election, the party leaders awoke to his weakness as a candidate. The smell of coffee awakened my memories of Sunday mornings at home.
Principal Parts of awake, awaken, wake, waken
|Verb||Past Tense||Past Participle|
|wake||waked He waked up.||waked (Southern dialect) He has waked up.|
|wake||woke He woke up.||woken (Northern dialect) He has woken up.|
|waken intransitive transitive||wakened He wakened at dawn. The noise wakened him.||wakened He has wakened during the night. He was wakened by the noise.|
|awake intransitive transitive||awakened He awakened to reality. The aroma awakened his memory.||awakened (Southern dialect) He has awakened to reality. The aroma has awakened his memory.|
|awake intransitive transitive||awoke He awoke to reality. The aroma awoke his memory.||awoken (Northern dialect) He has awoken to reality. The aroma has awoken his memory.|
|awaken intransitive transitive||awakened He awakened to realty. The aroma awakened his memory.||awakened He has awakened to reality. The aroma has awakened his memory.|