Shear, sheared, shore, shorn

G’day Sportsfans

I have been writing about wool today. I am about to name the WA wool team. Something keeps coming up.

K.I. Carroll (pedantic Almanac word-lover) and I were discussing the verb to shear the other night at Murray Bird’s book launch. We couldn’t decide.

I shear

I have shorn


I shore   or    I sheared.

What is correct?

Where have you seen the past tense of shear used? Chapter and verse please.




About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Surely you would spell it “Sean”.

  2. I don’t like sheared.

    But, then again, I prefer snuck to sneaked as well.

  3. Dave Brown says

    Sheared without a doubt. But, hey, if you prefer shore keep using it and common usage will eventually rule the day

  4. Agree Dips

    The proper gaelic version of my name is actually more pronounced ‘Shon’

    but happy to be seen as the proper past tense in matters wool related

  5. From my rusty Latin.
    The conjugation of the verb “to shear” (tondere)
    (present active infinitive, I think!)

  6. E.regnans says

    “People have got the impression that the merino is a gentle, bleating animal that gets its living without trouble to anybody, and comes up every year to be shorn with a pleased smile upon its amiable face. It is my purpose here to exhibit the merino sheep in its true light.”
    A.B. Paterson, The Merino Sheep.

  7. James Lang says

    My Grandpa always tells me how many he’d “shorn” in his best run. But he “shore” all day. But that’s shearer speak from a 90 year old who shore mostly in the mid north and Flinders Ranges

  8. By George!111 says

    “Those Names

    The shearers sat in the firelight, hearty and hale and strong,
    After the hard day’s shearing, passing the joke along:
    The `ringer’ that shore a hundred, as they never were shorn before,
    And the novice who, toiling bravely, had tommy-hawked half a score,
    The tarboy, the cook, and the slushy, the sweeper that swept the board,
    The picker-up, and the penner, with the rest of the shearing horde.

    There were men from the inland stations
    where the skies like a furnace glow,
    And men from the Snowy River, the land of the frozen snow;
    There were swarthy Queensland drovers who reckoned all land by miles,
    And farmers’ sons from the Murray, where many a vineyard smiles.
    They started at telling stories when they wearied of cards and games,
    And to give these stories a flavour they threw in some local names,
    And a man from the bleak Monaro, away on the tableland,
    He fixed his eyes on the ceiling, and he started to play his hand.

    He told them of Adjintoothbong, where the pine-clad mountains freeze,
    And the weight of the snow in summer breaks branches off the trees,
    And, as he warmed to the business, he let them have it strong —
    Nimitybelle, Conargo, Wheeo, Bongongolong;
    He lingered over them fondly, because they recalled to mind
    A thought of the old bush homestead, and the girl that he left behind.
    Then the shearers all sat silent till a man in the corner rose;
    Said he, `I’ve travelled a-plenty but never heard names like those.
    Out in the western districts, out on the Castlereagh
    Most of the names are easy — short for a man to say.

    `You’ve heard of Mungrybambone and the Gundabluey pine,
    Quobbotha, Girilambone, and Terramungamine,
    Quambone, Eunonyhareenyha, Wee Waa, and Buntijo –‘
    But the rest of the shearers stopped him:
    `For the sake of your jaw, go slow,
    If you reckon those names are short ones out where such names prevail,
    Just try and remember some long ones before you begin the tale.’
    And the man from the western district, though never a word he said,
    Just winked with his dexter eyelid, and then he retired to bed.”

    Banjo Paterson

  9. Skip of Skipton says

    All are correct if you’ve done your quota.
    In literature I’d go with “I sheared” over ‘I shorn”. Then with ” I have shorn” over “I have sheared”. Get that?

  10. Tom Martin says

    Harmsy, I’ll skip the chapter and go straight to the verse, with sincere apologies to my dear brother Nick, a real-life shearer and folk song troubadour.

    The Ringer of the Riverina

    Me mate Shaun, he was a shearer, and he sure loved to shear all day,
    From his first ram to his hundredth, to Shaun shearing was sheer play.
    Once he’d fleeced a cocky’s paddocks, he’d set off to shear some more,
    Shaun sheared the golden sheep of Oz from mulga to the shore.

    He’d shorn swathes through Lachlan Tigers and he never called for tar,
    Swept famous ringers up like locks in shearing sheds afar,
    Surely never stooping low to shear blue-bellied joes,
    Right up there with Clancy, our Shaun’s mug did overflow.

    Shaun’s tallies were a legend, and before long so was he,
    Shout the bar with every round, a squeezer on his knee.
    But one swag-roll too many got mighty Shaun the sack,
    He was shorn of all his greatness, struck down with shagger’s back.

    I met Shaun in Cootamundra. Didn’t know the bloke from clay,
    Bent-double and still spinning yarns of four hundred in a day.
    When I asked him why he shore no more he bleated ‘Just because’,
    A forlorn silhouette he cut, of the Shaun that he once was.

    Long ago you’d rest assured his wide full blades would fly,
    A real-life, modern-day, true-blue Flash Jack from Gundagai.
    Shaun had shorn more sheep than any shearer now could shear,
    But comes a point you can’t deny the jumbuck just stops here.
    Now Shaun’s days are hewn away, with beer and broken dreams,
    Vainly looking for his name, in Harmsy’s Wool Industry teams.

  11. Steve Hodder says

    who woulda thought you could’ve generated so many words out of that? Only on the Almanac. I go with Skip.


  12. Kevan Carroll says

    The Bulletin, 5 November 1892: “At the last station where he shore he gave the super a sheol of a hiding.” [sheol=hell]
    The Bulletin, 22 June 1895: I had ‘shore’ on many stations
    and had eaten of ‘the slag’;
    But so help me Larry Foley!
    I had never ‘struck a snag’.

    The Truth, 21 January 1917: I’ve shorn at Terramongamine,
    and on the Talbragar,
    I ran McDermott for the cobbler
    when we shore at Buckingbar

    Conference of Amalgamated Shearers’ Union & Pastoralists’ Fed. Council, 1891: I don’t think they ever sheared union in the shed,

    ‘J. Miller’, Workingman’s Paradise, 1892: There’s a shed starts the next week, and I said I’d be up there to see that it shore union.

    E.W. Campbell, History of the Australian Labour Movement, 1945: In the 1890 season 90% of the sheds ‘shore union’.

    I think I agree that ‘shore’ as the simple past is (legitimate) shearers’ usage…”sheared” would be normal. I guess ‘shore’ might have been back-formed from the past participle ‘shorn’.

    (Nice conjugating, Smokie!)

  13. Ray Wilson says

    See below. It just has to be shorn to avoid international chaos. Shau the Sheep would be ridiculous.

    “Shaun the Sheep has been voted the best BBC children’s TV character of all time, ahead of loveable Postman Pat and even international superstar Bob the Builder.

    A poll of over 41,000 people placed Shaun as the best out of all the animations or puppets that have been churned out by the public broadcaster over the last 70 years”

  14. Merv Beebee says

    Is it at all possible that a Shearer – maybe named Sean – “Fleeced” a sheep ..?
    I merely throw this into the pot for sheer entertainment …

  15. Ken Haley says

    I know argument by analogy isn’t worthy of great respect, but in an
    irregular language such as English many usages are sanctioned, if not hallowed,
    by the extension of practice to words that are alike in some fundamental way.
    “shore” isn’t just right because “sheared” sounds wrong – and it’ isn’t just
    right because shearers say so, but it is right because it follows a pattern
    we recognise without demur in similar cases.

    wear wore worn
    tear tore torn
    swear swore sworn

    The reason we hesitate over
    shear shore shorn

    may have to do with the fact that there are idiosynractic exceptions to
    the above pattern. Conssider again:

    fear feared feared
    hear heard heard

    The “fear” example might give temporary comfort to those who plump
    for “sheared” – until they realise that it is no part of a pattern, but an
    isolate, an outlier.

    The clue to why “shore” is correct, for those who’ve overlooked it, is
    in the past participle “shorn”. No one questions that. They question
    “shore”, presumably becasue the word already exists as a near synonym
    for coast. (But that is no reason to limit “shore” to that sense, as English-speakers would know who unerringly use “parade” as a verb meaning to flaunt or exhibit proudly in one sentence, and in the next could use it as a noun menaing a broad thoroughfare).

    To repeat; the clue is in the universal acceptance of the past participle, as in:
    “He has shorn a record number of sheep.” If you accept “shorn” for the past participle, you presuppose “shore” to be the correct past tense. (See analogous
    examples for the pattern.) If you argued for “sheared” as the past tense of “shear”
    (by analogy with “feared”), then you have to stick with it as the past participle
    (otherwise you’d end up with the clueless and truly exceptional set of:
    shear sheared shorn).

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