Is it time to wake up? Tim Bowen helps us pay attention to word grammar.
As a verb, wake is normally used with the adverbial particle up in the phrasal verb wake up. The verb can be used on its own but can sound rather formal or literary, as in ‘He woke to the sound of waves crashing onto the shore’.
Apart from its literal meaning, wake up can be used to mean to start to pay more attention to something or to make people pay more attention to something, as in ‘They need to wake up to the fact that the world has changed and things have moved on’. The term a wake-up call can be used to describe a bad experience that warns people to change the way they behave, as in ‘The latest unemployment figures should serve as a loud wake-up call to governments throughout Europe’.
The adjective waking is used on a prenominal position with nouns such as hour(s) and minute(s) or moment(s), as in ‘She spent every waking moment on the project’.
It is also a noun. A wake is a meeting of friends after a funeral to remember the person who has died, as in ‘The wake was a proper send-off for Bill. He would have enjoyed it himself!’
A wake can also be the trail that appears in the water after a moving boat and gives us the expression in the wake of meaning happening after an event or as a result of it, as in ‘In the wake of the horsemeat scandal, the government has indicated it will introduce tough new food inspection measures’.
It can also be used metaphorically in a sporting context, particularly in the context of a race, as in ‘Hamilton’s extraordinary last lap left his opponents trailing in his wake’.