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UK English irregular verbs

Posted by TheFallen on October 17, 2002

In Reply to: Leant posted by R. Berg on October 17, 2002

: : : : : : : Is usa(d)ge a British spelling? In our unabridged dictionary, I found no alternate spelling for "usage."

: : : : : : : I know that we Yanks have our own spelling for some words, stemming from our desire to separate ourselve from the mother country. Perhaps this is one of them.

: : : : : : : ES

: : : : : : I think it was a play on a typo in the subject of your original post where you accidentally spellled usage u-s-a-d-g-e.

: : : : : I checked a few sources and found no such word as "usadge".
: : : : : Also I found no such word as "spellled".
: : : : : The irony of it all!

: : : : Although Ms. Camel seems to need help in how to stop spelling "spelling", there is, I believe, a transatlantic difference with the past tense and/or past participle of the verb "to spell". For some reason, my tendency is to opt for "spelt" - "I spelt it out for him". Similarly, I'd opt for "learnt" rather than "learned". Am I right in thinking that this is not the way you'd do it over the pond?

: : : Yes, you are. The -t forms are understood here--another one is "dreamt"--but they look archaic. We do write "unkempt," though.

: : How about "leant"?

: That looks even more archaic than "learnt." Our past for "lean" is "leaned," pronounced with one syllable, a long E, and a D at the end. But our past for "bend" is usually "bent"; "bended" is rare (Amer. Heritage Dict.). For "lend," only "lent." Amer. Heritage allows "blent" as an alternative past for "blend," but I've never seen it used. "Fent" (from "fend") isn't even listed as an option, nor is "ment," so that "The hermit fent for himself and ment his raveling garments all winter" would be written only by someone whose education ent too soon.

The difference in US/UK usage seems not to be so much with verbs with -nd infinitives, but more with verbs ending in ea(r)n or eam. There's clearly no hard and fast rule here to define when these verbs are declined irregularly in the past tense, except to note that in the UK we seem to use the irregular (and presumably original) form far more readily. UK usages as below:-

Spell - spelt (an oddity, since it's an -ell, verb. "Spelled is becoming much more common over here, and I think that "spelt" will soon be in disuse).
Dream - dreamt
Learn - learnt
Lean - Leant
Mean - meant (I'm sure the US also invariably uses this form).

However, some apparently similar verbs are always defined weakly/regularly in the UK.

Glean - gleaned
Earn - earned
Ream - reamed
Gleam - gleamed

This apparent randomness would never happen in German :)

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