It's time for the latest in our series of quick tips on usage and style shared by Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl. Here Mignon tackles the question of whether the past-tense form of shine should be shined or shone.

What's the trouble? The verb shine has two past-tense forms: shined and shoneShined and shone are competing acceptable past tense forms of the verb shine. Some (but not all) sources recommend using shined when the verb has an object and shone when it does not:
  • Grammar Girl shined her headlights at the abandoned house. (object)
  • The light shone brightly. (no object)

The meaning matters too: shined is the only acceptable past tense when you mean "polished," as in "He shined his shoes."

What should you do? Stick with the traditional rule of using shined with an object and shone without an object unless you have a good reason to deviate.

Quick and dirty tip: The rhyme It's shone when alone will help you remember to use shone when the verb is alone (i.e., has no object).