separate or cut with a tool, such as a sharp instrument
South Sudan became the world’s newest country in 2011 when it
cleaved off from larger Sudan after a referendum.
—Time (Apr 24, 2014)
Cleft ? We may have a bias towards thinking that the regular form, in this case
cleaved, came after the unusual form, as a way of "normalizing" the verb paradigm. Here the opposite is true.
Cleaved dates from the 14th century and
cleft came later.
They had high valuations that the market was going to find it hard to support once doubts
—New York Times (May 5, 2014)
Crept is the past tense, but
creeped is popping up because of its presence in the phrasal verb
creep out the past tense of which is indeed
creeped out. Exceptions like this can often be accepted in certain contexts- the past tense of
flew but a baseball player who hit a fly ball that was caught a few innings ago
flied out. With time, these specific instances can slowly reach the mainstream.
inhabit or live in
The writer was an imperial figure, an artist who
dwelt on Mount Olympus.
—New York Times (Mar 23, 2014)
Dwelled? Unlike several entries on the list, in the case of
dwelt the unusual form predates the one ending in -ed.
Dwelled is popular in the United States, while
dwelt is dominant in Britain.
raise or haul up with or as if with mechanical help
On the last day, the friends all
hoisted their "bras and knickers" up the school flagpole.
—BBC (May 2, 2014)
Hoist as a past tense form is what linguists would call a zero-derived form--nothing changes on the surface , but on some level it has to be different from present tense
hoist --it has to be marked as "past." There was a verb
hoise used primarily in nautical context and it is thought that its past tense,
hoist, was mistaken for a root.
make by needlework with interlacing yarn
The yeast's cellular machinery viewed the chunks as strand breaks in the DNA, so it
knit the new, synthetic code in with the old.
-Scientific American (Mar 27, 2014)
plead (see below), these two forms are both accepted nowadays and are in a virtual statistical dead heat in terms of usage.
Knitted is more popular in its adjectival use. In other words, people more often say " a knitted hat" than a "knit hat".
appeal or request earnestly
pleaded guilty, this time to a higher degree of felony possession.
—New York Times (May 4, 2014)
Pled ?The grammar guides geared towards lawyers were once insistent that
pleaded was the correct form, but the persistence of
pled has caused the usually adamant attorneys to accept both. There may be more going on here, because " he
pled guilty " sounds much better than " he
pleaded guilty" but with a "with" complement the opposite holds "She
pled with the judge" sounds awful to these ears, while
pleaded sounds fine there.
wither, as with a loss of moisture
The economy nearly
shrank in the first quarter, then bounced back quickly, to judge by the April jobs report.
—New York Times (May 4, 2014)
Shrank ? A grammar maven's least favorite movie?
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. The movie title gets the past tenses confused-
shrunk is past participle and
shrank is simple past. Technically, it should be
Honey, I Shrank the Kids.
reduce to small pieces or particles by pounding or abrading
Wisconsin bumped and
grinded its way into the Final Four.
—New York Times (Mar 29, 2014)
Grinded ? Like
grinded is gaining acceptance over the traditional past tense
ground because of the other uses of
Grinded has become a hard nosed sports term- it is often said of football players, particularly running backs, that " they
grinded it out today"
experience while sleeping
I don't suffer stress but I have
dreamed about forgetting the box on a train.
—BBC (Apr 29, 2014)
Dreamt is more popular in Britain, but both of these forms can function as the past tense. Some sources claim that
dreamt is correct for "had a dream while asleep" while
dreamed concerns only "hopes and aspirations while awake", but there is no solid evidence for this.
rest one's weight on one's knees
knelt at the perimeter with his head down.
—New York Times (Apr 19, 2014)
Knelt ? Like
cleave the form that might seem older, in this case
knelt is actually much more recent, dating from the 19th century.
Knelt was formed on analogy with the past tense of a few other verbs, like
smell badly and offensively
It then turned out that the plug was defective, and the cell
stank abominably for hours afterwards.
Stank is the past tense, while
stunk is the past participle. This can be a tricky pattern to get a hold on, but it's worth it to try, because there are several verbs that work like this, including
drink (drunk/drank), sink (sunk/sank) and
shrink (shrunk/shrank). (See above.)
destroy by fire
All of the homes had been
burned, their roofs of thatch and walls of reeds consumed by the fire.
burned ? This pair is a true case of two variations in the simple past tense form. The preference for one over the other seems influenced by cultural concerns, as the British prefer
burnt or other factors like the existence of idiomatic uses. Someone who has ruined all his relationships on purpose is said to have
burned his bridges.
Burnt would be quite strange there.
a headlong plunge into water
Evelyn Lennart came prepared, armed with a baseball hat she swung at the bird as it
dived toward her head.
—Washington Times Jun 6, 2014
Dove ? This is probably the most often cited instance of two past verb forms. In this case it is interesting to note that
dove arose as a form much later than
dived , another case of the regular, "-ed" form coming before the "unusual" form.
travel through water
Clay held the rope while his friends laughed and cheered as the little boy
swam for his life.
Swum is not used much anymore, to the point where many question whether it is a word at all, but it is, technically, the past participle of
Swam is the simple past form.
deliver a sudden pain to
stinging was his repeated question to the voters, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”
—Time Jun 5, 2014
Stang was the past tense in Old English, but is now only heard very occasionally in dialects. The dominant past tense form is