Spoilt Or Spoiled? Irregular Verbs Explained

Spoilt Or Spoiled? Irregular Verbs Explained

English is a weird language. None of our grammatical rules ever seem to be evenly applied without exceptions, and irregular verbs are no different. For most verbs in the English language, changing to past tense is as simple as adding ‘ed’ on the end. But then there’s a whole host of words that don’t conform to that rule. What gives?

As explained in a video by Mental Floss, the answer to this lies in the history of the English language. With a whole host of linguistic influences on its development, it’s no wonder English is messed up.

It might surprise you to know that what we now call irregular verbs were actually once the common past tense of verbs, which made much more sense in older forms of English. So words like ate, drank and rode are remnants of these times. Other words like clamb (for climb) and chode (for chide) didn’t quite make the cut.

Soon the ‘ed’ form of past tense verbs became more popular, but some verbs stayed ‘irregular’ – and some have even swapped back and forth multiple times.

Catch the whole explanation below:

Mixed Irregular Verbs

As if that wasn’t already confusing enough, there are also a small group of verbs where both regular and irregular past tense forms are accepted as correct – often in cases where the two forms are quite similar. These can catch up even seasoned grammarians like you and me.

Some examples include:

  • Spilt and spilled
  • Leapt and leaped
  • Dreamt and dreamed
  • Knelt and kneeled
  • Spoilt and spoiled

In most cases the ‘ed’ form is more common in American English, while both are used interchangeably in British English, however, the irregular form is often considered more formal or correct.

In some cases, there is a preference for one word or the other depending on the context. For instance, some writers prefer to use spoiled as the past tense verb (ie, the milk spoiled) and spoilt as the past-participial adjective (ie, the spoilt milk). Most advice to writers suggests they use the form that sounds better in the context, however.

This story on unusual spelling rules has been updated since its original publication.


  • Every language has irregularities. English has been analysed by linguists in the past and found to be no more irregular in spelling or phonography than say French. Spanish has not only irregular verbs, but super-irregular verbs.

  • You can’t say that the English Language is messed up.
    It is a mixture of many languages formed over thousands of years due to various races of invaders trying to conquer the rulers of the country because the Northern hemisphere countries were the only countries known to exist at the time.
    The English Language consists of many words from the Vikings invasion, many from France, metre, litre, provocator, au naturel, au pair, bon voyage and dozens more. Greek, hoi polloi, Latin, we use hundreds of Latin words daily, pro rata, interim, example, par excellence quid pro quo, carpe diem, sup poena, terra firma, camera, status quo, etc.

    If you want a messed up English language, blame the Aussies, car is not ‘cah’, beer is not ‘beeeh’, heer is not heee, mate is not ‘mite’, Australia is not ‘Ostriya’, part is not ‘paht’, add full, bull, pull, as being correct but not ‘dall’ instead of dull, or ‘gall’ insted of gull. shut the door is not ‘shat the doh’, then the Americans add to the mess, tyre is not ‘tire’, plough is not ‘plow’, metre is not ‘meter’, cool refers to a weather temperature, it is not a single descriptive word for almost everything because users are not well educated in using a great variation of interesting description words.
    Even worse is the description ‘American English, it does not exist, it is American, Italian people who speak English in Italy don’t describe the language as Italian-English, Scottish people don’t speak Scottish English, the same with French people, Welsh, Irish and others are people who speak, write and read the English Language.
    The pathetic use of ‘Guys’ in Australia toward males and females is ill-mannered and disgusting, bucks are male deer, not dollars, more American ridiculous twaddle, add the greatest stupidity of all, PIN number, ATM machine, and a ‘Free Gift’…… of course a gift is free, no-one has ever paid for a gift.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!