• 3-minute read
  • 2nd February 2020

Burned vs. Burnt (And Other Verbs that Can End ‘-ed’ or ‘-t’)

‘Burned’ and ‘burnt’ differ in spelling, but do they differ in meaning? The short answer is ‘no’. But the best spelling may depend on how you’re using it and where you’re from. So, to make sure your writing is error free, check out our guide to these terms and other verbs that can end ‘-ed’ or ‘-t’.

Burned or Burnt?

‘Burned’ and ‘burnt’ are just variant spellings of the same term, so both can be used as the simple past tense or past participle of ‘burn’:

The log burned in the fireplace.

We have burned all the logs.

The log burnt in the fireplace.

We have burnt all the logs.

These are all perfectly acceptable sentences! The correct spelling is, ultimately, a matter of preference. But there are some common conventions you may want to follow when selecting a spelling to use.

Past Tense vs. Adjective

In the examples above, we’re using ‘burned’ and ‘burnt’ as a verb. But you can also use them adjectivally to describe a noun. For instance, we could say:

Burned toast tastes bitter.

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Burnt toast tastes bitter.

These are both acceptable, but ‘burnt’ may sound more natural in this case.

As such, it often makes sense to use the ‘-t’ ending when this term is an adjective. You may even want to distinguish between ‘burnt’ (adjective) and ‘burned’. If you do this, though, make sure to be consistent!

Australian vs. American English

The other main factor in deciding which of these spellings to use is dialect. In particular, ‘burnt’ is rare in American English, especially as a verb. So if you’re writing for an audience in the USA, you may want to stick with ‘burned’.

But if you’re writing for an Australian or UK audience, ‘burnt’ is a completely acceptable spelling. Again, though, make sure to be consistent!

Other Verbs that Can End ‘-ed’ or ‘-t’

Other words that can end either ‘-ed’ or ‘-t’ include:

  • Dreamed / Dreamt
  • Kneeled / Knelt
  • Leaped / Leapt
  • Leaned / Leant
  • Learned / Learnt
  • Smelled / Smelt
  • Spelled / Spelt
  • Spilled / Spilt
  • Spoiled / Spoilt

Like with ‘burned/burnt’, the words above can end in either ‘-ed’ or ‘-t’. But there are some conventions and restrictions that apply here, too:

  • The ‘-ed’ forms are more common, especially in American English.
  • You should use each form consistently in your writing.
  • The ‘-t’ forms are more common as adjectives (e.g. spilt milk) than as verbs, but most of the words above favour in the ‘-ed’ endings in all cases.
  • ‘Learned’ is also a distinct adjective meaning ‘well educated’.

We hope this helps! And if you need any more assistance with the spelling in a document, we have proofreaders available 24/7.

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