Monday, January 23, 2012

Spilled vs. Spilt

wrote a story that utilizes a cliche, horror of horrors (no that's not the one), and it was brought to my attention the spelling of a word by one of my lovely critique partners. The cliche is "don't cry over spilled milk," but I wrote "it looked like spilt milk." So do I spell it S-P-I-L-L-E-D or S-P-I-L-T? 

Irregular Verbs || Grammar | spilled vs. spilt | british english vs. american english | regular verb inconsistencies | Don't cry over spilled milk

So I thought I'd do a little research and share with everyone. According to The Grammarist, spilt was once accepted as the past tense usage for spill. Very interesting graphs that show when the change took place. Now it is more commonly accepted to use spilled.

Spill is actually considered an irregular verb. Among others. A regular verb is one that uses "-ed" as an ending to make the verb past tense. Such as end (I ended the game), jump (I jumped on the bed), or toss (I tossed it in the trash). Irregular verbs end differently, such as write (I wrote a story), run (I ran in a race), and eat (I ate all the grapes). It's no wonder we hear children say, "I writed, I runned, and I eated." (I'm constantly correcting my 5-year-old daughter. She's still learning). That's part of why we lovely Americans want to write spilled, burned, etc. because the regular verbs are easier to say and spell.

spilled - spilt
burned - burnt
learned - learnt
smelled - smelt
spelled - spelt
spoiled - spoilt
dreamed - dreamt
leaped - leapt
kneeled - knelt

These verbs are considered irregular. This is for the past simple and past participle form of the verbs. Both spellings are acceptable in both forms of English, however the irregular "-t" ending is more acceptable in British English, and the regular "-ed" ending is more acceptable in American English.

Part of the confusion, I believe, is that we sometimes like to pronounce these words with the "-t" sound and therefore want to spell it to match the pronunciation. Anyway, I have spelt my last word for this post because I dreamt about the toothfairy and I leapt for joy. I hope you learnt something. Have fun!

Keep on keepin' on...


  1. Fun post. Thanks for sharing it with me. I taught high school English for a number of years and am always learning new things about our crazy language.

  2. At least you didn't write, "it lookt like spilt milk."

  3. Hilarious! Thanks!

  4. Ha! Great post Christie. Thanks for the grammar lesson. (I still think spilled sounds better.) :D

  5. That's funny, I noticed that but then I wasn't sure if it was an acceptable form so I quickly looked it up in the dictionary and it listed both spilt and spilled as ok. I have learnt something new today! Thanks for the lesson.


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