Talk:earnt

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"-t and -ed. A number of irregular verbs have competing past forms and past participles in -t and -ed (e.g. 'leapt' and 'leaped'); the most common of these are given in the table below. In some cases the length of the vowel is shortened in the '-t' forms (e.g. lept instead of leept for 'leapt'). It is difficult to establish distinctions based on region or meaning, but two tendencies are discernible: (1) the form in '-ed' is more often preferred in AmE, and (2) in BrE there is a stronger preference for the '-t' form when it is used as a participial adjective, as in 'The cakes are burnt' as distinct from 'We burned the cakes' [...] "'earnt' is not standard, but is increasingly found" ("-t" Pocket Fowler's Modern English Usage. Ed. Robert Allen. Oxford University Press, 1999. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Oxford University. 29 May 2006 <http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t30.e3738>)

Elsewhere Fowler's give the example:

"Ray and Alan Mitchell once worked gruelling hours and earnt good money as contract plumbers in London" — Independent, 1992

A Google search reveals just how common the "earnt" form is; labelling it a misspelling misrepresents its current status. --129.67.116.7 22:17, 29 May 2006 (UTC) (Mel Etitis, Wikipedia

Submitted by : "Earnt" is perfectly correct. I know that American English (which is an oxymoron anyway) has trouble understanding irregular verbs, but they help preserve the etymology of the words. "Earnt", a reward for work - from the Germanic "Ernte", to harvest. Whilst the weak past participal of this verb has taken a dominant position in the English language (earned) it is actually less "correct" than the irregular conjugation.

Please note that we don't use the number of Google entries that a word has to judge whether or not it is correctly spelled. "accomodate" has well over seven million Google hits, but it is still a misspelling, and clearly a very common one. — Paul G 09:11, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Your "Accomodate" analogy is quite irrelevant to this particular case, in that spelling it so ignores the word’s etymology (the Latin uses a double m), lacks justification through acceptable parallel words that use a single m, and does not affect the expected pronunciation whichever spelling is used. It can justly be branded "wrong".
To dismiss a common spelling as wrong without further consideration is prescriptiveness. Who is to define the point something passes from being a misspelling to being an acceptable variant? The answer is, of course, popular consensus backed up by, in this media age, major publications. Languages evolve over time. Google is indeed a reasonable indicator of popularity if comparing two forms, although in this case one must recognise that, because most of the internet uses AmE rather than BrE, and because we are looking at a peculiarly BrE phenomenon, any ratios gained are going to be askew.
It is easy to see how this spelling has come about: earnt is to earn as learnt is to learn. It can also be found pronounced “earnt” rather than “earned” (I am a BrE speaker, and tend towards RP, but this clipping is something I will do regularly to similar pp.). I don’t know the etymology specific to “earn”, but I’m fairly sure that it is no different to parallel cases in which a –t ending is considered acceptable (spelt, burnt, learnt, etc). Why should I adhere to –ed if I can justify the use of –t and it conforms to popular practice? Certainly not because some AmE speaker considers a BrE (and indeed AuE/SAE) trait to be wrong!
Finally, I give a quotation from the original Fowler, referring not specifically to earned/earnt but to the whole class of words in which the sound of –ed/-t is different (or may be different) to the spelling, “The advice here offered is to use the –t spelling in both [ie. when pronunciation 1) is always or 2) may sometimes be different to spelling] classes”. (“-T/-ED” in Fowler, HE. Dictionary of Modern English Usage, 1937 reprint, p595).
The only remaining basis for allowing learnt but not earnt must be on the basis of etymology. Can anyone offer such an explanation?
I have therefore modified the entry to read ‘non-standard’ rather than ‘incorrect’, as there is clearly a grey-area seemingly regulated only by prescriptiveness. “non-standard” is also the word used by the “New Fowler” (horrible book that it is!) as quoted at the top of this discussion page by another contributor. 89.240.213.253 17:09, 9 April 2007 (UTC)
The definition on the 'non-standard' page is "English term considered improper, incorrect, or commonly misused". Given that the above poster makes a case for this word being an uncommon but perhaps increasingly acceptable alternative for 'earned', and yet that the other words on the non-standard list are clearly misspellings, I'm removing this from the non-standard category. It would appear the above poster has drawn a distinction between 'non-standard' and 'wrong' when this wiki seems not to do so. 89.243.245.105 19:35, 9 October 2007 (UTC)


I am a Brit and I always use earnt and 'T' endings wherever possible. I find it is a more elegant way of speaking: "he learned maths" "he learnt maths" - "learnt" every time !

"lighted" - no thanks - "lit" please. "dreamed" - no thanks - "dreamt" please.

Perhaps I prefer it because a lot of the older Germanic words in English have irregular 't' endings (well I think they are Germanic - someone else will have to check). think/thought bite/bit bring/brought burn/burnt catch/caught fight/fought

I did not know there is a difference between American English and British English on this point. Is this really the case or are we inventing differences?

For me, I use the 't' ending because it is more elegant. —This unsigned comment was added by HughAbbott (talkcontribs) at 16:05, 28 December 2009.

I am a foreign speaker and I agree with you wholeheartedly that the -t is much more elegant than the common or garden variety -ed. I also use always the -t participles, when they exist. The uſer hight Bogorm converſation 17:00, 28 December 2009 (UTC)