Author Topic: Why do British people use the T form of certain verbs?  (Read 9486 times)

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Flora Louise

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Why do British people use the T form of certain verbs?
« on: June 22, 2012, 03:41:20 PM »
Learnt instead of learned.  Smelt rather than smelled. Is this common pronunciation and how did it evolve?
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Tilt Fairy

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Re: Why do British people use the T form of certain verbs?
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2012, 04:10:41 PM »
oh yeah!...I never realised we did that. I hear it and do it all the time. In fact after your post I second guessed myself for a second and was alarmed that I had been saying something grammatically incorrect and that they weren't real words but I just typed in 'learnt' and 'smelt' into the dictionary and it says they are valid words in British English. Phew! After learnt and smelt in the dictionary it says (Brit English) in brackets. I wonder how it evolved like that though..... hmmmm

veryfluffy

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Re: Why do British people use the T form of certain verbs?
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2012, 04:23:48 PM »
You might as well ask why Americans, or whoever, don't use that form. Languages just evolve differently in different places, don't they?
   

RingTailedLemur

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Re: Why do British people use the T form of certain verbs?
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2012, 07:19:03 AM »
Yes it is very common, in both pronunciation and spelling.

I have seen it picked up on a lot - I was called "illiterate" by a US-based poster on another site  ::)

Bright

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Re: Why do British people use the T form of certain verbs?
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2012, 08:10:19 AM »
It's  common in both spelling and pronunciation.

I've been googling lots of interesting links on the subject. The one that interested me most was one with graphs though.

http://thespellingblog.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/learned-or-learnt-spelled-or-spelt.html
 

sparksals

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Re: Why do British people use the T form of certain verbs?
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2012, 09:37:39 AM »
We use it in Canada too. 

veryfluffy

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Re: Why do British people use the T form of certain verbs?
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2012, 10:31:11 AM »
Less frequent one is mixt rather than mixed, which is a great word for Scrabble (TM).
   

Tilt Fairy

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Re: Why do British people use the T form of certain verbs?
« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2012, 10:47:56 AM »
Less frequent one is mixt rather than mixed, which is a great word for Scrabble (TM).

Ahhh what a great word! Mixt needs a revival! I mean, if us Brits have have burnt and dreamt, why not be consistent and have mixt too? That's the thing with British English. The language and what words people use is very inconsistent - but all British people somehow instinctively use the same inconsistencies. It's just an instinctual habit that everyone would say spelt and learnt etc... I can't for the life of me remember what we were taught in school but that must have been it!

1. Some people will only say learned, burned, spelled etc..
2. Some people will only say leant, burnt, spelt etc... (I would say this is 90%+ of Brits)
3. Some people will say learnt for the past tense and learned for the verb. e.g. I learnt Spanish at school vs I have learned to speak Spanish. I wonder if this is the correct option by the correct book of grammar? The distinction is so subtle, I'm not sure I would ever recognise it! That is, if it's even correct. Who knows?

*Actually 'learnt' is a bit of an odd one. Most Brits will say learnt for anything but the word learnED to mean something different e.g he was a very learnED man. 

Thipu1

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Re: Why do British people use the T form of certain verbs?
« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2012, 11:08:16 AM »
The T form is used in US English too, but to a lesser extent.  It does show up frequently in crosswords.

I don't think anyone here would have problems understanding it in speech and I've never met anyone who would think it 'illiterate' in writing. 

I believe the division came with the first American dictionaries.  These often had a mission of simplifying spelling but it didn't always work.  For some reason, it was thought a good thing to substitute 'z' for 's' in verbs. The disuse of the T form was probably something similar. 

Some years ago I recall a post from a US student studying in the UK.  This person was using American spellings and the Professor, who was a bit of a pedant, insisted that, if American spellings were to be used, they had to be used exclusively.  According to him, the American spelling of 'through' should be 'thru'. 

The only place that spelling is used here is on street signs such as 'No Thru Traffic'.  No one with any degree of education would think of using it in ordinary writing. 

RingTailedLemur

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Re: Why do British people use the T form of certain verbs?
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2012, 12:42:55 PM »
Reminds me of a friend of mine.  The first question asked of him at his PhD viva (in Britain) was, "Why did you spell 'ionisation' with an 's'?"  ::)

Thipu1

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Re: Why do British people use the T form of certain verbs?
« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2012, 11:08:09 AM »
The only possible problem with the T forms could be 'spelt'.  That word is also a type of grain.

Also, a question with 'spelt'.  Here, we use 'spelled' to also indicate giving a person a break. 

'Joan didn't have to stay at the information desk all afternoon.  Joe came and spelled her at two PM'.

Do people in the UK use it in that sense?

P-p-p-penguin

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Re: Why do British people use the T form of certain verbs?
« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2012, 12:19:06 PM »
I obviously can't speak for all Brits, but I've never heard it used in that way.

RingTailedLemur

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Re: Why do British people use the T form of certain verbs?
« Reply #12 on: June 24, 2012, 12:50:01 PM »
Me neither.

Tilt Fairy

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Re: Why do British people use the T form of certain verbs?
« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2012, 02:29:10 PM »
I'm with the above two. Never heard 'spelled' used as giving someone a break in the UK. Interesting...

RingTailedLemur

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Re: Why do British people use the T form of certain verbs?
« Reply #14 on: June 24, 2012, 02:37:41 PM »
I don't think anyone here would have problems understanding it in speech and I've never met anyone who would think it 'illiterate' in writing. 

I just did a quick search on Yahoo Answers, there are a fair number of questions asking if "learnt" is a real word.  Several answerers have used descriptions such as "uneducated", "illiterate" and "redneck" to describe those who think it is - although thankfully such contributions have been given the thumbs down.