Friday, October 15, 2010

Dreamed vs Dreamt


Susan Boyle famously sang "I Dreamed a Dream,"--the title of which is annoyingly redundant to my ear. But a self-confessed "fan" of this blog recently asked whether that "dreamed" should be "dreamt."

Natalie wrote, "I never know which to use, and I usually fall back on 'dreamed' because it sounds more comfortable. But it is bothersome to me that I do not know if it is right or wrong."

Thanks for asking, Natalie. I don't profess to know what's right or wrong, but I do have an opinion--and usually back that up with sources. In this case I consulted Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, as well as several dictionaries.

According to WDEU, the verb "dream" has two past and past participle forms: "dreamt" and "dreamed," both of which are nearly 700 years old. That leaves plenty of time for confusion.

Generally, "dreamt" is more commonly used in British English (Susan Boyle notwithstanding), while "dreamed" is more common in the U.S. That said, WDEU acknowledges that "our evidence finds both forms flourishing in American use."

So both forms are correct, but all the American dictionaries I consulted list "dreamed" as the preferred form. That's probably why "dreamed" feels more comfortable for Natalie. And that's what I use when I'm writing and editing.

Still, there's a question nagging at me: Susan can sing "I Dreamed a Dream," but, really, must she?


"I Dreamed a Dream: Susan Can Sing" T-shirt available at kaboodle.com

2 comments:

  1. I have been having the same dreamed/dreamt dilemma. I'm English and have, I'm fairly sure, always used dreamt without thinking. Recently I was going to post something online and I hesitated. Dreamt? Did I make that word up? I can see now that it's a result of living in the US for five years, and the prevalence of 'dreamed' that has made me stop and think. I'll stick with my dreamt for now - I'm not yet comfortable with dreamed, I feel like I'm using 'spended' instead of 'spent'.

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  2. I've been confused about this for a while as well... I've always used "dreamt". The strange thing is, I was raised in America. Haha! I'm now in the Philippines and everyone uses dreamed so I got confused. Must have been British in a past life. :)

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