"burnt down" or "burned down"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by proofs, Jul 12, 2005.

  1. proofs Junior Member

    Austria, English/German
    Is it "he burned down the building" or "he burnt down the building"?

    Also, "the building was burned down", or "the building was burnt down"?
     
  2. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    As far as I know, "Burned" is more common in AE, and "Burnt" is more common in BE.
     
  3. proofs Junior Member

    Austria, English/German
    Initially I hadn't really copped the difference myself until I realised that I was using both indiscriminately! My instinct, with all respect!, would be that it was more than just a difference between american english and british english. The sentence that I think I might have most problems with is "he burnt down the building". I think "he burned down the building" works better here. Burnt, to me, is more suggestive of an adjective than a verb. So, I am unsure about that example. But this might just be nonsense on my part!
     
  4. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    American English, Palestinian Arabic
    It really is just a difference between American and British English. Perhaps what has confused you is the fact that "burnt" is used frequently in American English as an adjective. However, it can be and is used as a normal verb in British English. American English prefers "burned" unless it's an adjective.
     
  5. proofs Junior Member

    Austria, English/German
    But is burnt not an adjective in BE also?

    And what about "he burned the candle at both ends" v. "he burnt the candle at both ends"? Can either be used?

    Now I'm really confusing myself!!
     
  6. mzsweeett

    mzsweeett Senior Member

    USA
    USA, American English
    I am a bit unsure of the usage of the word copped in your first senetence.... but I do think you are on the right track..... burned is AE and burnt is BE. Although I think if you listen carefully..... AE pronounciation sounds like the BE. Only a few times is the ed at the end pronounced like a d. It is hard to explain.... but you have the right idea.
    No.... there is no nonsense on your part..... you are learning like the rest of us. Be of good cheer.... you are among friends!!

    HIH

    Sweet T.
     
  7. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    American English, Palestinian Arabic
    Yes, it is. "Burnt" is preferred in British English in all cases; in American English it is only preferred as an adjective. Sorry about not being clearer about that.

    Your example is no exception. American English prefers the former, British English the latter.
     
  8. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    American English, Palestinian Arabic
    Yes. The pronunciation of the ending "-ed" depends on the sound preceding it. There are three possibilites: /ed/ as in "wanted," /d/ as in "played," and /t/ as in "looked."
     
  9. jess oh seven

    jess oh seven Senior Member

    Scotland
    UK/US, English
    words like this are interchangable, as far as i'm aware.

    dreamed/dreamt
    burned/burnt

    for me personally, the ones ending in T are easier to say.
     
  10. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    Why? Hmmmm, lemme guess . . . . are you in the UK? . . . . :rolleyes: :p
     
  11. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    When the search feature is back in action, look for the nt vs. ed topic. I once asked Focalist for some explanation and examples, and he gave an excellent reply.

    Speaking of burnt and burned, I was recently in a diner near Boston and heard a waitress yell to the short order cook, "Burn the British!" It took me a moment to realize that she was calling for toasted English muffins.:)
     
  12. proofs Junior Member

    Austria, English/German
    Will do! And I liked the anecdote!
     
  13. Fbiana_angel Junior Member

    PERU SPANISH
    Hi when you use burn down in past you say "Burnt down", when you don't use down the verb is "Burned" bye.
     
  14. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
  15. jess oh seven

    jess oh seven Senior Member

    Scotland
    UK/US, English
    i am in the UK but went to an American high school and speak with an American accent... :p i suppose it's just a matter of preference sometimes.
     
  16. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    "The distinction in usage between the two modern forms of the pa. tense and pa. pple. is difficult to state with precision. Burnt is now the prevailing form, and its use is always permissible; burned is slightly archaic, and somewhat more formal in effect; it occurs more frequently as pa. tense, or in combination with the auxiliary have than as ppl. adj." (OED)
     
  17. john_riemann_soong

    john_riemann_soong Senior Member

    Singapore / United States
    English, Singlish, Chinese; Singapore
    I know generally that these conjugations basically are the same, with "learned" being more prominent in American English and "learnt" more prominent in British English. It's generally not of any consequence since it usually applies to weak verbs only, e.g. no vowel change (words like dreamt and knelt are different stories). For me, I generally keep the "t" in the preterite where applicable. But I noticed something, and wondered if other people did it too, that I tend to use "-t" with the perfective and the "-d" with the imperfective.

    For example, I would say:

    "The pie is burnt, methinks." (Someone burnt it with the single action of baking it for too long.)

    "The car burned with a tremendous ferocity." (e.g. the car was burning, since being on fire is not an immediate, perfective action, unless the things being burnt are explosives.)

    Do other people do this? Or perhaps it's just how I came up with explanations for these things as a child.
     
  18. RocketGirl

    RocketGirl Senior Member

    Australia
    Canada, English
    Now that you mention it, I do the exact same thing and it's not something I learned in school either.

    Sadly I have no further explanations or insights for you John, but at least now you know you're not alone ;)
     
  19. Joelline

    Joelline Senior Member

    USA (W. Pennsylvania)
    American English
    I tend to use burnt adjectivally: The toast is burnt!

    I use burned in a purely verbal sense: Paul burned the toast.
     
  20. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I think what you are describing is the normal distinction here.
    New Fowler's Modern English Usage
     
  21. john_riemann_soong

    john_riemann_soong Senior Member

    Singapore / United States
    English, Singlish, Chinese; Singapore
    Ah, but what I meant was the imperfective/perfective distinction, rather than merely a preterite/participle distinction.

    I would say "I burnt the toast" for instance, but that "the house burned down".
     

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