Earnt (earned)

Agró

Senior Member
Spanish-Navarre
Hello there. I recently came across the word earnt as the Past Simple of earn. I think it's a mistake but, surprisingly, it appeared in a text book for students of English, published by a well-known publishing company. I haven't found it in any dictionaries I've looked up, so, my question is:
Do you use earnt in that form? Do you think it's a mistake? Thanks.
 
  • El escoces

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    I don't use "earnt" (from "earn"), but I would use "learnt" (from "learn").

    EDIT: given the source, I assume it is valid, but it has to be considered obscure in modern usage and I would have thought the alternative "earned" should also have been included.
     
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    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    It is not a mistake. Like drunk/drank, swam/swum, sneaked/snuck, and smelled/smelt, multiple versions of the past tense are acceptable. There is no rule for which is most common and in some cases some are equally widely used while in other one sounds slightly unidiomatic and perhaps even old fashioned or pretentious.

    In the case of "earnt," I believe that "earned" is far more common while "earnt" will sound odd to many. In a narration, I might not find it too jarring. I think that I'd almost certainly use only "earned" in my own writing.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    As one who uses ...nt forms I have to say that I wouldn't use earnt.
    It doesn't feature in the OED.
    I have a vague recollection of earnt appearing in some kind of ethnic lyrics, but I can't recall exactly where.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Interesting thread:)

    I write "earned", but I think I say "earnt".

    And I don't think I'd notice if someone else wrote "earnt"...
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Loob speaks Dickensian.

    Charles Dickens, All the Year Round. 1884
    When the weather is warm and dry, the open arches afford sufficient shelter for the night; at other times there are stables and shops, or rag-pickers' stores, where it is easy to find a corner in which to curl up and sleep ; or if fortune has been propitious, and a few pence have been earnt by a casual job of any kind, the luxury of the " kip," or common lodging- house, is attainable, with its kitchen full of warmth, and flavour, and company.
     

    El escoces

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Interesting thread:)

    I write "earned", but I think I say "earnt".

    And I don't think I'd notice if someone else wrote "earnt"...
    If the word following "earned" is "two", for example, I can imagine the words being run together, when spoken, to the extent that the first sounds like "earnt" - but seeing it written has an effect like a slap in the face to me, despite using "learnt" (and "spelt" and "smelt").
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Loob speaks Dickensian.

    Charles Dickens, All the Year Round. 1884
    When the weather is warm and dry, the open arches afford sufficient shelter for the night; at other times there are stables and shops, or rag-pickers' stores, where it is easy to find a corner in which to curl up and sleep ; or if fortune has been propitious, and a few pence have been earnt by a casual job of any kind, the luxury of the " kip," or common lodging- house, is attainable, with its kitchen full of warmth, and flavour, and company.
    Eeek! I am clearly 124 years old:eek:

    Thank heavens for our Ems!
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés

    longbottomgoesflying

    New Member
    British English
    This is a very interesting thread, I only logged onto the net to check the spelling of "earnt" as my microsoft word threw it up as a spelling mistake and I couldn't quite believe it and couldn't for the life of me think of an alternative.

    I'm only 20 years old and have always used earnt, I couldn't tell you where I learnt it, but have had a normal state education and (shamefully) don't read classic books (like the Dickens quoted above), so can't have picked it up from there.

    In British Englsih I'm sure it's acceptable, and after all, in spoken English "earnt" seems to me far easier to say than "earned".
     

    manon33

    Senior Member
    English - England (Yorkshire)
    I have always treated it as a perfectly acceptable alternative past participle of the strong verb 'to earn', like learnt/dreamt,, etc.

    I agree that 'earnt' is more common in speech and 'earned' in writing, but it's not an absolute rule.
     
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    euroboss

    New Member
    Polish
    Hi there,
    Is it correct form or not? I've analysed all posts but finally still confused about it. I was looking for some info on line but so far I'm not convinced. Is it allowed to be used commonly or not? I'm the English student, so all interesting topics are very important to me.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    As above, although I happily use various other -nt forms, I wouldn't use earnt.
    I don't pronounce earned as earnt.
    It does not appear in the OED.
    This suggests, at least, that earnt would be better avoided in a formal context.

    I've been looking at examples from the web and a surprising number of them use an apostrophe - earn't:
    He seems to think that because Ganley earn't money from the US
    So it's acceptable that someone who has earn't the amount of money he has
    This honour should be given to someone who has truely earn't it
    Who go's by ... claiming that he earn't 400k a week in his previous job

    I wonder why.
     

    Eigenfunction

    Senior Member
    England - English
    Earnt is correct.

    It is less common than earned.

    8/100 million words in the BNC is actually a fairly respectable number if you think about it. (English is estimated to have about 600 000 words, most of the words in the BNC are the common vocabulary, the, and etc. - the basic building blocks of sentences. This doesn't leave much room for the less common words. Some words I use every few days appear only once in 100 million words! It's usually a good indicator, but when the numbers get too small, the BNC is not reliable in statistical terms)

    In pronunciation, I would have said that in many accents it is almost impossible to tell if someone is saying earned or earnt.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    We need to put "earnt", and its appearance in the British National Corpus, into perspective.
    Yes, there are 8 examples of "earnt" in the BNC.
    Three conversations, two oral history interviews, a biography and a couple of miscellaneous.
    They include:
    That, that you've earnt like!
    Do you mean he's earnt a pay?

    Contrast that with the 1,981 examples of "earned".
    I would not consider the BNC examples as an endorsement of "earnt".
    Yes, it is used. But it is very far from being an accepted alternative to "earned" and I certainly would not suggest that any student of English should adopt this spelling.

    There are no examples in the Corpus of Contemporary American English.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Yes.

    Sort of...

    But several BrE speakers in this thread have commented that they say "earnt" although they write "earned".

    So maybe the relatively-few earnt-writers represent those who have the courage of their convictions....
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    To come to the point, would anyone suggest that euroboss should write earnt in his next formal report?
    I think not.
    That doesn't mean that we should all cut the fingers off anyone who writes earnt, but I think we need to keep this in perspective for the benefit of serious enquirers.

    Contrast this with learnt.
    If euroboss is writing his next formal report for a BE audience, he should feel entirely free to write learnt.
    He should read the relevant threads before doing so, of course.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    To come to the point, would anyone suggest that euroboss should write earnt in his next formal report?
    I think not.
    That doesn't mean that we should all cut the fingers off anyone who writes earnt, but I think we need to keep this in perspective for the benefit of serious enquirers.

    Contrast this with learnt.
    If euroboss is writing his next formal report for a BE audience, he should feel entirely free to write learnt.
    :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:Sound advice.

    I'm another who falls into the camp of folk who have no objection to the sound of earnt, but find the look of it a wee bit odd.
     

    malcouk

    New Member
    English
    Sorry to appear pedantic, but, there is constant reference to spelling in the same way as a word is pronounced. This is a simplistic and infantile view when one considers the rather peculiar ways that words are correctly spelled by comparison with the ways they are correctly pronounced. Start with leftentant / lieutenant and progress through the many thousand of others.

    If it is not in the Oxford, it is incorrect. IMHO.
     

    shedlock2000

    New Member
    British English
    Now, I have become more and more interested in the grammar of the English language after forcing myself to learn classical Latin for my current University Degree. It seems to me that, from a clarity point of view, 'earned' may be considered to express merely the 'simple past': "He earned his keep, for sure"; whereas 'earnt' seems to hint more toward a 'historic past' (more in line with the Latin 'pluperfect' - which the English language has some difficulty expressing): "He earnt that medal for his efforts in the Boer War".

    Just my 'a-pennath.

    Oh, and I am new to the forum -- and already I feel that I have just entered the wonderland!
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    It gets a mention in the current online version of the OED, although it is labelled non-standard.
    Inflections: Past tense and past participle earned, (nonstandard) earnt
     
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