Proved or proven?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by La Bionda, Sep 27, 2005.

  1. La Bionda Senior Member

    German (Living in England)

    I always thought the verb 'to prove' was irregular, i.e. 'prove, proved, proven'. However, recently I have heard quite a few times people saying 'I was proved wrong' or 'It has not been proved that he did it' rather than 'I was proven wrong.'

    Are both forms correct or is this a change in the language or does 'proved' instead of 'proven' have another connotation?

  2. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    I think 'prove' is one of those verbs that is moving from an irregular/strong form to a regular/weak form. In everyday language I get the impression that people say 'proved' as a past participle. 'Proven' is reserved more and more for legal situations and set phrases (especially where it serves as an adjective: 'he has proven capacities in his field'). Maybe there are regional variations.

    It reminds me of certain other verbs that used to be irregular/strong but now generally aren't, except in set phrases: 'work', for example, which used to have 'wrought' as preterite and past participle. These days 'wrought' is only found in 'wrought iron fences' and such things. No one would say 'I wrought all night but got my report in by the deadline'. (Maybe we should though :D .)
  3. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Both forms are correct - and you are living on the linguistic cusp:D

    Here is some distilled wisdom from New Fowler's Modern English Usage.
    (Proven doesn't rhyme with oven - the o is like the o in rope.)

    In an hour or two, our US friends will comment on this statement.
  4. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    In Scotland proven may have the o of hope,
    but in Received Pronunciation the vowel is /u:/ in prove, proves, proving, proved, proven and provers
  5. Derringer Member

    USA, English, Portuguese, German, Latin
    You hear both in AE, although I think 'proven' may be used more often. As an adjective, 'proven' is always used (e.g., a proven method).
  6. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    OK, I'll bite. (idiom: "take the bait" or "respond to provocation.")
    Here, it rhymes with move. Moooooooooooove.

    Received Pronunciation is the same, eh? Perhaps that will serve to limit snide remarks. Queen's English, y'know.
  7. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Not only in Scotland, but, apparently, in the north of England and other places somewhat distant from the centre of the remnants of RP.

    I should contact Mr Burchfield* and let him know that he needs to take into account the new-found enthusiasm of the South for proven, and to acknowledge their choice of pronunciation:D

    *Editor of the work I referred to earlier.

    Interesting to note the US pronunciation.
    I'm glad I was careful to invite comments from over there:)
  8. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    I have notice increasingly that nobody (at least on the radio where I hear all my English) uses the form of the past participle proved any more but always proven i.e I have proven as opposed to I have proved.
    I didn't even hear this form until I was well into my teens (and Methusalem was only middle-aged) in a film with Ann Todd, about the famous Scottish poisoner, Madeleine Smith, who got away with it. Nobody could prove conclusively that she was guilty, so the Scottish judge delivered a verdict of "not proven" in this case pronounced /not proh-ven/, and released her from custody. This is a sentence half-way between innocent and guilty which we do not have south of the border.
    Presumably, Americans have always said I have proven as they say gotten but is there anybody left elsewhere who still says I have proved like me. BTW, I would talk about a proven fact, but in my teens I seldom said such things.
  9. daviesri Senior Member

    Houston, TX
    USA English
    I am an American an I use "proved".
  10. Harry Batt

    Harry Batt Senior Member

    USA English
    Proof is not a subject that we talk about much in general conversation but I think in the Midwestern AE proven is a common way of using the past participle. In all the legal writing I encountered when I was practicing the accepted form was have proved. When I was growing up in a rural Iowa county seat it was definitely proven.
  11. tepatria Senior Member

    Onondaga, Ontario
    Canadian English
    I have heard and used "proved" as in "You proved your point." Now I wonder if this is a local form?
  12. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I haven't noticed any change in the usage of proved-> proven, but then I mightn't notice anyway - though I think I would find "I have proven" sufficiently unusual.

    Previous discussions:
    proved vs. proven
    Proved or proven?
    where do we get "proven" from?

    The third of these includes comments on differences in usage.

    So, later, I moved this thread to join "Proved or proven?"
  13. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    To panjandrum: I looked up proven in the on-site dictionary of English definitions but found no forum discussions; apparently I should have looked up proved. Shall consult the links you kindly provide after posting this.

    To teapatria and (possibly) daviesti: Concerning the Simple Past form, I proved there is no argument, my query was confined to the Past Participle as used in the Present Perfect Tense I have proved/proven or used as an adjective as in it has been proved/proven or a proven/proved(??) fact. I wonder what maths/math teachers are saying these days when they get to Q.E.D. .
  14. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I have always regarded (rightly or wrongly, I don't know) "proven" as an adjective and "proved" as a verb:
    Stick to the proven methods
    Haven't they proved that that was a mistake?

    Lately, though, I have often heard "proven" used as a verb:
    Experts have proven that there is a link between X and Y.
  15. daviesri Senior Member

    Houston, TX
    USA English
    I would say:

    I have proved
    has been proved
    proven fact
  16. Rikk-tikki-tavi Member

    USA, English
    I know this is an old thread, but maybe this bump will inspire some more posting.

    I've always said and heard "have been proven," but my SAT* study book says that I should use "have been proved" instead. So, high school students and teachers please take note: if you use "proven" as a past participle, you will lose 0.25 raw points! ;)

    Personally, I don't think it's fair to penalize students for this since there is so much variation in its usage, but that's a topic for a different web site.

    (*In case you're not aware, the SAT is a standardized test that pretty much all high schoolers have to take in order to get accepted to colleges in the US.)
  17. boozer Senior Member

    I always thought wrought was the past tense/participle of wright, as in playwright and millwright but overwrought...:confused:

    As regards proven being used as an adjective these days, I have the very same observations.

    What about owe - owed - owed/own, then? Does it follow the same pattern? :D

    PS. I checked and it does seem that work eveloved from wright. Apologies.
    Last edited: May 29, 2009
  18. ZeroTX New Member

    Texas, native English speaker
    Some of you people are confusing past tense (preterite) with past participle. "Proven" is acceptable (and <?> is the correct and standard form) as a past participle or as an adjective (as always, past participle is typically the same form as the adjective).

    Yesterday he proved it. (past/preterite)
    By now he should have proven it. (past participle)
    It is a proven fact. (adjective)

    I proved that to you this morning. (past/preterite -- note specific moment in time)
    I have already proven that to you. (past participle -- note, not a specific moment in time)
    It is proven. (adjective)

    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 22, 2009
  19. Hmmmm .. I think that's both over-prescriptive and restrictive.

    Prove(d)(n) took on a dual-personality life of its own in English grammar through the 20th century. We all know that it was originally "proven", but usage has allowed "proved" to overtake it and almost eliminate it in many areas where English is spoken.

    If we start acccusing modern users of laziness just because they are no longer using a form that ceased to be dominant many years ago, where will we stop?

    PS: I've just noticed that this is your first post. Welcome to this wonderful site!
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 22, 2009
  20. tdbostick New Member

    Hessen, Germany
    English - USA
    Prove = transitive verb, simple present tense; or 'to prove' in the infinitive.
    Proved = transitive verb, simple past tense; also the preferred past participle used with 'have' (e.g. "I have proved my theory.").
    Proven = adjective describing a noun; or an alternate past participle used with 'have,' predominantly in informal speech. "This is a proven technique." - good, formal English. "He has proven to be trustworthy." - common informal speech, but not recommended for more formal writing.
  21. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    Though apparently proved preceded proven historically, I don't think there is any objection to proven at any level of formality, at least in American English. From's Usage Note:
    In the 20th century, proven has made inroads into the territory once dominated by proved, so that now the two forms compete on equal footing as participles. However, when used as an adjective before a noun, proven is now the more common word: a proven talent.
  22. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    I would also say a proven talent or a proven fact and feel that proved would sound wrong here, but use proved in all other contexts except for legal language. A drunken sailor and an unshaven chin are analgous expressions, where drunk and unshaved would also sound wrong.
    Last edited: May 29, 2010
  23. e174043

    e174043 Senior Member

    prove, proved, proved, ESP. US proven
  24. Gringa Chilena New Member

    If the past participle of prove is proved, as with the simple past.... wouldn't that make prove a regular verb and not an irregular verb?
  25. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    The verb is in flux, and many a good descriptive article has been written about it. You could argue there were two verbs (to prove, proved, proved, 'regular' ... and to prove, proved, proven, 'irregular') but it's just easier to look at it as an alternative past participle. There's a good article on it in "One Language - Two Grammars" which explores grammatical differences between American English and British English and the main points on which they differ (this book). It points out the older verb was regular and (as Cagey mentioned above) that the new innovation is the one with the -en suffixed ending, which took off in American English in the second half of the 20th century.

    We can see that between 1850-1900 'proven' was extremely rare in American English (and virtually absent in British English) and then all manner of complications crop up in the data with potential influences going both ways. Either way, as it ends up, adjectival uses of prove generally stick to the -en form while past participles keep -ed in places where the verb is regular. Once you have multiple forms, we find time and time again that language likes to split its duties to avoid redundancies, and this is another case of that, so, while 'prove' is generally regular for me, and others, we would all agree that you'd generally say "a proven hypothesis" rather than "a proved hypothesis", but "He was proved wrong".

    The last extensive study on this, I believe, ranges from 1950-1990 and shows a ratio of 3:1 for 'proved' and 'proven' in British English ('proved' is used more) and 4:3 (respective ordering) in American English, showing 'proved' wins out for both, but the 'proven' version is a lot more common in American English, but also gaining a bit of ground in British English. If anyone wants to read the source I have I'll have to give the link out via PM.
  26. drydenxx New Member

    I visited this thread because I had written a text along the lines of "The canopy has proved to be good protection."

    And I started wondering about proved versus proven. And I think my answer, today, is that I do not consider the event or condition I am describing there to be really "completed". In Dutch, it is called "voltooid tegenwoordige tijd" which is pretty much the same thing as "present perfect". So in a sense, if I had felt that "the protection of the canopy" was no longer needed at all, I would have written "proven" most likely. But since I'm like, still in the middle of it, or not at the end yet, I wrote "has proved" because "proven" feels more 'perfected'. Similarly, I think "had proved" conveys a different sense or meaning than "had proven". "had proved" conveys that this proof is no longer the case, and perhaps, perchance, a kind of negation will follow as in "had proved to be sufficient, but alas, in the end we discovered that..." while (or whereas) "had proven" indicates a more consistent state that won't quickly change as the event recedes into the past.

    Just my impression for the day, but I think quite functional. Regards,

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