Snuck/ Sneaked [past tense sneak]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Alxmrphi, May 7, 2007.

  1. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    After thinking about this for a few mins I can't even remember which one I think is more normal, however, for me "snuck" is certainly not jocular or a non-standard form.

    I'm curious as to what other BE speakers make of this quote and if they agree with it or not.
  2. The Scrivener Banned

    On the "naughty step".
    England. English
    I always use "snuck" - well. on the rare occasions when I do use it. I would say, "He snuck up behind me", not "he sneaked up behind me."

    I agree with you that it is not jocular or a non-standard form.
  3. LouisaB Senior Member

    English, UK
    Hi, Alex,

    I agree with the quotation. I certainly wouldn't personally consider 'snuck' as 'standard' BE. To be honest, I don't actually hear it a great deal, except perhaps in the phrase 'it just snuck up on me', which is (I suppose) jocular.

    I'm used to it in AE, of course, especially through television, but I don't think that's what you're asking.

  4. The Scrivener Banned

    On the "naughty step".
    England. English
    I found this in

  5. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    I think "snuck" has sneaked up on some British speakers unawares! It is certainly not BE in origin. As OED says it is chiefly N. American and informal. We have been hearing "snuck" on American TV and movies for a long time, some have started to use it, others including me, certainly have not.

    I rarely hear it used in BE and I am of the same opinion as the writer of the article quoted on the OP.

    "Dove" as the pp of to dive is a similar one.
  6. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. 1993.
  7. curly

    curly Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    I find the reverse to be true, I thought that sneaked was the less natural sounding of the two. That said I'd use either of them without thinking much of it. Although I do wonder if I count as a BE speaker.
  8. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Snuck gets a good mention in
    Dragged & Drug
    - post #12 onwards.

    I wonder is there an Irish influence at work here?
    Or possibly it's another example of the AE usage arriving first in Ireland.
    OED describes snuck as: chiefly U.S. pa. tense and pple. of SNEAK v.

  9. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    My experience is in line with Louisa's. Interesting that one or two of the vigorous past forms have emerged in recent decades. I thought we'd lost more than we'd gained. For instance Wordsworth in the Prelude says we clomb for we climbed and Milton uses it in PL.
  10. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    As a former Londoner I have never heard snuck except in films and even then mainly those involving cowboys or hillbillies. If I ever use this form instead of sneaked, it is for comic effect. In fact I think that those of the Home Counties, at least, (but not apparently Devonshire) use, "He crept up on me" instead possibly because, although correct, sneaked is not a very euphonic word.
  11. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Sorry Arrius but I don't know what you mean by "home counties" ?:cool:
  12. The Scrivener Banned

    On the "naughty step".
    England. English
    I would hardly call Devonshire one of the home counties, Alex Murphy. I have always understood them to be the counties close to London, such as Surrey, Essex, Hertfordshire and Hampshire.
  13. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Ah, so that's why I haven't heard of them:)
  14. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    The Home Counties are those English counties contiguous or near to Greater London i.e. Kent, Middlesex, Surrey, Essex and, sometimes, Hertfordshire and Sussex.
    Ciao, A.:)
    PS to the Scrivener. I never said that Devon was a Home County: I could have said instead "but not in Outer Mongolia" ( which obviously isn't one).
  15. lian.alon22 Senior Member

    Would this sentence be correct?

    "They snuck carefully to the back of the school."

    For some reason "snuck" feels wrong, would "sneaked" be better? I just think that that feels even more awkward! Does anyone have a suggestion?

    Thanks in advance.
  16. NickJunior Senior Member


    Lian, I think the sentence is grammatically correct. I don't know how it sounds naturally though. The past tense of sneak can be spelled as "sneaked" or "snuck". I did check it in the dictionary.

    Hope this helps.
  17. paul_vicmar

    paul_vicmar Senior Member

    Asturias, Spain
    English, UK
    I do not have a problem with "snuck", perhaps a little infantile, for kids stories etc. If you do not like it you could use "crept"
  18. lian.alon22 Senior Member

    Oh, I like that, thank you paul! Thanks to everyone else, too.
  19. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    English English
    NEWSFLASH, a day late: It's official ~ snuck is now Queen's English. Well, maybe not Queen's English as such, but BBC English.
    Mr.Andrew Harding (correspondent, as British as it's possible to be) reporting on the BBC's Ten O'Clock News last night, 21st July 2008 [N.B. the BBC are banned from entering Zimbabwe]:
    We were in Zimbabwe just yesterday ~ we snuck in [blah blah blah]

    I'm pleased to report that Civilization did not collapse when this utterance was (erm) uttered.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2008
  20. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Good spot!
  21. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Ah, but, ewiño, could it not be that said journalist has been spending rather a lot of time with Our American Cousins?

    That "just yesterday" seems suspiciously AmE to me....
  22. Full Tilt Boogie Senior Member

    Manchester, UK
    British English
    Just I as I never use 'dove' as a past participle of dive (I used 'dived'), I never use 'snuck' and always use sneaked.
  23. Full Tilt Boogie Senior Member

    Manchester, UK
    British English
    Official? Nothing like mate ;)

    With respect, that may prove that Mr Harding lapses into using 'snuck' - but it in no way indicates that it is sanctioned "BBC English".

    The BBC used to have an entire department dedicated to advising/instructing all its reporters, journalists and broadcasters (TV & radio) on the correct pronunciations of words from all over the world (not just English); alas the department no longer exists; as Mr Harding's slip would indicate.
  24. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Do you really think so, I think it sounds normal, by the way what is your view on the "sneaked/snuck" issue Loob?
  25. branchsnapper Member

    English - South England
    A journalist talking about his escapades is not at his most formal. I think most (not all) British speakers would avoid it in formal written English. (I'm East Anglian).
  26. gasman Senior Member

    Canada, English
    I only remember "snuck" as a term used by very small children, who would be repeatedly told it was a non-word.
  27. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Moi personnellement, I think snuck is not yet BrE.

    Give us another 5 years, and we'll be corrupted converted.
  28. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Hmm, I think it sounds fine, maybe it's just cos I've grown up with it (since it is apparently new) and I haven't known it to just appear and sound a bit odd.
  29. estefanos Senior Member

    English - USA
    I just stumbled upon this interesting thread. I realize it's focus is BE usage, but feel compelled to respond to this comment:

    Snuck and dove may well be AE, but I think it's a stretch to say they're informal. From an AE perspective, I think the quote (post #4) has it right. Sneak, and dive, are considered irregular verbs in AE, and are taught as such in schools. Hardly informal.
  30. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Are we sure that "snuck" is AE though?
  31. estefanos Senior Member

    English - USA
    It's the normal AE usage, but I don't know anything about it's origin. The question never before occurred to me. I surely didn't mean to imply that it's exclusively AE; I simply don't know.
  32. MarcB Senior Member

    US English
    I just want to add that sneaked is a regional AE usage and snuck is the majority usage.
  33. branchsnapper Member

    English - South England
    Which region?
  34. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    English English
    I wasn't saying [in post #15] that this word had received the 'official sanction' of the BBC ~ that we'll never more hear sneaked from their mouths.


    This was not a live piece-to-camera: it was a pre-recorded report with voice-over. Someone at BBC news had (presumably) already seen it and allowed the usage of snuck to stand.
  35. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    I think, in any case, the British tend to use creep instead of sneak, as in the well-known alliterative sentence:
    "The cat crept into the crypt, cr****d and crept out again". We certainly do say "snuck" sometimes, but only for comic effect, though I cannot speak for the youth..
  36. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    U.K. English
    It's interesting to note that the examples provided for the use of snuck are both phrasal verbs - "snuck up" and "snuck in". I'm familiar with "snuck" in these cases; it doesn't sound odd and I might even use it, but I think it would be informal spoken English. On the other hand, for me, "I sneaked a look at his homework" sounds better and more idiomatic than "I snuck a look at his homework".

    There are several other examples of verbs with two past participles which seem to co-exist reasonably peacefully: showed/shown, dreamed/dreamt, learned/learnt...
  37. banalstory Member

    Paris, France
    English - American
    If I may, I would actually suggest that as far as its origins in the US, "snuck," and such is a Germanic influence of strong/weak verb changes...possibly transliterated from the many German immigrant populations who came to the United States (settling especially in the Mid-West, where, personally, I've grown up with "snuck") .

    Not incredibly scientific, but a hunch :)
  38. katie_here Senior Member

    I agree wholeheartedly with this post.

    I think the programme "Friends" has a lot to answer for for non standard words getting into the BE vocabulary, especially the statement "It's so not fair or it so isn't... but that's a subject for another thread.
  39. Full Tilt Boogie Senior Member

    Manchester, UK
    British English
    'Allowed' possibly - although more probably ignored, and put through on-the-nod by a producer who is a member of the current crop of illiterati running the BBC and who should have known better. One wonders whether the same producer might have ignored the same reportage had the presenter used 'drug' for draggged?
  40. Jagtig New Member

    If you're not proud of what you did, then you say "snuck."

    If you're proud of what you did, then you use the the participle, "sneaked."

    "I snuck up on the guy, and let him have it in the back."

    "We were thrown out by a creepy doorman. However, we just sneaked right back in, found the manager, complained and the doorman, who was really a pimp, lost his job."
  41. Æsop Banned

    Suburb of Washington, D.C.
    English--American (upstate NY)
    The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition (1985), lists "snuck" as "Nonstandard. A past tense and past participle of sneak." It's heard and used, but it's informal, slang, or just uneducated or illiterate. AHD did not have enough doubt about this to refer it to Usage Panel of writers, linguists, and other language commentators that it consults in questionable cases.
  42. Æsop Banned

    Suburb of Washington, D.C.
    English--American (upstate NY)
    OK, it might be "chiefly US" but it is chiefly substandard US--in England, even dummies don't use it, but in America, they do (and we certainly have a lot of them, don't we?).

    Unless it is an old form that survived in pockets such as Appalachia or other rural communities and has recently re-emerged--and that does not seem to be the case--I can't imagine where this came from. Uneducated people (or incompletely educated ones, such as children) sometimes assume nonstandard patterns by analogy. "Dove" has been mentioned and it presumably developed by analogy to drive/drove; but although I've heard (and probably used) "dove," I don't think I've ever encountered "has diven." The uneducated/childish pattern bring/brang/brung, by analogy to ring/rang/rung and the other -i-/-a-/-u- strong English verbs (sing, swim, sink, stink, etc.) is another example. But I can't think of anything that "sneak/snuck/snuck" could be patterned after, either by spelling or sound:
    speak/spoke/spoken --> *sneak/snoke/snoken
    seek/sought/sought --> *sneak/snought/snought
    creep/crept/crept, sleep/slept/slept, deal/delt/delt, leave/left/left (weak, not strong, verbs) --> *sneak/snekt/snekt
    Other "-ee-" verbs (however the "long e" sound is now spelled) have always or long used the --/-ed/-ed pattern: peek, reek, shriek, leak.

    The only -k/-uck/? pattern that I can think of is stick/stuck/stuck.

    Any information, ideas, or speculation?
  43. KHS

    KHS Senior Member

    I will simply say that I grew up in the American MidWest, and had earned my BA in American literature with a minor in languages and done my graduate work in linguistics when I discovered, while teaching an ESL grammar class (because of the textbook), that "snuck" was not considered the *only* form of simple past for sneak.

    By the way, the thread that bibliolept mentions is very useful.
  44. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    Snuck is commonly used as the past tense of sneak, but be aware that unpleasant persons of a prescriptive bent (of whom I am definitely one) consider it to be ugly-sounding, ignorant, and barbarous, and on the same level as using "brung" as the past tense of "bring".
  45. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    We are not alone!!!

    Though in some phrases I wouldn't question it, but would think weirdly about 'sneaked' (I know!! what backup can I be)...

    But I started this thread in 2007, and almost 2 years later I'm glad to see it's still alive...

    Well he went and sneaked up on her while she was talking:tick:
    Well he went and snuck up on *vomits*:cross:

    Couldn't even continue typing that, it felt so wrong...

    But.... 'the deadline just snuck up on me'... sounds so so SO much less correct than 'the deadline just sneaked up on me'...

    I don't have ANY explanations, hopefully someone less absolutely sloshed can explain it tomorrow!
  46. mplsray Senior Member

    Your information is old. A more current consideration of snuck by the AHD can be found here:
  47. Æsop Banned

    Suburb of Washington, D.C.
    English--American (upstate NY)
    It's not a major shift; three years later (but 20 years ago) they finally asked their usage panel, which was 2-1 against it. The latest discussion acknowledges its use by educated American speakers and use by some well-regarded writers but is clearly uneasy about it or finds it distasteful. AHD is a more conservative and prescriptive dictionary than the "if anyone actually uses it that way, it is correct, there are no standards" type. It might be widely used in speech but still be avoided by most careful writers.
  48. mplsray Senior Member

    If they actually considered it nonstandard, I have no doubt that they would label it "nonstandard," as they do, for example, with ain't and irregardless. As for the AHD being particularly prescriptive, that was intended when it was first published--it was, in fact, created as a direct reaction to Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary--but it certainly isn't true anymore. Its editors views on usage are quite close to those of the editors of the Collegiate dictionaries at Merriam-Webster. (To give just one example of this, the AHD presents miniscule as a variant of minuscule without comment.)
  49. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    English English
    I'm sure all your fellow countrymen who routinely use snuck (including the ones who have answered in this thread) will be just thrilled to see themselves branded 'uneducated or illiterate', Æsop:)
  50. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    I couldn't find any use of 'snuck' in serious literature in English prior to about 1940, except in the works of Ring Lardner, a name new to me.

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