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Dreamed or Dreamt?

Some people say to use dreamed in American English and dreamt in British English, but it's not that simple. Here's how these two words are really used.

By
Mignon Fogarty,
February 11, 2015

dreamed or dreamt

A few years ago, a man named D. Chap wrote in and said, “I was thinking about the words dreamed and dreamt. I've heard it used both ways and I've seen it written both ways, but it doesn't make a lot of sense to me about what the proper usage would be if there is one. You don't say creamt when you're trying to say creamed, or the same thing with gleamed and gleamt; you never hear those. So I was wondering what the proper usage was for dreamed versus dreamt.”

The reason he is confused is that dreamed and dreamt are both allowable past tense forms of the verb dream.

Dreamt is often described as the British version of the word (1, 2, 3), however, a Google Books Ngram search shows that dreamed is more common than dreamt in both British and American English. Still, dreamt is on more equal footing in Britain than in America:

People use dreamed about 2.5 times more often than dreamt in British English, but about 7 times more often than dreamt in American English.

British English search for dreamed and dreamt.

American English search for dreamed and dreamt.

You can use whichever word you prefer, but dreamed will probably be less distracting to your readers.

References

1. Brians, P. Common Errors in English Usage. Wilsonville: William, James & Co., 2003, p. 68.

2.  Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1994, p. 371.

3. Garner, B. Garner's Modern American Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 274.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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