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I occasionally see the participle "proven" in mathematical texts, instead of "proved".
Of course I realize that this a deliberate archaism, but I wanted to know if this is still used in books or articles in the USA, and whether a young American would find the form proven odd in 2012.

(I'm asking because I have a not completely finished project for an article that would end with: we have thus proven that the zeros of the zeta function are on the line...)

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While I can't specifically comment on Americans, it certainly appears from context that you are using the word in a mathematical or scientific context, where it would not be out of place in modern usage. If you wanted to avoid the word, you could use "demonstrated" instead. – Christi May 20 '12 at 20:11
When caught making mischief, every American schoolchild will declare s/he is "innocent until proven guilty," so even if "proven" has fallen out of use in specific contexts, it is far from foreign to any generation. – choster May 20 '12 at 20:26
Excellent example @choster, thanks. – Georges Elencwajg May 20 '12 at 20:30
MW (AmE): "Surveys made some 50 or 60 years ago indicated that proved was about four times as frequent as proven. But our evidence from the last 30 or 35 years shows this no longer to be the case. As a past participle proven is now about as frequent as proved in all contexts." That's re: your "archaism". merriam-webster.com/dictionary/proven – Alex B. May 20 '12 at 20:41
@GeorgesElencwajg Fair enough, but you do know that large chunks of English have their origins in medieval French? We foolishly got conquered by the Duke of Normandy, and the language never really recovered. :) – Christi May 20 '12 at 20:52
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Some folks use proven in both the past participle and adjective alike, while others reserve that form to adjectival use and instead use proved only as the verb. Here’s such a distinction:

  • He hadn’t yet proved it.
  • Is that a proven fact?

I don’t think that either would raise an eyebrow. Or rather, you could alternately use proven in the first case above, but you could not use proved in the second one. At least, that’s what my ear tells me.

Also, I believe the verdict in Scots law is not proven, not not proved.


As of 2007, the OED3 reports of proven adj.:

This is the usual form in Scottish English (as opposed to proved adj.), and also the preferred form in current North American English. It is now also more frequent than proved adj. in British English.

Its tale under prove v. is much, much longer; I can give only an excerpt here.

Pronunciation: Brit. /pruːv/, U.S. /pruv/
Inflections: Past participle proved, proven.

The past participle proven, originally Scots and the usual form in Scottish English, developed from the β forms by analogy with strong verbs like cloven, past participle of cleave v.1, woven, past participle of weave v.1 It is at least as common as proved in current North American English. It is also spreading into other varieties of English, in which the highest proportion of occurrences appears to occur in the past and perfect passive. Compare proven adj., proved adj.

So I really do not think that proven should be considered a deliberate archaism, insofar as in some parts of English it has always had a strong presence, and it seems now to be spreading even to regions where it previously did not hold sway. At least that’s my reading of the OED note above.

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Thanks @tchrist: nice to find you here too. And +1, of course. – Georges Elencwajg May 20 '12 at 20:39
@GeorgesElencwajg You’re welcome. And did you already know I was (something of) a francophone, or was yesterday’s comment just a random stab in the dark? – tchrist May 20 '12 at 20:44
Dear @tchrist, no, I had no idea: le monde est petit! By the way, I have just erased two of my comments about the plural of family names in -y: they were clearly the result of a misunderstanding! – Georges Elencwajg May 20 '12 at 20:59
@GeorgesElencwajg Check out my OED additions to my answer. On languages, I’m fluent in Spanish (have lived and worked in Spain, have a degree in Spanish), and studied French as my obligatory 3rd language. I’ve briefly worked in France, Belgium, la Suisse Romande, and Québec, but never lived there so haven’t really ever gotten the fluency up. – tchrist May 20 '12 at 21:09
Dear @tchrist, I'm going from surprise to surprise: not only is proven not archaic, but it is spreading! (And, on a more personal level, for what was French obligatory?) – Georges Elencwajg May 20 '12 at 21:44

proved, proven. (copypasted)

"The two forms relate to two different verbs derived from Old French prover (ultimately from Latin probare). In standard BrE, proved is the normal past tense and past participle of the verb prove (They proved their point / Their point was proved). Proven survived as a past participle in dialect use and is current in the Scottish legal term not proven (usually pronounced proh-ven) and occasionally in general use in Britain generally (pronounced proo-ven), especially in attributive position (i.e. before a noun):

His love of precise dates and proven facts—N. Shakespeare, 1989.

In AmE, proven is at least as common as proved both as a past tense *[? - Alex B.]*and as a past participle."

"proved" Pocket Fowler's Modern English Usage. Ed. Robert Allen. Oxford University Press, 2008. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.

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+1 for source, and also for the "not proven" point, which I was itching to make. – Christi May 20 '12 at 20:55
Thanks a lot, Alex: I would never have guessed that proven is at least as common as proved in the USA. – Georges Elencwajg May 21 '12 at 9:37
I don't believe that proven is at all common as a past tense; "I proven the theorem yesterday" sounds completely wrong. As a past participle, though, it seems tied with proved right now; see Ngram. – Peter Shor Aug 24 '14 at 11:04
@PeterShor, I myself am quite baffled as to how to interpret that statement - hence a question mark in brackets [? - Alex B.]. – Alex B. Sep 8 '14 at 21:34

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