I think "speeded" may have been the appropriate past-tense form for "to speed" in the past, but I wonder if it is still considered the correct form. In spoken English, one usually hears "sped" to communicate the same past action.

This might also be the case with "dived" and "dove," as one rarely hears the former.

  • It is still accepted. General reference
    – mplungjan
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 8:36
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    In BrE, dove is not correct and dived is. I would only use speeded as a past-tense of speed where the meaning is "travel in excess of the speed limit". If it's simply "travel at speed", then I would prefer sped.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 8:45
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    Why the close votes?
    – Kris
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 11:43
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    @Matt: I think "speed" tends to have a past tense of "speeded" when it's transitive, and "sped" when intransitive. Compare Ngrams for "sped up the process" and "sped up the hill". This is why "has speeded up" is more common. Commented May 22, 2013 at 18:52
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    In fact, this is more or less what the ODO says for British English: use "speeded" for exceeding the speed limit, in the phrasal verb "speeded up", and when transitive; "sped" otherwise. (They don't say what the rule is in AmE. Personally, I'd say "sped up" for intransitive uses of the phrasal verb, but otherwise agree.) Commented May 22, 2013 at 19:33

3 Answers 3


The usage stats from the British National Corpus (BNC) and the Corpus of Contemporary American English look as follows:

               COCA     BNC

speeded.[v*]    259     149
sped.[v*]      1607     302

So sped is preferred over speeded on both sides of the pond, though considerably more so in the US. The interesting part is this, however:

               COCA     BNC

speeded up      178     139
sped up         324       8

That is, when it comes to the phrasal verb to speed up, the preference is not anywhere as strong in the US, and is outright reversed in the UK.

As to usage over time, the Corpus of Historical American English paints the following picture:

Usage of sped vs. speeded in American English from 1810 to 2000

(X axis: year, Y axis: incidences per million words.)

So sped has been preferred over speeded for as long as the corpus data goes back.

Generally speaking, irregular verbs tend to become regular over time, rather than the other way round, though the latter is not unheard of, either. However, the more heavily used an irregular verb is, the less likely it is to change. (That is true of other irregular words, too—for example, you won't see childs superseding children any time soon.)

Dived vs. dove has been discussed elsewhere on this site. See also these related questions:

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    There are other problems. He sped along the road is normal, but not *He sped, and now he'll pay the price. Speeded sounds wrong to me in both of these, but the past tense of speed in the automotive legal sense seems indeterminate right now, at least in American English. Commented May 22, 2013 at 14:04

The past participles (and past tenses) "speeded" and "sped" are used in different grammatical situations. When "speed" is an intransitive verb, the past tense is almost invariably "sped". When "speed" is a transitive verb, the past tense is usually "speeded" (although "sped" is being increasingly used in this situation).

Consider the Google Ngram for "speeded/sped down the road". It's almost always "sped". Now, compare the Google Ngram for "speeded/sped the process". It's usually "speeded", although "sped" is now becoming more common.

  • Interestingly, in the decade since you posted this answer, "sped the process" has pulled ahead of "speeded the process", confirming your suggestion that "sped" is also becoming increasingly permissible in the transitive form.
    – Jo Liss
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 9:56

"Speeded" and "sped" are both correct inflections of the verb "to speed". They both represent its past tense and past participle form. One thing I would say, though, is that if you choose to use one in a text, use that same variant throughout for consistency.

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    It may not always be possible or advisable to "use that same variant throughout for consistency," as they can be effectively used to convey different meanings or a better fit in different contexts. While they are both correct, they are not always exactly synonymous.
    – Kris
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 11:43
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    In fact, "sped" is almost always used when "speed" is an intransitive verb, but "speeded" is commonly used when "speed" is a transitive verb. (Similarly, no American would say "I shone my shoes", but Americans usually say "the sun shone" rather than "the sun shined".) Commented May 22, 2013 at 19:08
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    Why is consistency a virtue?
    – herisson
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 2:06

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