In having a conversation with some friends, I noted that I decided at one point to forgo an option that I had at hand. Since I was speaking in the past, I had to put it in the correct tense. I knew the word "forgo", and had heard about "forgone" conclusions, but had never seen "forgo" in the past tense. Being a native English speaker, I paused for a split second to take a stab at the best option which seemed to fit, and therefore explained that I had "...forwent" the option. A quick check in the dictionary later showed that my instincts were correct. (Little happy dance here).

That would have been the end of it, except that sometime later I was watching a report on skydiving, mentioning that some of the participants "skydived" a few times in the past.

Now I was confused. Skydived? Why not "skydove"? Makes perfect sense. I know that "dived" is a valid past tense alternate, but "dove" is certainly the more preferred usage as a simple past. It seems to me that here we do not use the formula of [for] + [go, p.t.] = [forwent]. It is being conjugated not as [sky] + [dive, p.t.] = skydove, but instead that [skydive] has become inseparable and should therefore be conjugated as "skydived."

The first part of my question is: what determines the rules as to whether one should be conjugating the compound as a single word (most likely with +ed), or if the verb part should be separated and conjugated by itself?

The second part is to ask if people can come up with additional examples of other such compound words, some where the verb is conjugated separately and others where the compound has made its way into the language as an inseparable case?

Much obliged, Questor

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    Because dove is a newly irregular verb, and many people, including nearly all English speakers not in the U.S., still use dived? Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 22:49
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    (1) Usage, pure and simple. (2) Mark Liberman discusses Systematic Irregularisation (of compounds) at Language Log. (3) I'd say 'He sped along the motorway' but 'he speeded up'. I'd also never use 'dove' (this is probably a US / UK thing). Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 23:01
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    What else would you call it, 'tree pigeon'?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 23:19
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    Edwin Ashworth, it must be a US/UK thing. In England and the rest of the UK, people do not use "dove" when talking about diving, in the past. They normally use the word dived.
    – Tristan r
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 23:23
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    See also english.stackexchange.com/q/3060/8019 Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 0:20

1 Answer 1


Both dived and dove are standard as the past tense of dive.

Dived, historically the older form, is somewhat more common in edited writing, but dove occurs there so frequently that it also must be considered standard:

The rescuer dove into 20 feet of icy water.

Dove is an Americanism that probably developed by analogy with alternations like drive, drove and ride, rode.


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