I've got a document I'm reading, written by a co-worker. I know the co-worker in question grew up in the same Oklahoma town I did, although a slightly different part, and 15 years later. So while we both speak essentially the same dialect, there could be some nuances of dialect we have different.

Anyway, this document is otherwise very well-written, except for one thing that is just bugging the heck out of me: He uses the word "ran" instead of "run" in past participles. This isn't a one-off. It was bothering me enough that I decided to "fix" it, and so far I'm about halfway through and have fixed more than a dozen occurrences.

Clearly this is no accident, but rather how he feels the word is properly used. It also occurs to me that I've occasionally heard other people around here make this same "mistake" in conversation. So I'm wondering if there is some dialect, or perhaps generational thing going on here. If that's the case, perhaps I shouldn't be presuming to "fix" it.

Here's a couple of examples:

...the target architecture required for the element to be ran.

If not defined, the element will be ran regardless of system architecture.

...element is always ran.

  • This is not unusual in the US Northeast, but I don't know about Oklahoma, especially what with the bit about both of you speaking the same dialect. Did your co-worker move to NJ or Long Island at some point?
    – RegDwigнt
    Feb 5, 2014 at 16:40
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    Does this mean we should look upon slippages from oral to written forms such as 'I apologise for the inconvenience I of coursed you' to appear in standard forms? If it's a standard form document, it's clearly wrong. If it's a novel, in which the use of local colour is justified, no problem. Feb 5, 2014 at 16:40
  • @RegDwigнt - Well, he was in the Army for several years, so who knows what influence he had there. Also, we are a fairly mobile folk here in the USA, so he could easily have relatives (even a parent or two) from that part of the country. I worked in Camden, NJ for a few years myself, so that might be where I'd heard it before.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 5, 2014 at 16:48
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    @LeonConrad - I think I have to agree. This thing has to be readable by all kinds of folks, so it is still in need of fixing. However, I don't want to be too much of a jerk when I explain the fix to him at least. IOW, the problem might not be that it is "wrong", so much as it is dialectical.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 5, 2014 at 16:52
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    Actually, we have a dedicated tag for this (with a rather cryptic name, better suggestions always welcome), which I've now added to this question as well. Have a look.
    – RegDwigнt
    Feb 5, 2014 at 18:07

3 Answers 3


Being such an old and such a common word, there is a great many regional, colloquial and occasionally idiosyncratic forms of run and ran found.

Of these forms, using ran as the past participle is relatively common, and has been found in many regions and has turned up as such for centuries.

So as a dialect use, it's of long standing. But then, so is runned and ranned which we would generally avoid in formal English too.

It's not standard English, and should hence be avoided in places where standard English is appropriate.

  • 2
    Certainly not standard English... it would be considered incorrect and uneducated everywhere I know.
    – Noldorin
    Feb 5, 2014 at 17:13
  • @Noldorin the Earl of Monmouth's translation of Boccalini is generally not considered uneducated, but then he also used runne in his translation of Biondi. I wouldn't deem to call those current dialects that use it incorrect and certainly not uneducated; no doubt many who use it in everyday speech are well aware of the distinction, having the education necessary to switch to standard English at times when it suits to do so.
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 5, 2014 at 17:18
  • I think was quite clearly implicit in my comment that I was referring to modern English, as it's used today, and not archaic varieties. :P We all know that English in the 16th century had far from standardised spelling or even grammar, and variants were acceptable. The fact remains, you will be judged as ill-educated if you use "ran" as a past participle nowadays.
    – Noldorin
    Feb 5, 2014 at 18:44
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    @noldorin, in a more formal context, sure, but in an informal context I'd be more likely to consider someone critical of dialectical English as uneducated, than someone using it.
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 5, 2014 at 18:58
  • Dialectical? I think you're being too generous, but alright, I'll accept that it's commonly used in certain dialects. (Not any I've encountered, but still.) English may not have an official body to standard the language, but it does have a de facto standard. If it would jar the average reader of English when written, I would consider it wrong. As it would indeed jar me.
    – Noldorin
    Feb 6, 2014 at 3:30

This is normal usage in several regions of England, including Manchester where I grew up. I only really figured out what my English teachers were complaining about in my writing when I went to study teaching English as a foreign language. Many dialects alternate between the past simple and past participle in their respective positions. The past participle almost doesn't exist in several dialects, except as an adjective. If the document in question is for official public use, by all means correct it to suit standard norms.


I was born in the UK in the 70's and I've always known the past participle of run to be ran. I've recently been corrected after moving away from my home region for the first time, but it still 'feels' wrong in my mouth. Dialetical differences are not something to be casually cast aside and considered ignorant. To do so is the very height of ignorance itself as we know English is an evolving language. Know ones target audience, as the original poster does, and make a change if necessary. As you were.

  • run---ran---run Thus the PP is "run" as in "Have you ever run a marathon?" "Ran" is the simple past Standard English is respecting your target audience, you can make the language more or less formal, be more or less verbose, use more Germanic loanwords than Latin but the grammar should stay the same.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 2, 2018 at 14:32
  • Had occasion to come back to this question, and saw this had been (IMHO unfairly) downvoted. I asked this question motivated out of a desire to be respectful to differences in dialect, so answers in that vein should not be voted down merely for taking me up on that.
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 14, 2020 at 13:29

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