2

Often when I am writing emails or any other documents, I would like to use the irregular forms of dream (dreamt) or learn (learnt). But the computer spellcheckers always underline these words as being “wrong”, including right now on this very question that I am writing !

However, I know I have seen the words before. Don't know where, but surely I don’t have a habit of making up words of my own. Also, I believe that checking the Using English website confirms that the words do exist and should be correct?

Can someone please clear up what this is all about, and why (some?) spellchecking software treats dreamt and learnt as incorrect?

marked as duplicate by tchrist, user66974, choster, Hellion, FumbleFingers Jul 29 '14 at 22:03

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • Could you provide some more information on your spellchecker, since mine accepts both (and it is set to BrE)... – oerkelens Jul 29 '14 at 13:15
  • You must have an American spell-checker (even though these past tenses are used by a number of Americans, as well). – Peter Shor Jul 29 '14 at 13:23
3

According to this article at Oxford Dictionaries online, there is a difference between the spelling in American and British English:

These are alternative forms of the past tense and past participle of the verb learn. ‘Learnt’ is more common in British English, and ‘learned’ in American English. There are a number of verbs of this type (burn, dream, kneel, lean, leap, spell, spill, spoil etc.). They are all irregular verbs, and this is a part of their irregularity.

So you may want to check which dialect of English your spellchecker is using.

  • 1
    Something still smells fishy. Dreamt is perfectly common even in North American English. And I don’t get any red squiggles under learnt when I use it, even though my settings are configured for cisatlantic English usage. – tchrist Jul 29 '14 at 13:12
  • 1
    @tchrist - With me (and many others) not being native English speaker(s), it shouldn't be hard to understand why a dodgy program can place doubt over oneself =) – James C Jul 29 '14 at 13:26
  • 1
    @ElliottFrisch I find your “Shakespeare theory” summarily unlikely, given that never once did the Bard pen the word undreamt anywhere that we know of. He did, however, quite notably write in Act IV Scene 4 of The Winter’s Tale the following: “A cause more promising / Than a wild dedication of yourselves / To unpath’d waters, undream’d shores, most certain / To miseries enough; no hope to help you, / But as you shake off one to take another;” — so I don’t have any idea why you mentioned him. – tchrist Jul 29 '14 at 13:29
  • 1
    @tchrist There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. - Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio – Elliott Frisch Jul 29 '14 at 13:31
  • 1
    The bard was not alone. Nobody cared for speling. Spelling was as individual and variable as handwriting. Standard spelling didn't become a mass memorization scheme until much later. Now we use it as a class marker. – John Lawler Jul 29 '14 at 14:42

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.