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?

  • Could you provide some more information on your spellchecker, since mine accepts both (and it is set to BrE)...
    – oerkelens
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 13:15
  • You must have an American spell-checker (even though these past tenses are used by a number of Americans, as well). Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 13:23

1 Answer 1


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
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 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
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 13:26
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    @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
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 13:29
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    @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 Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 13:31
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    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. Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 14:42

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