I have come across some American media (The Alternate History Hub youtube channel comes to mind) in which the perfect participle and the simple-past form have been merged.

For example, we would have:

  • "We've driven there before" -> "We've drove there before"
  • "I would've sunk" -> "I would've sank"
  • "I've swum that distance before" -> "I've swam that distance before"

As far as I can tell, the replacement of the perfect with the simple past is consistent in this dialect, rather than just applying to some verbs (Edit in response to commment: with perhaps the exception of "to be" - "I have was ill" sounds odd enough that it would have really stood out).

Is this a feature of some American dialects? If so then in which? How common is this feature?

Related question (@sumelic): Is the past participle becoming obsolete? (I have went)

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    It isn't a past participle. "Past participle" is just another name for "perfect participle". The forms here are all simple past tense forms of irregular verbs. With regular verbs like walk, merge, or publish, the simple past tense form is identical with the past participle form, and some idiolects (and some dialects) simply generalize the perfect construction to use the past tense form, since it's identical to the perfect participle in most cases. Viz: in He has often walked there, walked could be either past or perfect participle; you can't tell which one the speaker intends. Commented May 21, 2018 at 2:52
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    I'm not sure I agree with John Lawler's statement "It isn't a past participle". In any case, there is a very old tendency to level the past participle and past tense forms that has affected different dialects to greater or lesser degrees. Related question: Is the past participle becoming obsolete? (I have went)
    – herisson
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 3:02
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    In the UK, such constructions (I have drove I would have sank I have swam) do occur in various parts of the country but I have always assumed they are just incorrect uses of English and not dialectical.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 4:54
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    In some dialects, there are really alternate past participles that are the same as the past tense (like I've took). But it really does look like there are some people who use past tenses instead of past participles in present perfect. See Ngram. Commented May 21, 2018 at 13:58
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    And "I've threw" is so rare that it doesn't even show up on the Ngrams. (Although Googling finds plenty of examples.) Commented May 21, 2018 at 16:35

3 Answers 3


This is common in parts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Kentucky that I'm aware of. It's not exactly a regional dialect, as it's restricted to small towns, neighborhoods, or even individual families rather than an identifiable socio-geographical region. My theory is that this sort of dying-off of distinct word forms through replacement happens when speakers do not perceive any negative social pressure from peers regarding their lazy word usage. Usually this requires limited diversity in social interaction, which explains its persistence in rural and isolated areas. It's also possible with a particularly self-assured or easy-going culture. For instance:

Don't let nobody make ya feel less fer usin' yer words. If yer meaning's took, it don't make no never-mind.

To be clear, it is totally fine to speak this way in America. Anyone would understand, and most would not be surprised. The most common supposition people may make when hearing someone speak this way is that the speaker did not participate in formal education, but I've heard some of these idiosyncrasies persist in the speech of college graduates. Breaking a habit requires significant internal pressure.

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    It is totally fine to speak however you speak, in America and elsewhere. But you won't get a job on CNN talking like that, or at a university or ladeedah law firm, etc. etc. etc. It marks the speaker as being uneducated at some level.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 19:06
  • @Lambie, I think you'll find that the sectors of industry that bar entry to those of limited institutionalized education are of very little import. Academia has never produced anything other than intriguing argument. The effective application of functionally valuable knowledge is often completely independent of your ability to speak. On the other hand, my meaning was that the importance of speech is communication, and I find it unlikely that the particular brand of American dialect I was trying to illustrate would be understood in other English-speaking nations.
    – Zeal
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 4:07
  • Right, whatever. Those were just examples in my comment. A single speech feature cannot be used to say a person is speaking a dialect. Unfortunately, it does not matter what you think; it is the way of the world, as the playwright noted. In the US and elsewhere in other languages. The example you gave is indeed dialectal. It contains at least 7 features that make it so.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 12:32

This is happening in many places. I live in Southern California (LA metro area), and I hear it all the time. I work in a law office, and I hear licensed attorneys do it occasionally without blinking an eye. One day I even heard two attorneys say "saw" instead of "seen", as in "I've never saw that before". Those attorneys were born and raised in the Los Angeles metro area and had college-educated, English-speaking parents. (I am originally from northern Missouri, and I did not hear this from educated speakers while growing up.)

"drove" instead of "driven", "went" instead of "gone", "broke" instead of "broken", "ran" instead of "run" - that's just a small list of what I hear on a regular basis even from educated speakers in Los Angeles. If I see this error in a foreign language dub, I know the translator is from California. It's also very common to find the simple-past substitution in online forums and comments sections if you look for it, although it's obviously harder to pinpoint the contributor's region.

I believe that this is an inevitable change in the language that we can watch in real time as it occurs. The rule is easily internalized as it follows the regular verbs' pattern of using the same form for both the simple past and the past participle. As far as I can tell, American schools don't teach the formal conjugations of English verbs and tense/aspect combinations, so there isn't really a institution working to preserve those irregular past participles in the language.


As quite a few native speakers of English do not have to care about the fact that – in other languages – adjectives and past participles agree with nouns, they are not too good (or, shall we say... helpless!) at grammatical analysis!

They only need to worry about agreement between verb and subject, and even this proves a bit tricky for a lot of them in cases where the subject is not the word immediately before the verb, or – in a question – after the auxiliary verb.

French: Aucun de mes amis n'a de voiture. = English: None of my friends has/have (?) a car.

The verb 'have' should agree with 'none', singular (like 'every one of my friends'), not with 'my friends', plural.

Now, to the point: with regular verbs – and quite a few irregular verbs as well (think/thought/thought, meet/met/met, win/won/won, etc.) – the past simple is no different from the past participle; so, when you form the perfect tenses (have/has thought, had thought, will have thought, would have thought) it is NOT OBVIOUS that you are using the past participle of a verb and not its past simple, if you do not know or care about the difference! To some, learning the past simple of irregular verbs must seem work enough, so they let their past participle alone!

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