Feb 20 – pled vs. pleaded

Ok, I know language changes over time. I know I should just be flexible and not let the changes bother me too much. But when reporters on NPR use “pleaded” as the past tense of “plead” it sounds as awkward to me as if they are saying “He writed a good book”.

What sounds better to you?

He pled guilty.

He pleaded guilty.

I’ll admit that I have a weakness for strong verbs (“those which mark their past tense by means of changes to the stem vowel”)*. For example: write, wrote; run, ran; sing, sang; plead, pled. I worry that they’ll go extinct because we’re not making any more of them. All newly-coined verbs are weak — that is, they take regular endings to change tenses: google, googled; text, texted; type, typed.

Here’s a list of English irregular verbs (not all irregular verbs are strong, but all strong verbs are irregular). Use them, love them, don’t let them die!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_irregular_verbs

*for more on strong verbs in Germanic languages, of which English is one, see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germanic_strong_verb

Category: Blog 12 comments »

12 Responses to “Feb 20 – pled vs. pleaded”

  1. Mahdi Alyusuf

    Thank you so much for your recordings on LibriVox.org!

    I love your reading. Since I am not a native English speaker, I really appreciate how naturally your voice turns into clear words! It is a pleasure!

    Sorry for writing this comment here, but I just wanted you to read it as soon as possible.

    Best Regards,
    Mahdi Alyusuf,
    Bahrain (Tiny island in the Persian Gulf, the smallest Arab country)

  2. Ms H

    I love strong verbs too! But “plead” is a weak verb, it just happen to have developed an irregular past tense. According to Collins, it’s primarily used in the US and, for some reason, in Scottish English. The irregularity comes from assimilation and reduction of the past tense suffix -ed (mentioned in the Wiki article you linked about irregular verbs). So, while all strong verbs are irregular, not all weak ones are regular. =)

    Looking at Google’s ngram viewer/corpus search, “pleaded” is far more common, even back to the 1500s (and back then, the hits for “pled” are mostly OCR errors for other words, like “people”, “pledge” etc.)
    http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=pled%2Cpleaded&year_start=1500&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=4&share=

    Perhaps you have Scottish ancestry? ;D

  3. kara

    Very interesting, Ms H! It’s odd that “pleaded” sounds so awful to me, since I’ve always read mostly English authors.

    “plead (third-person singular simple present pleads, present participle pleading, simple past and past participle pled (North America, Scotland) or pleaded (England))”

    I guess North American newscasters are adopting the English usage here. I guess I’ll just have to get used to it.

    I’m glad we are united in our love of strong verbs! :)

  4. kara

    Thank you so much for the sweet comment, Mahdi! I’m so glad you enjoy my recordings :)

  5. Jen

    I think that Ms. H is probably correct. However, I grew up reading British authors and “pled” sounds much better than “pleaded”. Just what you are used to, I suppose.

    By the way, I just finished your Librivox Emma and it was wonderful!

  6. Soozan

    I love that you are my soul mate with grammar. Pleaded is just horrible, and the general misuse of ‘less” when it should be “fewer” drives me batty. I will read your blog more often and get with the program! We should come up with some past tenses of new words that are stronger.
    love you so much from your auntie

  7. Sandy

    To a native Englishwoman, ‘pled’ sounds odd, like ‘dove’ instead of ‘dived’, which is something I’ve heard Americans say. Strange how our ears pick up on things.

  8. Saul Stokar

    I have just finished listening your reading of P.G. Wodehouse’s humerous novel “The Girl on the Boat”. The book is side-splittingly funny and your reading is excellent. Once I thought that Wodehouse only “works” when read with an “posh” English accent but this recording proves me wrong. Thanks for many hours of pleasure.

  9. Diana Minna

    I am with you about “pled” — “pleaded” sounds plain wrong to me. In that vein, this weekend I heard a skating commentator say that a competitor “shined.” I thought it should be “shone,” with “shined” reserved for shoes adn such, but I hear this more and more often so I suppose it is the shape of things to come.

  10. kara

    Ha, yes, the sun shone, her eyes shone, he shined his shoes.

  11. katar

    Among lawyers, “pleaded” is more common and considered correct. Early in my legal career my use of “pled” was quoted by an appellate justice with [sic] affixed, who used “pleaded” elsewhere in her written opinion. A few months ago I readed another article on this very question: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/is_it_pleaded_or_pled/

  12. Olga

    Thanks for your recordings on LibriVox.org.

    Olga (Moscow, Russia)


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