Usage Bite: Is It Pleaded or Pled?

Which is correct?

Should It Be Pleaded or Pled?

Watching a news program recently on PBS, I heard two different narrators give two different past tense renderings of the legal term “plead”—as in “What do you plead to these charges?” A female reporter said the congressman “pleaded” not guilty. In an unrelated story a male reporter said a defendant “pled” not guilty. Why the different words? Which is the preferred usage?

I don’t recall the nationality of the two reporters, but I do know that speakers of British English consider plead to be a regular verb* and therefore will use the regular past tense, pleaded. In American English, the irregular verb form pled is considered to be an informal but acceptable usage.

The call is yours to make. If I were writing a formal essay or letter, I would use the almost universally accepted standard form pleaded.

*As you will recall, a verb is “regular” when its past or past participle is formed by adding -d or -ed. Most verbs are regular.

If this post has been at all interesting or helpful to you, please let me know by liking it or writing a comment. Also feel free to share with someone who might appreciate it. Thank you!

Author: Dean Christensen

Educator, copyeditor, writer, baseball bug, word lover, book hound, guitar picker, classical music aficionado, classic rock 'n' roll and movie buff, sinner, saint, former this, used-to-be that, and future who-knows-what. Every day is an adventure in learning how to make the world a better place--grammatically, anyway.

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