Is ‘burnt’ acceptable as the past tense of ‘burn’?

Both burn And on fire are acceptable forms burn. Both words can be used as adjectives, such as “burnt toast” or “burned toast,” and both are acceptable in the past tense, although “burned” is more common in American English.

burn, on fire: which right?

The answer is yes.

If you are describing things—that is, using the past participle of burn as an adjective—you will most likely find that on fire Better sound for your ears. fire road And burnt smellfor example, both are significantly more common in published, edited text than burn sugar or burnt toast To be. (On fire also feature in color name burnt black brown And sienna is burnt.

on fire

‘Burned’ is the regular past tense of ‘burn’, but ‘burned’ is common in many contexts when the past participle is used as an adjective (“burnt toast”). Both are acceptable forms.

But if you are using the past tense of burn as a verb ho-hum, perhaps talking about toast that you just toasted, burn may be your choice. Unless you’re a British English speaker or have binge-watched “Sherlock”. In American English, burn usually the past.

Normal or not, though, both on fire And burn are acceptable forms.

By the way, there was a time when Petroleum is a legal past tense too. That form seems to have peaked in the 1500s, but if you want to bring it into the conversation just for fun, we’re not criticizing.

Categories: Usage Notes

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