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strove or strived?

April 30, 2012

Here’s another curiosity about Mark Malloch-Brown’s book, The Unfinished Global Revolution – he uses the past tense strived rather than the traditional strove. I am guessing that this is an American usage, given his penchant for Americanisms; similarly the standard American past tense for shine seems to be shined, rather than the British shone. On the other hand, Americans still use dove as the past of dive, whereas we’ve gone over to dived. In all these cases, the irregular or mutated past form is the older form. Over time the mutated form can get overridden by the regular -ed form, especially if it’s a word not that commonly used (I’ve seen strided instead of strode, too.)

Interestingly, this pull towards the regular form is seen in the speech of very young children, when they first learn to speak English. They’re likely to come up with forms like catched, hitted, putted etc that they’ve never actually heard. They’re seeking to apply a rule. I used to think this odd, given that so many of the most important verbs, the ones they learn first, are irregular – be, have, do, put, make, do eat, drink, sleep… – where are they deriving the regular form from? I suppose the explanation is that the irregular verbs don’t exhibit any one pattern; whereas the regular verbs, though perhaps less slightly commonly used, do (walked, talked, worked, played, loved, hated etc).

They learn most of the exceptions in a very few years, but it’s interesting that the gravitational pull towards regular forms continues, though much more slowly, in adult language too. I’ve noticed sped being increasingly replaced by speeded, for instance, though I don’t know if that one is happening on both sides of the Atlantic. Perhaps in a few hundred years all English verb forms will be regular, which would certainly make the language easier to learn for foreigners.

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