Dreamed vs. dreamt?

Dreamed and dreamt are both past tense forms of the verb dream. The main difference is that “dreamt” is irregular and slightly more relevant for British English.

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What is the difference between dreamed and dreamt?

Dreamed and dreamt are both past tense forms of the verb dream. The main difference between the two is that “dreamt” is the irregular past tense form, while “dreamed” is the regular past tense form. 

What are regular and irregular verbs?

Regular verbs are verbs that follow predictable patterns for their past and present participle forms, such as by: 

  • Adding an -s, -es, or -ies for verbs in the third person present tense.
  • Adding an -ed for third-person singular past tense verbs and past participles. 
  • Adding -ing for present participles. 

Examples of regular verbs include words like “love,” “gift,” and “kiss” because they follow standard verb patterns. For example:

VerbThird-person singular present tenseThird-person singular past tensePast participlePresent participle
LoveLovesLovedLovedLoving
GiftGiftsGiftedGiftedGifting
KissKissesKissedKissedKissing

Irregular verbs

Irregular verbs don’t follow a standard set of rules, and we generally have to memorize their verb forms. Let’s take a look at a few irregular verbs and their subsequent forms. 

VerbThird-person singular present tenseThird-person singular past tensePast participlePresent participle
SpeakSpeaksSpokeSpokeSpeaking
ThinkThinksThoughtThoughtThinking
FeelFeelsFeltFeltFeeling
Read ReadsReadReadReading

What’s the deal with words that end with -t?

Often, we encounter English terms that are regular and irregular, depending on where you live. The Word Counter covered similar instances for lessons such as “learnt vs. learned” or “while vs. whilst,” where the term ending with -t is generally favored by British English. 

This isn’t the case for every word that ends with -t, as both British and American English uses “slept,” “crept,” “wept,” or “kept” as standard past participles. But when there is a preference of -t verbs between the United States and England, they typically involve terms like:

  • Smell: smelled (US), smelt (UK)
  • Burn: burned (US), burnt (UK)
  • Kneel: kneeled (US), knelt (UK)
  • Spell: spelled (US), spelt (UK)
  • Leap: leaped (US), leapt (UK)
  • Spoil: spoiled (US), spoilt (UK)
  • Lean: leaned (US), leant (UK)

Among the long list of irregular -t verbs are “dreamed” and “dreamt,” where “dreamed” is the common form in the US and “dreamt” is slightly more likely to appear in England. 

However, it’s important to know that verbs like “dreamt,” “smelt,” “burnt,” and “spoilt” are losing their popularity with British English every year. This is especially true for the verb “leant,” which is nearly obsolete compared to “learned.” 

How common is dreamt compared to dreamed?

According to Google Books’ Ngram Viewer, American and British English has generally favored “dreamed” over “dreamt” since 1500. Sure, “dreamt” had a moment in English literature between 1635–1816, but it’s popularity has not reached the same levels as “dreamed” since then.

Is it incorrect to use dreamt instead of dreamed?

While “dreamed” is the dominant spelling for British and American English, you’re welcome to use dreamt to your heart’s desire. The only potential issue is that “dreamt” is less common than “dreamed,” so your audience might assume it’s a spelling error. 

What does dream mean?

According to The New Oxford English Dictionary, the noun dream is a “series of thoughts, images, and sensations” that occur in one’s mind during sleep. However, we can also define a dream as a state of mindlessness (i.e., daydreams), a cherished aspiration or fantasy, or even “a person or thing perceived as wonderful or perfect” (“Dream” 527). 

Sentence examples: 

  • “I had a dream last night that I could fly.” (sleep)
  • “His waking dreams imagine a life of luxury after college.” (daydreaming)
  • “One of her dreams is to move to Paris.” (aspirations)
  • “Candyland delivers dreams of what life could be like if the Earth was made of edible confections.” (fantasy)
  • “He is a dream, isn’t he?” (idealization of something or someone) 

As a verb, the word “dream” describes the act of experiencing these sensations, feelings, or fantasies in one’s sleep or waking thoughts. In this case, English speakers use the following verb forms of dream

  • Present tense: dream, dreams
  • Past participle: dreamed, dreamt
  • Present participle: dreaming

Sentence examples: 

  • “I wonder if the cat dreams of treats, mice, or yarn?”
  • “I spent the break consumed by music and dreaming of better days.” 
  • “He once dreamt of greatness.” 
  • “Mom dreamed of a Mother’s Day supper.” 
  • “I hope you dream pleasantly.” 
  • “The old man dreams of his youth.” 
  • “We can only dream of the day that we marry.” 

Synonyms of the verb dream

Daydream, conceit, conceive, envision, fancy, fantasize, fantasy, feature, hallucinate, ideate, image, imagine, reflect, relive, ruminate, picture, plan, see, vision, visualize. 

Etymology of dream

According to The American Heritage Dictionary, the word dream stems from Middle English drem and Old English drēam (‘joy’ and ‘music’). 

How to use dreamed vs. dreamt in a sentence?

Dreamed” and “dreamt” have the same meaning, but how we use them in sentences is not always the same. While using the past participle of “dream,” it’s best to stick with the following contexts: 

  1. Experiencing dreams during sleep. 
  2. Daydreams or fantasies. 
  3. Contemplating the possibility of something. 

Published examples include: 

  • “During the coronavirus lockdown in Chicago, I dreamed about getting away to this leafy utopia.” — The New York Times
  • “The travel writer and novelist Mary Morris dreamed of tigers as a child, wrote poems about them as a young woman…” — The Wall Street Journal 
  • “Humans have dreamed of controlling the weather for millennia.” — Bloomberg
  • “We’ve all dreamed of waving a magic wand and watching the sea of traffic vanish from the road around us.” — The Oregonian

Test Yourself!

Test how well you understand the difference between dreamed and dreamt with the following multiple-choice questions. 

  1. True or false: Dreamed and dreamt have different meanings. 
    a. True 
    b. False
  2. ___________ is the past participle of the verb dream.
    a. Dreams
    b. Dreamed
    c. Dreamt
    d. B and C
  3. For main varieties of English, it’s best to use ___________ for the past tense of dream.
    a. Dreamed
    b. Dreamt
    c. Dreams
    d. Dreaming
  4. The present participle of dream is ___________.
    a. Dreams
    b. Dreamed
    c. Dreamt
    d. Dreaming
  5. Which of the following is an irregular verb? 
    a. Dreamed
    b. Dreamt
    c. Dreaming
    d. None of the above

Answers

  1. B
  2. D
  3. A
  4. D
  5. B

Sources

  1. Dream.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2020. 
  2. Dream.” The Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  3. “Dream.” The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2010, p.  527.
  4. Dream.” Reverso Conjugation, Reverso-Softissimo, 2020. 
  5. Grey, T. “From ‘Tiger King’ to a Tiger Memoir: Big Cats Are Having a Moment.” The Wall Street Journal, WSJ.com, 14 June 2020. 
  6. Koch, A. T. “Road Trips are Great. Except for the Driving.” The New York Times, NYTimes.com, 24 July 2020.
  7. Minter, A. “Has China Mastered Weather Modification? Should We Worry?Bloomberg Opinion, Bloomberg.com, 16 Dec 2020. 
  8. Theen, A. “Portland featured in ‘Beat the Traffic’ game from moovel.” The Oregonian, Oregonlive.com, 30 Jan 2019. 
  9. What’s The Difference Between Regular And Irregular Verbs?Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.