The Past Tense of Plead: Here’s What It Is and How to Use It

Learning a language’s grammatical concepts is arguably one of the most difficult things about learning any language.  For example, for anyone who has ever learned a foreign language before, you know how difficult it is to memorize verb conjugations, different forms of pronouns, lists of noun rules, and various other grammar rules.  And if you have ever learned more than one other language, it can be very easy to get them confused.

Welcome to English, a language that is considered to be one of the most difficult languages in the world to master due to the complexity of its rules and the fact that it actually breaks its own rules more often than not.  The exceptions often outnumber the rules, and it can be very hard to keep track of what is right and what is wrong, especially if you find yourself working with several different groups of people with their own colloquialisms or slangs.  English lends itself to several common grammar mistakes that beginners and experienced English speakers alike make often.  

In this article, let’s explore the verb “to plead”, learn its proper use, how to use its past tense, look for its synonyms, and learn its etymology and context.

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Which is grammatically correct, pled or pleaded?

To first understand a word, its history, and how to use it properly, it is important to first define what it actually means.  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word “to plead” can be defined as “to argue a case or cause in a court of law” or “to argue for or against a claim”.  Some secondary definitions include “to entreat or appeal earnestly” or “to make a plea of a specific nature”.  In total, there are nine definitions of the word in both its transitive and intransitive forms.

Part of what makes English such a difficult language to master is that no matter where you look, there are rules, and then there are exceptions to those rules.  For example, the common rule for making the past tense in English is to add “-d” or “-ed” to a verb to give it the past tense.  For example, the verb cook becomes cooked, and the verb bake becomes baked.  In both situations, you either add the “-ed” or the “-d” suffix and the word is past tense.  However, the past tense of “to plead” actually has multiple forms.
There are two ways to form the past tense of plead.  The first is the regular form, adding “-ed” to the end of the word to form the past tense and creating the word “pleaded”.  The second involves completely changing the spelling from “plead” to “pled”.    

Is pled a real word?

When asking whether or not something is a real word, what you are really asking is whether or not people use it often enough for it to be considered correct.  The reason for this distinction is that language is directed by culture, not the other way around.  The words people use in common conversation eventually become correct even if they are not considered correct by a dictionary.  For example, the word selfie was added to several dictionaries a few years ago due to its prevalence in context and in culture.

The dictionary cannot be the definitive authority on all of language, so learn your audience and how they communicate, and you will be just fine.

In this context, both “pled” and “pleaded” are considered to be correct past tense forms of the verb, however, “pled” is used more often in Canada and England in more “proper” or “higher” English.  

The History and Origin of the Word

One of the best ways to understand a word is to learn where it came from.  A word’s etymology can reveal a lot about the changes a word has gone through to get to where it is today in modern English.  According to, the word plead comes from the Anglo-French word “pleder”, which in turn comes from the Old French word ”plaidier” which means “to plead at court”.  This word actually does get its final root in classical Latin, from the word “placitum” which literally means, “that which is pleasing or agreed upon”.  

This is one of the rare verbs that has an irregular form in the modern English language but still comes from ancient Latin.  

Examples of the Word in Context

Another great way to learn how to use a word is to explore the word being used correctly.  Either reading the word in its proper context or hearing someone else use it in conversation.  Here are some common examples of the word “to plead” (and its past tense) in common context:

  • “He went to the office to plead his case for why he should be reinstated rather than fired.”
  • “They pled their case for hours before the panel, trying to get the funding they so desperately need”.  
  • “Has she pleaded her case yet?  I know she needs that decision.”  

Synonyms for Plead

Finally, to really solidify a word into your vocabulary, it is useful to explore words with similar or same definitions.  The more words you know that can fit into a specific context, the easier it will be to remember which ones to use.  Here are some synonyms for the verb “to plead”:

  • To appeal means to plead a decision that has already been made for the purpose of having it changed
  • To ask is a general term that also means to appeal something, just asking in a more general sense
  • Implore is a word that has the same connotations as pleading in almost any context and also conveys a sense of profound urgency.