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“Pet” or “Petted”? “Grit” or “Gritted”?

Verbs usually become regular, but some verbs are becoming irregular. Find out about why some verbs buck the trend.

By
Neal Whitman, read by Mignon Fogarty,
August 2, 2012
Episode #331

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pet or petted

It’s time for another look at irregular verbs. In episode 291, I said irregular verbs are those that don’t form their past tense by simply adding an “-ed” suffix, and that they tend to get turned into regular verbs over time. For example, the past tense of “help” used to be “holp,” but now it’s been regularized, and we say “helped.”

Also in that episode, I talked about the strange case of “sneak,” which has been doing just the opposite, at least in American English. Its regular past tense, “sneaked,” has been losing ground to a newly created irregular form: “snuck.”

Today, I’m going to talk about some more regular verbs that have been going in the surprising direction of becoming irregular.

“Grit” or “Gritted”? “Pet” or “Petted”?

Imagine that your friend Fenster is afraid of dogs. But he knows how much you love your bulldog, Otis, so when he came to visit last week, he did his best to make friends with Otis. He knelt down, and Otis trotted up and licked Fenster’s hand. Here’s what happened next, as Fenster battled with his emotions: He grit his teeth as he pet Otis.

How did that last sentence sound to you? Many of you may have been gritting your own teeth as you thought, “No! Fenster gritted his teeth as he petted Otis!” For others, it may have sounded just fine. Still others may have accepted one of those irregular past tenses, but thought the other one should have been regular. What’s going on?

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