Burnt Or Burned – British vs. American English

20.11.23 British English vs. American English Time to read: 3min

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Maintaining consistency in academic writing is of utmost importance. It requires ensuring coherence and clarity in spelling throughout the paper. However, many students face difficulties in distinguishing between British English vs. American English, which can lead to confusion when deciding which spelling to use, such as “burnt” or “burned”. For a more profound understanding of the differences between these two styles of English, please continue reading.

“Burnt” or “burned”

“Burnt” and “burned” are two forms of the past tense and past participle of the verb “to burn.” They are both correct spellings and can be used interchangeably in most varieties of English, including British English and American English. So, both “burnt” and “burned” are correct spellings for the past tense and past participle of the verb “burn,” and they can be used based on regional preferences or conventions. Besides “burnt/burned” being a verb, it is also an adjective. In this case, the word describes something that has been affected by heat or fire, resulting in a charred appearance.

Burnt or Burned UK flag

British English

burnt
burned

Burnt or Burned US flag

American English

burned (verb)
burnt (adjective)

As you can see above, both forms are acceptable in British English as an adjective as well as a verb, but for the verb form, the British do prefer “burnt.” However, in American English, you use “burned” only if it’s a verb. If using the word as an adjective, “burnt” and “burned” are fine.

Note: Always pay attention to the differences in usage of “burnt” and “burned” as word forms in American English.

Examples of using “burnt” and “burned” as a verb

The following examples will illustrate the difference in spelling of the verb “burnt/burned” in British and American English.

Burnt or Burned verb UK flag
  • She accidentally burnt/burned the cookies in the oven.
  • He burnt/burned the old newspapers in the backyard.
  • They carefully burnt/burned the leaves in the bonfire.
Burnt or Burned verb US flag
  • She accidentally burned the cookies in the oven.
  • He burned the old newspapers in the backyard.
  • They carefully burned the leaves in the bonfire.

Examples of using “burnt”/“burned” as an adjective

The following examples will illustrate the difference in spelling of the adjective “burnt/burned” in British and American English.

  • The chef prepared a delicious meal despite the burnt/burned meat.
  • The toast was burnt/burned to a crisp.
  • The campfire’s burnt/burned logs are crackling, providing warmth.
Burnt or Burned adjective UK flag
  • The chef prepared a delicious meal despite the burnt meat.
  • The toast was burnt to a crisp.
  • The campfire’s burnt logs are crackling, providing warmth.
Burnt or Burned adjective US flag

FAQs

In the UK, “burnt” is the more commonly used past tense and past participle form of the verb “burn.” However, “burned” is also accepted and used, but “burnt” is more prevalent in British English.

Both phrases are correct. “Burnt rubber” is the only correct answer in American English. However, both “burned rubber” and “burnt rubber” can be used in British English.

The verb “burn” is spelled as B-U-R-N in English, regardless of the variety of English, whether it’s American English or British English.

Synonyms for the verb “burnt” or “burned” include:

  • Scorched
  • Charred
  • Singed

 

Synonyms for the adjective “burnt” or “burned” include:

  • Blistered
  • Seared
  • Blazed

Both are correct. However, “sunburnt” is commonly used in British English, while Americans prefer to use “sunburned”.

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