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Pleaded vs. Pled

For the past tense of to plead, you may use either pleaded or pled.

Example: He pleaded not guilty before his trial.
Example: He pled not guilty before his trial.

Note: In the strict legal sense, one cannot plead innocent.

Word of the Week

Avuncular: Like an uncle, especially in kindness or tolerance.

Example: He showed her avuncular affection.


Posted on Tuesday, April 8, 2008, at 2:54 am


26 Comments

26 Responses to “Pleaded vs. Pled

  1. dmpassmore says:

    Thank you. I have wondered about the difference.

  2. Safiya says:

    I have wondered about this A Lot because it seems that there has a been a trend by newspapers away from pled and to pleaded – have asked multiple attornies, but none of them could give me such a clear response! Thank you!

  3. Jared says:

    Always nice to get a concise answer to which word to use. I was beginning to think reporters/writers were losing the ability to use the English language. Of course this wasn’t the only thing I’ve read that made me think that…(a Yahoo writer used yoke when talking about an egg yolk, sigh)…Anyway, thanks much and no matter how many times I hear/see pleaded, its always going to feel wrong to my brain.

  4. jim purdy says:

    I maintain; if pleaded is ok instead of pled then is bleeded ok instead of bled?
    JP

    • Jane says:

      And leaded instead of led, feeded instead of fed, sayed instead of said, etc. As you have no doubt noticed many times, in English there are so many nonstandard forms and exceptions to the rules that sometimes you just have to know the right answer or look it up in the dictionary.

      By the way, “Wiktionary” does acknowledge the word bleeded and says, “When used to refer to the loss of blood, this term is nonstandard, it should be bled. When used to refer to (e.g.) a bleed valve, or to a graphic that exceeds the edge of a printed page, this usage is an alternative to bled.” The other dictionaries that I consulted do not acknowledge the word.

  5. jim pitts says:

    Alas, at the age of 79, I wonder why my old english teachers in both High School and College – not to mention my parents – were so adimant about grammar and punctuation. It had something to do with clarity of thought and cmmunication. Pleaded??? Might as well scrape fingernails across the chalk board.

    • Jane says:

      Rules change over time. Pleaded may be an irritant for you. However, not capitalizing the word English, incorrectly capitalizing high school and college, misspelling adamant and communication, and placing more than one question mark at the end of a sentence, all of these in a two-line note, scream fingernails across the chalk board to me.

      • Nancy says:

        Touche, Jane (your response to Jim Pitts). And thank you for the site – I have also wondered about the pleaded/pled usage distinction.

  6. Karen says:

    As someone who does a lot of editing and proofing, I don’t know how you can consider yourself an expert when you can’t provide a grammatically-correct example:

    He will plead not guilty to the charges.

    The correct example should be: He will plead “not guilty” to the charges.

    • Jane says:

      Our sentence is grammatically correct using the definition of the word plead meaning “to make a plea of a specified nature.” There is no reason to use quotation marks around the term not guilty since it is not a direct quote. Also, please note that it is nonstandard to write grammatically correct with a hyphen.

      • James says:

        After reading through the comments it is apparent some of the authors depend too heavily on spell check and grammar check. These two aids are notoriously wrong especially when it comes to homonyms.

  7. Andy says:

    Fascinating reading, thank you Jane. As someone who has been nicknamed the proofreader’s proofreader at work (and yet I’m a mathematician!), your answers and replies brought a big smile to my face. As my wife commented before I’d finished reading the latest comment, “If you’re going to make a comment on here, you need to be impeccable with your spelling and grammar.” cheers.

    • Jane says:

      We appreciate your comments. It would be nice if everyone who wrote in were impeccable with spelling and grammar, but then we would have no responses to make! As you may have noticed, people writing in do commonly make errors, and it is our practice to not correct the writers unless the questions would be essentially unintelligible otherwise. We don’t want to intimidate folks and discourage them from writing to us.

      • Dave Tobin says:

        Lovely to see an appropriate use of the subjunctive here. It’s become so rare, and taking up the cause so fruitlessly effortful, that I have all but given up on instructing my students on its contribution to clarity, not to mention euphony.

        And why are habitu├ęs of a site like this so easily exercised about the inconsistency in the vagaries of irregular verbs.
        It’s a living thing, not a machine, for heaven’s sake. Foolish consistency and all that.

  8. Chris Mason says:

    This is the first time I’m having this clarified for me. I always thought the past tense was pled. Pleaded just sounds so incorrect. I personally will continue use pled however now I won’t look like a fool trying to correct soneone for using pleaded. Thank you for this

    • Jane says:

      You are welcome. However, we recently learned that The Associated Press Stylebook says, “Do not use the colloquial past tense form, pled.” Even though the dictionaries list pled as acceptable, the style guides may be turning away from this usage.

  9. Nikita says:

    Jane,

    Isn’t it humorous when someone shows their own errors in an attempt at correcting others?

    Thank you for clearing up the meaning and use of this verb.

  10. Stuart Mathias says:

    Once I had a writer tell me that a paragraph she had written was “gramarically correct” even though it was neither grammatically, nor factually correct. It was printed in the magazine as she had written it.

  11. Rhys Marshall says:

    It would seem to me that the choice between pled and pleaded is a cultural thing.

    Pleaded seems to be the norm in American English. Whilst in Australia our vernacular is closer to Brittish English, pled would be the proper term to use. That being said, as all languages are constantly evolving, it is becoming more and more prevalent. This is due in part to the influence of American culture continually bombarding us through mass media.

    • The Associated Press Stylebook says, “Do not use the colloquial past tense form, pled.” The Associated Press also says that it is “the most trusted source of independent news and information in the world.” It operates more than 280 locations worldwide. It is, however, headquartered in New York, and AP’s members are U.S. newspapers and broadcasters. That seems to substantiate your theory.

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