Is It Burnt or Burned? | Spelling, Difference & Examples

UK vs US updated on  January 9, 2024 3 min read
Burnt and burned are two ways of spelling the past tense of the verb “burn,” which means “to damage something with fire or heat” or “to undergo combustion.” It’s also used as an adjective to describe something that’s damaged by fire or heat.

  • In American English, “burned” is used as a verb. Both “burned” and “burnt” may be used for the adjective sense of the word.
  • In British English“burned” and “burnt” are used interchangeably for both the verb and the adjective.
It’s important to choose one spelling and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

Examples: Burnt or burned in a sentence
Damian burned/burnt his hand when he reached for the hot pan.
I don’t like this burned/burnt food!
I got burned/burnt so hard at my birthday roast.

Although burned and burnt are used interchangeably in the adjective sense of the word, some fixed combinations are spelled only one way (e.g., the food “burnt cream” and the color “burnt sienna”).

Burnt out or burned out (at work)

Burnt out and burned out are both correct past tense forms of the phrasal verb “burn out.” It means “become mentally exhausted due to overwork and stress” (figurative sense) or “to be destroyed by fire” (literal sense).

They can also be used as adjectival phrases to mean “exhausted” or “worn out.” The phrase gets a hyphen when used in the attributive position (before the noun it modifies) but not in other positions.

Examples: Burnt out or burned out in a sentence
Deborah burned out/burnt out two months after starting her new job as a principal.
The newspaper mentioned that five cars were burned out/burnt out this month!
Burned out/burnt out people have a higher chance of getting another burnout.

Burn as a regular or irregular verb

Burn can be considered either an irregular verb or a regular verb, depending on the chosen spelling of the past tense form.

  • Verbs that form their past tense by adding “-ed” are regular verbs.
  • Verbs that form their past tense by adding a different suffix are irregular verbs.
With verbs that can be either regular or irregular, the irregular forms are more common in British English. Other examples include dreamed or dreamt, kneeled or knelt, smelled or smelt, spelt or spelled, and learnt or learned.

Main differences between American and British English

American and British English are very similar, but there are a few main differences in spelling. Five important differences are:

Difference

Rule

Examples

-or vs -our

In American English, many Latin-derived words end in -or.

In British English, these same words end in -our.

Behavior or behaviour
Labor or labour
Favor or favour
Favorite or favourite
Color or colour
Honor or honour

-er vs -re

In American English, some French, Latin, or Greek words end in -er.

In British English, these same words end in -re.

Theater or theatre
Center or centre
Meter or metre
Liter or litre
Saber or sabre
Fiber or fibre

-ize vs -ise

In American English, many Greek-derived words end in -yze or -ize.

In British English, these words end in -yse or -ise.

Realize or realise
Recognize or recognise
Analyze or analyse
Organisation or organization
Minimize or minimise
Finalize or finalise

-ed vs -t

In American English, most verbs are regular and form their past tense with the suffix -ed.

In British English, some of these verbs are irregular and form their past tense with the suffix -t.

Learned or learnt
Burned or burnt
Kneeled or knelt
Dreamed or dreamt
Smelled or smelt
Spelled or spelt

Single vs double consonant

In American English, many words are spelled with a single consonant.

In British English, these same words are spelled with a double consonant.

Modeling or modelling
Traveling or travelling
Canceled or cancelled
Labeled or labelled
Buses or busses
Focused or focussed

Do you want to know more about commas, parts of speech, email, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


Commas

Parts of speech

Commonly confused words

Comma before because

Nouns

Flier vs flyer

Comma before such as

Collective nouns

Its vs it’s

Comma splice

Verbs

Use to or used to

Comma before or after but

Noun clauses

Alright vs all right

Comma before too

Predicate nominative

Affective vs effective


Frequently asked questions about burnt or burned

Is it a burnt out or burned out light bulb?

Burnt and burned are two spellings of the same verb. The usage depends on the variant of English.

  • In British English, both “burned” and “burnt” are used for both the verb and adjective, but burnt-out light bulb is a bit more common.
  • In American English, “burned” is used as a verb, while “burned” and “burnt” are used interchangeably as adjectives. However, burned-out light bulb is more common in American English.

It’s important to choose one spelling and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

Is it got burned or burnt?

Burnt and burned are two spellings of the same verb. The usage depends on the variant of English.

  • In British English, both “burned” and “burnt” are used interchangeably for both the verb and the adjective, so either got burnt or got burned may be used.
  • In American English, “burned” is used for the verb, and “burned” and “burnt” are both used for the adjective. Got burned is standard in American English.

It’s important to choose one spelling and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

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Julia Merkus

Julia has master's degrees in Linguistics and Language and speech pathology. Her expertise lies in grammar, language and speech disorders, foreign language learning, and child language acquisition.

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