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Published by at March 14th, 2024 , Revised On March 22, 2024

Burned Vs. Burnt – Differences & Examples

The English language is complicated, and some terms like β€œdefense vs defence” often trip even the most professional writers. One such combination is the seemingly straightforward verb “burn,” which presents a choice between “burned” and “burnt” for its past tense and past participle forms.

This seemingly minor detail can, however, lead to confusion, especially when considering the different preferences across regional dialects like American English and Australian English.

Here is a table to summarise the differences before we get into details. 

Burned (US) Burnt (Australia)
Verb Form Past tense of “burn” Past tense of “burn”
Usage Commonly used in American English Commonly used in Australian English
Spelling Variants Burned, burning, burns Burnt, burning, burns
Example The house burned down yesterday. The toast burnt in the toaster.

Past Tense Vs. Adjective

Before discussing the specific differences, it is crucial to understand the distinct functions of “burned” and “burnt.” Both words can play two grammatical roles:

  1. Past Tense Verb: This describes an action completed in the past.
  2. Adjective: This modifies a noun or pronoun, describing its state or quality.

Here’s where things get interesting – the preferred form often depends on the role it plays in the sentence, coupled with the regional context.

American English vs Australian English

Here is how burned vs burnt is used in the US and Australia. 

American English

  • Past Tense Verb: In US English, “burned” is the standard and preferred form for the past tense verb.
  • Adjective: While “burnt” is technically acceptable as an adjective (e.g., “burnt toast“), “burned” is often favoured in most situations (e.g., “burned fingers“). However, there are exceptions, such as established expressions like “burnt offering” or specific colour names like “burnt umber.”

Australian English

  • Past Tense Verb: Both “burned” and “burnt” are commonly used as past tense verbs in Australian English. The choice often depends on personal preference and regional variations within the country.
  • Adjective: Similar to US English, “burnt” is the more common choice for adjectives describing a state of being burned (e.g., “burnt offering,” “burnt orange“).

Examples To Illustrate The Differences

Here are some examples to show the differences between burned and burnt. 

Scenario: Describing an incident where you accidentally burned your hand while cooking.

  • American English: “I burned my hand on the hot pan.” (Past tense verb)
  • Australian English: “I (burned or burnt) my hand on the hot pan.” (Both options are acceptable)

Scenario: Discussing the aftermath of a barbeque.

  • American English: “We ate the burned hamburgers, but they weren’t very good.” (Adjective)
  • Australian English:“We ate the (burnt or burned) hamburgers, but they were not very good.” (Both options are acceptable)

Scenario: Talking about historical or cultural references.

  • Both English varieties: “The ceremony involved a burnt offering as a sacrifice.” (Established expression)

Scenario: Burnt Out Vs Burned Out

  • Sarah felt completely burned out after working long hours for weeks without a break.(This refers to feeling exhausted or drained due to overwork or stress.)
  • The old car was completely burnt out after the fire destroyed it. (This refers to something that has been damaged or destroyed by fire, typically beyond repair.)

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More Examples

Burned Burnt
Past Tense The house burned down last night. The toast burnt in the toaster.
Adjective He suffered from severe burned skin. The burnt smell lingered in the air.
Gerund The firefighters were busy fighting the burned-out forest fire. She smelled the burnt wood from the fireplace.
Participles The burned documents were useless. The burnt offering was presented to the gods.

Frequently Asked Questions

Both “burned” and “burnt” are correct forms of the past tense and past participle of the verb “burn.” “Burned” is more commonly used in American English, while “burnt” is more common in British and Australian English. Both are widely accepted and interchangeable in most contexts.

In the United States, the preferred spelling for the past tense and past participle of the verb “burn” is “burned.” While “burnt” is also understood, “burned” is more commonly used in American English. It is the standard form in American dictionaries and publications.

Both “burned out” and “burnt out” are accepted in American English, with “burned out” being more common. “Burnt out” is more typical in British English. The choice between them depends on regional or personal preference, but both are widely understood to mean feeling exhausted or emotionally drained.

In standard American English, the correct form is “burned rubber.” “Burned” is the preferred past tense and past participle of “burn” in American English. However, “burnt rubber” is also understood, particularly in British English, where “burnt” is more commonly used as the past tense and past participle of “burn.”