Spelt or Spelled? What’s the Past Tense of Spell?

Quick summary

The verb spell has two correct past tense forms. The past tense spelled is preferred in American English, while either spelled or spelt is acceptable in British English.

Spelling every word correctly isn’t always easy. Which word should we use when we want to talk about a spelling struggle we had in the past?

In this article, we’ll keep watch for any spelling shenanigans as we examine the words spelled and spelt, provide examples of how we use both words in sentences, and look at other verbs that are similar to the word spell.  

spelt vs. spelled

Both spelt and spelled can be used as the past tense and past participle forms of the verb spell. They have the same meaning and are used interchangeably. 

For example:

  • She spelled/spelt her name as part of her cursive writing practice. 
  • The generals had spelled/spelt out the battle plan to the soldiers before sunrise.
  • Over the years, spelling bee winners have spelled/spelt very tricky words on their path to victory. 

In American English, spelled is the preferred form and is much more common. In British English, spelt and spelled are both considered acceptable and are used interchangeably. 

Examples of spelt and spelled in a sentence

Let’s spell things out by looking at more examples of sentences that use spelt and spelled

  • All of the kids spelled/spelt Mississippi correctly. 
  • The reporter had spelled/spelt the president’s name wrong in the first version of the story. 
  • The thunder and lightning has spelled/spelt doom for our chances of holding the parade today. 

Words similar to spell

Spell isn’t the only verb that has multiple possibilities for its past tense and past participle forms. Several other verbs also have past tense and past participle forms that can end in either -ed or -t. Some examples include:

Forming the past tense can be tricky, but not with the right guide to all the rules.

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