plead, pleaded, pled

The verb to plead, meaning to make an appeal or argument, especially in a legal setting, comes to us from the Anglo-Norman French plaider. It makes its English appearance in the thirteenth century. The verb would be just another unremarkable borrowing from French following the Norman Conquest, but the verb has two past-tense and past-participial forms, pleaded and pled, and there is often wrangling over which is correct.

Both past-tense forms are equally old, so neither has primacy of age. But the irregular form pled disappeared in standard British usage, being retained only in Scottish and other dialects, but not before it made its way across the Atlantic and becoming firmly planted in American English. So in North America, both pleaded and pled can be found in both spoken and written English. Neither one can be considered “incorrect,” although the regular pleaded is by far the more common form.


Sources:

Garner, Bryan A. Garner’s Modern American Usage, third edition. Oxford University Press, 2009, s. v. pleaded; *pled; *plead.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage. 1994, s. v. plead.

Middle English Dictionary, University of Michigan, 2014, s. v., pleten (v.), pleien (v.(2))

Oxford English Dictionary, third edition. June 2006, s. v. plead. v.

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