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Today's lesson is on British English and unusual tense endings!

If you’re out in the UK and you see a sign marked ‘subway’ you probably won’t find what you’re expecting at the end of it. Apart from being a chain of restaurants selling sandwiches, to Americans the subway is an underground train, but in the UK it’s a pedestrian walkway that allows you to cross underneath a busy road and hear numerous buskers. The actual name for the metro in the UK is an ‘underground’ as in the London Underground, whose common nickname is ‘the tube’. There is also an underground train close to Newcastle called the Tyne and Wear Metro but the only other city in the UK with a full underground system is Glasgow, in Scotland.

So now lets look at some Unusual past tense endings.

We know by now that British English has a strong tendency to prefer traditional or even archaic forms of words - so let’s add something to the long list of evidence for this argument. If you’ve ever noticed an unusual past form of verbs such as ‘burn’ ‘learn’ ‘smell’ ‘spill’ ‘spoil’ ‘dream’ and ‘earn’ this is what we are dealing with. In British English it’s common to pronounce the ending as a strong ‘t’ sound and to transform these into ‘burnt’ ‘learnt’ and ‘earnt’ as opposed to the US, more regular, equivalents ‘earned’ ‘burned’ etc. This is perfectly legitimate and common in British English - but a word of warning, these spellings are for the past perfect and present perfect only, everyone agrees that the simple past requires an ‘-ed’ ending. So, to recap: yesterday I burned my hand (US and UK), but recently I have burnt my hand (UK) or recently I have burned my hand (US).

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