English English language Expression Grammar Language Usage Writing

Plea agreement

[Note: A later post on this subject was published on May 7, 2021.]

Q: Which is correct: “plead” or “pleaded” guilty? I hear these used interchangeably on the evening news. What’s up wid dat?

A: The usual past tense and past participle of the verb “plead” is “pleaded,” but “pled” is a common variant in American English, especially in legal usage.

In addition, two of the five standard American dictionaries we regularly consult (Merriam-Webster and Webster’s New World) include “plead” (pronounced as “pled”) as a less common variant.

So y0u should be hearing either “pleaded” or “pled” on the evening news as the past tense or past participle. However, some talking heads are apparently mispronouncing “plead” when it’s used in the past, and should be pronounced as “pled.”

All five standard British dictionaries we consult include only “pleaded” as the past tense and past participle, though some note that “pled ” is an American variant.

[This post was updated on April 26, 2021.]

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