Dove vs. dived

  • Dived is the traditional past tense and past participle of the verb dive. But the newer dove, which probably came about by analogy with similar words like drove and wove, has been in the language approximately two centuries and is now standard in American and Canadian English. Outside North America, where dived still prevails by a large margin, some might consider dove wrong.


    According to this ngram, which graphs occurrence of the phrases he dived and he dove in a large number of American books and periodicals published from 1850 to 2000, dove has recently overtaken dived in American writing: 

    The corresponding graph for British English is much different:



    Writers from outside North America prefer the traditional dived by a large margin. Here are a few examples from recent newswriting:

    Deborah dived in to save Grace and both were helped out by other visitors. [BBC News]

    From a year earlier, the number of sales dived just over 40 per cent. [Sydney Morning Herald]

    Mr Adams was flying the light aircraft which nose-dived into a field. [Telegraph]

    While dived appears occasionally in American publications and slightly more often in Canadian writing, dove prevails. Most North American readers would have no problem with sentences like these:

    She also got a good emotional moment, too, when she dove in for the hug. [Los Angeles Times]

    In June 2008, John David Pearce of Fort Erie, Ont., dove into a swift current to save a woman from drowning. [Winnipeg Free Press]

    He did his research—learning which guitars work best with which amps—and dove into rock history to confirm his finds. [Forbes]


    1. so Americans in their “wisdom” say … the plane nosedove?

      • Aaron Lee Johnson says

        No. Oddly enough we never say “nosedove” or “skydove”

      • Rachel Aiken says

        No. At least in the area that I live in we would say “The plane fell into a nosedive”.

      • Ghillie suit says

        “Took/made/fell into a nosedive.” It’s a noun, mainly, in US English.

      • Andrew Mulligan says

        Not sure if serious, or just an idiot. Maybe both?

      • Think about it Jonty King … the underlying compound word is ‘nosedive’. It is not a verb, but a noun. Nouns don’t have tenses per se. However, it can be colloquially construed as a verb too, as you have done. Like many compound words, even when taken as a verb, it can – and in this case does – have a different syntactical rule system to follow.

        Americans in your so-called “wisdom” have created just about as many oddities in the so called English language as have the various dialect groups of the rest of the British Isles. While it is of course amusing to consider how backward and rustic America’s additions and deletions have been, the truth is that living languages tend to differentiate, especially when they do not now, nor have ever had oversight bodies to try to keep them uniform.

        I, American, prefer

        Dive presentDiving gerund (or … continuous per some grammarists)Dove pastWill have dived future perfect

        Just as strive has four distinct forms in similar circumstance. (strive, striving, strove, striven, respectively). Nothing is perfect. Hence why dictionaries commonly include regional differences that might be the very reason someone is looking up an unfamiliar word in them.


    2. cre8vlexi says

      If dove us an acceptable past tense of dive, then what is the word for the bird of peace? I thought that was dove! (it is.)

      Just because dove is used as a past tense for dive doesn’t mean it is correct. It just means those users were absent for that english grammar lesson.

      • Alexandra Huang says

        Actually, why is the bird of peace pronounced that way it is, if vowels are supposed to make their short sounds in the case of a silent “e”?

        Examples: Take. Kite. Flute. Pete.

        English… why you so confusing? *insert rageface*

        • Grammar Warden says

          Actually it (the silent e) generally makes the vowel “say its name” or the long sound; but, the noun “dove” is an exception (pronounced not exactly with a “short” O sound, but an “uh” or short “u” sound), whereas the verb “dove” (plural past tense) follows the rule of “silent e makes the vowel long”).

          So I was taught:

          I dived; you (singular) dived; he dived; she dived
          You (plural) dove; we dove; they dove

          Guess no one teaches singular and plural case variations any longer? ;-)

          • Alexandra Huang says

            *facepalm* I got the long and short sounds mixed up. It doesn’t make any sense, I feel like if a vowel “says its name” it’s shorter sound! Gah.

            I guess people don’t teach singular/plural case variations because I never remember being taught them, at least this one particularly.

          • Adita Escoto says

            You do, and pretty good at that. A+ for English this semester any way.

        • Bill Tracy says

          Dove, as in the past tense of dive, has been in the English language for over 200 years. Look it up and learn something. The Brits are just behind the times, as usual.

      • Is your argument that it is impossible to have two words that are spelled the same, but pronounced differently? Because that’s not true.

        • goodfelopty says

          In English it is not true, that doesn’t make it any less silly. The concept of having one word, exactly the same and need to be pronounced two different ways is absurd.

          • I’m an advocate of people who advocate homographs.
            If you disagree, I’ll desert you in a desert.
            And does that deer know that there are does nearby?
            Let me lead you to the lead factory.
            Planting seeds for fruit will produce some delicious produce.
            But I wasn’t very careful, so I wound up with a wound.
            And I’m quite content with the content of this paragraph.

            • goodfelopty says

              It’s easy for you and me to read that because it is how our brains have been trained. It still doesn’t make it good practice.

            • ^^ I read this guy’s comment, and I wanted to read more.

            • Adita Escoto says

              I’m not sure if I ‘read’ that correctly. Either…. I before e except after c? ……Either … Iether.
              reminds me of a poem from grade school…..

              Once there was an elephant,
              Who tried to use the telephant—
              No! no! I mean an elephone
              Who tried to use the telephone—
              (Dear me! I am not certain quite
              That even now I’ve got it right.)
              Howe’er it was, he got his trunk
              Entangled in the telephunk;
              The more he tried to get it free,
              The louder buzzed the telephee—
              (I fear I’d better drop the song
              Of elephop and telephong!)

              Laura Elizabeth Richards

        • Adita Escoto says

          I’m not sure if I ‘read’ that correctly.

      • Josh Schimel says

        Except that language changes over time through exactly these kind of usage shifts–what was considered ungrammatical becomes grammatical. It’s why we aren’t debating the use of the Old English version of the word: dúfan.

      • dive (present) → dove (past) has long O convention, in a verb context.

        Even the syntactically ambiguous “The dove dove into the creek” parses just fine … to anyone who can also parse other heteronyms. “ With 17 lives, my cat lives quite blissfully.”

        Heteronyms remain the bane of English language learners.

        DEsert vs deSERTminUTE vs MINutewind (breeze) vs wind (roll up)


        bow – to shoot arrowsbow – limb of a tree, or to bend at the waist

        close – nearbyclose – to shut … a door, window, account, etc.


    3. Ghillie suit says

      Could be the red lines reflect the more educated segments of the respective (US and British) populations. Seems that way in the US examples given (Cooper, Twain, Sinclair).

    4. Don’t you mean the late 19th century?

    5. I always say “dove”. “Dived” sounds wrong to me. Do you say sitted or sat? Gave or gived? What is wrong with irregular verbs? The british say “was sat” which to me sounds completely wrong. It should be “was sitting”.

      Oh that’s another thing… I hate the new trend of saying “gifted” instead of gave or “have given”. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. I don’t care if they used it in some portion of Scotland in the 17th century. They didn’t anywhere else until just the last decade or so. Now “gifted’s” popularity due to media make people who actually conjugate the verb to give seem wrong.

    6. Dove makes me impotent. It is dived. Write and say dived.

    7. I’m no purist. If intent is not obscured, I gladly welcome new words and meanings into the language. By default, context rules. And there are not many situations in which one would confuse dove the verb for dove the noun. However, on the slow news day when journalists must report that an inexplicably aggressive dove dove and decimated a flock of unsuspecting hawks, I guarantee they will pause and scratch their heads before shooting the story to the editor. I prefer dived, but I can live with both.

    8. So, should it be, “The dove dived to the ground” or “The dove dove to the ground”? ;)

    9. Karen Vaughan says

      I was raised and educated in America – never was I taught “dove” as past tense for dive. “Dived”!!

    10. But also dived just takes more effort to say. Like you have to bring your tongue back to get the second D but if you say dove your tongue is in the middle of your mouth and you can go into the next word more easily. I think dove is just easier to use but maybe that’s just me.

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