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 2019, dove has recently overtaken dived in American writing: 

He Dove Vs He Dived American English

The corresponding graph for British English is much different:

He Dived Vs He Dove British English


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]

And dove is not new. Here are a few historical examples showing that it was in use in American writing of the late 18th century:

A fiery oven is not hotter than that pile was getting, before we dove into the earth. [James Fenimore Cooper, The Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish (1871)]

It went surging up adjacent ridges—surmounted them and disappeared in the canons beyond—burst into view upon higher and farther ridges, presently—shed a grander illumination abroad, and dove again … [Mark Twain, Roughing It (1872)

When he disappeared, he dove under the boat and rose again on the opposite side. [Upton Sinclair, A Prisoner of Morro (1898)]

30 thoughts on “Dove vs. dived”

    • 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.


  1. 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.

    • 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*

      • 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? ;-)

        • *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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

          • 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’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

    • 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.


  2. 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).

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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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