Dreamed or Dreamt – What’s the Past Tense of Dream?

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

There is a hot debate about the past tense of dream; is it dreamed or dreamt?

Actually, both are correct, and despite one having been in use longer than the other, you can choose which one you prefer. In fact, both are listed as alternative uses of each other in all major dictionaries.

Confused? Don’t be. Occasionally, words take on various spellings due to inflictions of dialect, and when both spellings become common, then it is entirely acceptable to use your preference. My only advice is to pick one spelling and stick to it.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can use both dreamed and dreamt in your own speech and writing.

What’s the Difference Between Dreamed and Dreamt?

Dreamed vs. Dreamt Ngram
Dreamed and dreamt usage trend.

There is no difference between dreamed and dreamt. They both mean to have been thinking of or imagining things as possible or happening when asleep or awake.

Both are considered correct and function as the past tense and past participle of the verb dream. Dreamed is preferred in all main varieties of English, but dreamt is more likely to be used in British English than American English.

Sentence Examples Using Dreamed and Dreamt

Dreamed or Dreamt Whats the Past Tense of Dream
  • Last night, he actually dreamed of winning the state title, which inspired him to help lead his team to his school’s first-ever win in their division—allowing them to move on to the regional tournament.
  • For a century, the civilization dreamt of attaining supernatural powers after death, thus leading to their advanced religious worship that influenced their modern cultural traditions.
  • She has always dreamed of going to the Olympics, and after a decade of hard work and perseverance, she made her dream come true.

Dreamt is also more often used in the figurative senses of the word—especially in the phrase dreamt up. Dreamed is more likely to denote the mental activity that occurs during sleep. But this is by no means a rule, and both words are used both ways.

For example:

  • I’m not sure how you dreamt up your little scheme, but now you’ve been caught, and you can explain to the authorities how you tried to scam people out of their pensions.
  • Could he have dreamt up a solution to this dilemma in advance to save us this problem-solving headache?

Dreamed has always been more common than dreamt, and dreamt is likely the newer form despite its common use. There are instances of both their uses as far back as the 16th century, but dreamed is used more often than dreamt. Regardless, both appear as past forms at the same time that the word dream made an appearance in the mid-13th century.

Let’s Review

There is no difference between dreamed and dreamt. Both have functioned as past tense and past particle forms of the verb dream since the mid-13th century. While dreamed and dreamt are both acceptable, dreamed is the more common choice in all English-speaking countries. Dreamt is more likely to be seen used in British English or as a figurative use, while dreamed is preferable to American English.