Pet vs. petted

The verb pet is usually inflected petted in the past tense and as a past participle. This has been the case for as long as the word has been a verb (about 500 years). The uninflected form (e.g., he pet the cat) is fairly common in informal contexts, especially in the U.S., but it usually gives way to petted in edited writing. Pet is gaining ground, though, and there is some precedent for it in the uninflected verbs let, set, and bet, so it may someday gain broader acceptance. For now, petted remains the safer choice.


Here are examples of petted in texts spanning the last few centuries:

And indeed, some familiar Horses love to be so petted, and will by that means eat twice as much as they would do if they were left to themselves. [A New Treatise on the Diseases of Horses, William Gibson (1754)]

[S]he, provoked at the apparent indifference of her petted darling, positively declared he should come to her, or be sent out of the room. [The Decision: A Novel (1811)]

We agreed, without any more consultation, that we would both go, and that Dora was a little Impostor, who feigned to be rather unwell, because she liked to be petted. [David Copperfield, Charles Dickens (1849)]

The stately donkeys were much petted and patronized, not by children only, but by that class of sight-seer whom the French denominate badaud. [Atlantic Monthly (1890)]

Whenever Truls saw any of them he would come leaping and bounding up, expecting to be given milk and to be petted.[Grass of the Earth, Aagot Raaen (1950)]

When Juneau seemed to understand that this tall stranger would not hurt him and hesitantly let himself be petted, things looked up. [Denver Post (2012)]

Meanwhile, instances of pet as the past tense or past participle are either nonexistent or very rare until the 21st century (re-create two of our historical searches here and here—most or all of the results are scanning errors), and those from this century are mostly from American sources that are not very well edited—for example:

Simon turned to mush as he pet Panda, but he still saved enough venom to spit “excruciating” after she finished singing. [MTV (2008)]

“You’re a good boy. Are you a good boy? Yeah you are,” said Sheriff’s Deputy Jay O’Neil as he pet his partner Thor on the head. [WMTV (2009)]

As she pet the wolf, he slowly opened his mouth as if he was about to speak. [The Werewolf Curse, Heather Citulsky (2010)]

5 thoughts on “Pet vs. petted”

  1. For a website that claims to be primarily oriented to resolving grammatical questions, I find that this site contains more errors than answers. 

    Firstly, I could not overlook the blatant misuse of all caps in the title of this website. Secondly, when providing evidence to substantiate your assertions, giving generic information from unreliable sources is both factually and logically inconsistent (if not criminal). Thirdly, while there are circumstances which can on the rare occasion allow one to contrast the phrases “very rarely” and “never”, this is not one of them. Why? Simply because, it sets the precedent of doing things the wrong way. (And, of course, the fact that one should always specify whenever possible.) Let me continue to explain this point while cross referencing your material. 

    Using the phrase “recreate” with unnecessary hyphenation leads me to question whether you know what you are doing. Furthermore, the usage of square brackets instead of parenthesis, where square brackets are not needed leads me to question why you used parenthesis around the years of the literary works instead of just using them around the years, titles and names of the authors.
    Lastly, providing further corroboration to my assertion that doing things the wrong way sets bad writing habits is the fact that you did not specify whether it was, “most” or “all” of the results relating to your unreliable sources were scanning errors.

    Firstly, you should know this, seeing as, this was your research and you listed these citations as sources. Secondly, you should not use, “most” and, “all” anywhere near each other unless you are writing, “most of all”. Why? Because it is a contradiction in terms. This brings us back to the question: Are most of the links that lead to scanning errors or are all of the link useless? As you should know, the word, “most” implies a majority, while the word, “all” is an absolute. 

    Logically, one would avoid using unnecessary absolutes, especially when they do not know the answer to the posed question. Quite frankly,  you answered this question well enough from a standpoint of grammatical accuracy. However, from a logically and factually based perspective, this material needs a complete overhaul before it could even be considered acceptable. You did admittedly benefit from using other more reliable sources, although you used a rather questionable method of citing them as I noted earlier. However, seeing as, I am reviewing this work as a whole, it would be unrealistic for me to call this anything other than what it is: a disaster. 

    P.S. “About 500 years”? Is that really the most accurate and precise answer you can come up with? (Please god, no, this is ‘hopefully’ too bad to be true.) You are the one who is supposed to by answering the question, not providing more work than if an individual never view this page at all. 

    • Terry, the plural of “parenthesis” is “parentheses.” Also, notice how I put the period before the closing quotation mark? I’ll attribute your placing them in the opposite order, as well as your use if “which” instead of “that” to your British origin. That however does not excuse your lack of hyphens in the phrase, “…from a logically and factually based perspective…”, which should have been written, “…from a logically- and factually-based perspective….” (Notice that I did not forget to place the period after the ellipsis.) As an exercise, do you know what the two-hyphen construct I used above is called?

    • Perhaps I can help. “Petted” is the only correct past tense and participle conjugation of “pet”.
      To illustrate:
      He likes to pet the cat.
      He is petting the cat now.
      He petted the cat yesterday
      He will pet the cat tomorrow.
      The cat likes to be petted.

    • Well, aren’t you just the go-to expert?! Not when I gave up counting the numerous grammatical errors in your sophomoric pedantry.


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