Spoiled vs. spoilt

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In American and Canadian English, spoiled is both a past-tense verb (e.g., it spoiled yesterday) and a past-participial adjective (e.g., the spoiled milk). In varieties of English from outside North America, spoiled is usually the past-tense verb (it spoiled yesterday),  and spoilt is usually the past-participial adjective (the spoilt milk). This is not a rule, however, and examples of spoiled used as an adjective outside the North America are easily found in all sorts of writing.


These British publications, for instance, use spoilt as the adjective at least some of the time:

Belgium’s former world No1 Kim Clijsters has accused British youngsters of being spoilt and lacking the hunger to succeed at the highest level in tennis. [Guardian]

This is a sum of money designed to compensate you for the distress, upset and inconvenience that the spoilt holiday caused. [Telegraph]

Alongside recipes for milk tarts and remedies for spoilt wines are dishes that require “flesh”, “solid matter” and “brawn”, all synonyms for meat. [The Times]

The same publications use spoiled instead of spoilt as the past-tense verb:

But it was Winston Churchill, once again Tory prime minister, who spoiled their equestrian pursuits. [Guardian]

But Defago and the silver medallist, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, spoiled what would have been one of the more rip-roaring stories of the Games. [Telegraph]

Spoilt is almost totally absent from American and Canadian publications. North American writers use spoiled as the adjective, as in these cases:

Others say Holden is a whiner, a rich spoiled brat who ought to shut up and get on with his life. [NY Times]

Mr. Charest took comfort in the fact that his party lost the riding by a slim margin, noting that there were more spoiled ballots (296) than the PQ’s margin of victory. [The Globe and Mail (Canada)]

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