Should You Say “Pleaded” Or “Pled?”

Using English tenses can be a tricky skill to learn. Learning what words are used in the past and present can be challenging. Even more challenging, however, is when there are two possible words for the same tense. We’ve probably all heard of people pleading guilty to a crime, but how do you refer to their action in the past tense? Is it pleaded or pled? 

The present tense comes very easily when discussing the action of pleading. In all cases, when someone exclaims their guilt or honesty, they would “plead.” But how should you refer to it if you are talking in the past tense? Would you say that they “pleaded” or that they “pled?” 

What Is The Past Tense Of “Plead?”

Pleaded” has historically been the correct past participle and past tense of “plead.” Don’t worry; there are some good reasons why you may have thought that “pled” was correct! 

Even though there are good reasons when trying to use the past tense of “plead,” you should always say “pleaded!” 

Why Do People Think “Pled” Is Correct? 

First, many think “pled” is correct because it follows the same rules as other similar words. For instance, words such as “speed” and “bleed” all have past tense forms like “sped” and “bled.” Thus, many people think that “plead” follows the same rule.

Is “Pled” Ever Correct? 

In truth, “plead” actually has had two past tense forms, one of which is “pleaded,” and the other being “pled.” Although it is not popularly correct now, “pled” has been tracked back to the 13th century and eventually was dominated by “pleaded.” 

Examples of Both

Here are some examples of both variations being used in established media:

In June, the owner of two Maryland restaurants who pleaded guilty to hiring and harboring illegal immigrants was ordered to forfeit to the government more than $700,000 in assets. – The New York Times

Montgomery, who pleaded guilty in 2012, faces life in prison on a hate crime charge and five years on conspiracy. – The Guardian

Knight pled not guilty to four felony counts, and was then hospitalised after complaining about chest pains. – The Guardian

America’s Department of Justice is investigating potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, according to court documents in a case in New York involving a former BSGR contractor in Guinea, Frédéric Cilins, who on March 10 pled guilty to obstructing a criminal investigation.*Britain’s data-protection legislation is certainly tough.The Economist

Final Thoughts

In any case, most writing and style guides currently advise using only “pleaded” when writing the past form of “plead.” Additionally, some style guides go as far as to advise against the use of “pled,” even though it is a technically correct past tense form of “plead.” 


Hanged or Hung?

Led or Lead? 

Dreamed or Dreamt?

Learnt or Learned?


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By Ryan Fisher

Ryan holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and specializes in proofreading, editing, and content writing with an emphasis on business communication.

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