Is It Sped or Speeded: Unraveling the Past Tense of Speed

  • Sped‘ and ‘speeded‘ are both past tense forms of the verb ‘speed’, with ‘sped’ being more commonly used.
  • The choice betweensped’ and ‘speeded‘ can be influenced by regional preferences and specific phrase structures.
  • Understanding the context and nuances of verb tenses is key to proper usage in written and spoken English.

Context plays a significant role in deciding between ‘sped’ and ‘speeded’. The word ‘sped’ is generally accepted in most contexts when referring to an increase in speed or a high-speed movement that has occurred. ‘Speeded’, however, is often used with the phrasal verb ‘speed up’, meaning to cause to move or happen more quickly. It’s worth noting that different English-speaking regions may exhibit a preference for one over the other.

Is it Sped or Speeded What’s the Past Tense of Speed?

When discussing the past tense of the verb “to speed”, two forms are often mentioned: “sped” and “speeded”. These variations have led to some confusion regarding their proper use. In English, verbs can have irregular past tense forms which do not follow a general rule. The verb to speed is one such verb that has two accepted past tense forms.

“Sped” is the more common form used in various contexts, especially when the verb is used intransitively, that is, without a direct object. For example, saying “The car sped down the road.”

On the other hand, “speeded” is also correct, though less common. It tends to appear when the verb is used transitively or as part of a phrasal verb like “speeded up”.

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The following tables outline typical usage patterns for these terms:

Table 1: Usage of “Sped”

ContextExample Sentence
IntransitiveThe athlete sped towards the finish line.
Phrasal Verb (less common)She has sped up her reading pace.

Table 2: Usage of “Speeded”

ContextExample Sentence
TransitiveThe project manager speeded up the workflow.
Phrasal Verb (common)The driver speeded up as the light turned green.

Below are bullet points that provide clear examples of their use:

  • He sped through the work to meet the deadline.
  • The gardener speeded up the planting process.
  • The film sped through development and launched early.

Both “sped” and “speeded” are acceptable in modern usage, but writers and speakers might prefer one over the other based on regional dialects, the particular sound they wish to convey, or the grammatical context. It is worth noting from a grammatical standpoint that neither form is incorrect, although “sped” is becoming increasingly prevalent.

Understanding Verb Tenses

This section will explore different aspects of verb tenses with a focus on the past tense forms of the verb “speed.”

Past Tense Forms

A verb in the simple past tense indicates an action completed in the past. For the verb “speed,” the simple past form can be either “sped” or “speeded”, with “sped” being more commonly used. The use of “speeded” tends to occur with phrasal verbs, for instance, “speeded up.”

Table of Past Tense Forms for “speed”

Simple Past TensePast Participle FormUsage
spedspedGeneral use
speededspeededUsually with phrasal verbs, e.g., “speeded up”

Present and Future Constructions

Present tense forms include the simple present (“speeds”), present continuous (“is speeding”), and present perfect continuous (“has been speeding”). For the future, auxiliaries like “will” and “shall” predict actions, with forms like “will speed” or “shall be speeding.”

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Irregular vs. Regular Verbs

Verbs in English are either regular or irregular, depending on how they form their tenses. Regular verbs add -ed to create the past tense. Irregular verbs, such as “speed,” do not follow this pattern and instead have unique past tense forms like “sped.”

List of Regular and Irregular Verb Forms

  • Regular: talk -> talked
  • Irregular: speed -> sped

Examples of the word ‘sped’ & ‘Speeded’ in context

Using the simple past tense “sped” or the past participle “speeded” depends on the surrounding context and verb patterns.

  • “He sped down the highway.”
  • “The project timeline was speeded up.”

The verb “speed” serves as an example, illustrating the variation and complexity within English verb conjugation patterns. The correct application of “sped” and “speeded” contributes to a more precise and effective use of language.

Usage and Variations in English

In discussing the variations between “sped” and “speeded”, it is crucial to understand that different forms of English and contexts can greatly influence the selection of these terms. While both can be correct, their usage often depends on regional preferences and the context in which the verb ‘speed’ is applied.

American vs. British English

American EnglishBritish English
Speeded (less common)Speeded (phrasal verb contexts)

In American English, ‘sped’ is the more commonly accepted past form and past participle of ‘speed’. Meanwhile, British English speakers also favor ‘sped’ but may use ‘speeded’ in certain contexts, especially as part of phrasal verbs like “speeded up”. The difference mirrors other irregular verbs where US and UK English diverge, such as “spell” (spelled vs. spelt) or “dream” (dreamed vs. dreamt).

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Contextual Application of ‘Speed’

The application of ‘speed’ as a verb takes two main forms: the intransitive use, where the subject itself is increasing velocity, and the transitive use, where the subject causes something else to increase speed.

  • Intransitive use:

    • The car sped down the highway.
    • The getaway van speeded through the city.
  • Transitive use:

    • The carjacker sped the vehicle to escape the police.
    • The teacher often speeds through the lesson before the test.

In the context of a phrasal verb, ‘speed up’, ‘speeded’ may be more favorably chosen:

  • He speeded up the process to meet the deadline.

When describing someone going over the legal speed limit, ‘speeding’ is typically used:

  • She was fined for speeding on the motorway.

Whether one chooses to use ‘sped’ or ‘speeded’, it’s imperative to consider the audience and the context to ensure correct and comprehensible use. The past participle form also follows similar rules, although ‘sped’ tends to be more universally accepted in modern usage.

While both ‘sped’ and ‘speeded’ can be correct, the preference has shifted towards ‘sped’ for both the simple past tense and past participle forms, especially in American English. British English tends to accept ‘speeded’ in the context of a phrasal verb but may prefer ‘sped’ in other situations.


Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of speed.” Online Etymology Dictionary

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