Leaned or Leant: Unveiling the Correct Past Tense of Lean

  • Both leanedand leant” are correct past tense forms of “lean,” with usage varying between American and British English.
  • The verb “lean” can describe a physical action or a metaphorical dependency.
  • Etymology and regional language evolution have contributed to the dual past tense forms of “lean.”

Understanding the etymology and grammatical context can help clarify why two different past tense forms exist for the same verb. The variation arises not from a difference in meaning but from historical spellings and pronunciations that have been preserved differently in various English-speaking regions. As language evolves, so do the forms of words, and “lean” is an example of how verbs can maintain multiple accepted past tense forms.

Leaned or Leant: What’s the Past Tense of Lean?

“Lean,” which means to incline or rest against something for support, accepts two past tense variations: “leaned” and “leant.”

Usage by Region:

  • “Leaned” is more commonly used in American English.
  • “Leant” is favored in British English.

However, both forms are widely understood and considered correct in their respective variations of English.

Linguistic Evolution:

  • Leaned: Regarded as the more modern form.
  • Leant: Perceived as the more traditional form.
LeanedAmerican English
LeantBritish English

When choosing which form to use, consider the audience and the style guide, if applicable. For instance, if writing for an American audience, “leaned” would be the preferred choice.

Examples in Sentences:

  • She leaned against the doorway, watching the rain.
  • He leant his bike against the wall before entering.

In summary, whether one uses “leaned” or “leant” largely depends on regional preferences without affecting the comprehensibility of the text.

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Forms of ‘lean’

In English grammar, the verb “to lean” refers to the action of inclining from a vertical position or relying on something for support. It can also denote a metaphorical dependency, as in leaning on someone for emotional support. The inflection of “lean” in past forms is a subject of variability, accommodating two spellings: “leaned” and “leant”.

  • Present Tense

    • Singular: He/She/It leans
    • Plural: They lean
  • Present Participle

    • Leaning
  • Past Tense

    • Leaned or Leant
  • Past Participle

    • Leaned or Leant

The differentiation between “leaned” and “leant” primarily resides in regional usage. “Leaned” prevails in American English, while both forms appear in British English, with “leant” often perceived as more traditional or formal.

FormUse in a Sentence
LeanedShe leaned against the door.
LeantHe leant forward to share a secret.

The usage of “leaned” and “leant” displays flexibility within English dialects. Both forms correctly convey the past action of leaning, but their utilization might carry connotations of geographical and linguistic identity.

ConjugationExample Usage
PresentI lean on the fence.
PastThey leaned out the window.
ParticipleThe wall has leant slightly over time.

In practice, the choice between “leaned” and “leant” is often guided by consistency within the discourse and allegiance to language norms, whether they pertain to American or British English conventions.

The Past Tense of ‘Lean’

In discussing the past tense of the verb “to lean,” it’s critical to address both regular and irregular verb forms. The variations in spelling are notable and depend largely on dialectical differences.

Regular vs Irregular Verbs

Regular verbs append the suffix -ed to form their past tense and past participle. Contrastingly, irregular verbs may adopt a variety of changes, including the -t ending, to signal past tense.

  • Regular Past Tense: leaned
  • Irregular Past Tense: leant
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Conjugation and Usage

The conjugation of “to lean” can result in either “leaned” or “leant” as the past tense and past participle. There is a geographical distinction in the use of these forms:

  • “Leaned” is common in American English.
  • “Leant” is more frequent in British English.

Examples of the word ‘leaned’ in sentences

  1. She leaned against the wall, waiting for the event to begin.
  2. They had leaned the ladder against the house for the paint job.

Usage Table for ‘Leaned’:

SubjectSentence Example
II leaned on the rail.
He/SheHe leaned over the map.
We/TheyThey leaned into the wind.

Examples of the word ‘leant’ in sentences

  1. He leant against the tree, looking exhausted.
  2. She had leant her bicycle against the gate.

Usage Table for ‘Leant’:

SubjectSentence Example
II leant my ear to hear their whisper.
He/SheShe leant her support to the campaign.
We/TheyWe leant back in our chairs leisurely.

In conclusion, “leaned” and “leant” represent two valid past tense and past participle forms of “lean,” largely differentiated by regional use; both are correct, depending on the context in which they are used.

Grammatical Context and Variants

Exploring the past tense of “to lean” reveals nuances in English verb conjugation, particularly between “leaned” and “leant.” This distinction hinges upon both grammatical context and regional variations, offering different but correct forms of the past tense for this verb.

Transitive and Intransitive Forms

“To lean” functions as both a transitive and an intransitive verb. When used transitively, it indicates an action with a direct object, such as in the sentence, “She leaned the ladder against the wall.” As an intransitive verb, “to lean” does not require an object, for instance, “He leaned to the left.”

  • Transitive: Subject + Verb + Object
    • Example: “They leaned the mirror against the table.”
  • Intransitive: Subject + Verb
    • Example: “Leaning against the door, they waited.”
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Usage in Tenses and Pronouns

The past tense of “to lean,” which can be “leaned” or “leant,” integrates into various tenses and with different personal pronouns. These forms have different connotations and usages, often influenced by regional preferences.

Present Tense:

  • Example: “I lean,” “You lean,” “He/She/It leans,” “We/You/They lean”

Past Tense (using “leaned” and “leant”):

  • “I/You/He/She/It/We/You/They leaned” – more commonly used in American English.
  • “I/You/He/She/It/We/You/They leant” – preferred in British English.

Present Participle:

  • Example: “is/am/are leaning” (used in the present continuous tense)
  • Leaning is consistent across English variants.

Present Perfect and Past Perfect:

  • Example: “have/has leaned” or “had leaned/leant” – “Leant” frequently appears in British English.
  • Leaning remains the same as the present participle.

Future Tense:

  • Example: “will lean” – The base form “lean” is used, indicating future action.
Personal PronounsPresentSimple Past (US)Simple Past (UK)Present Perfect
Ileanleanedleanthave learned/learnt
Youleanleanedleanthave learned/learnt
He/She/Itleansleanedleanthas learned/learnt
We/Theyleanleanedleanthave learned/learnt


  1. Oxford Learner’s, lean
  2. Etymonline, lean

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