Dreamed or Dreamt

Is there a difference between dreamed and dreamt? You might be surprised to find conflicting reports. Some people say that there is no difference. Others say that the two words have different meanings. What’s the real deal?

Dreamt and dreamed are both past tense forms of dream. Dreamt is more common in Britain, while dreamed is more common in other English-speaking countries, including the U.S. Dreamed seems to be more popular than dreamt when talking about sleeping, but when dream has a hopeful, literary sense, dreamt might be used.

Dreamed or Dreamt image

More Details About the Verb to Dream

Let’s start with the dictionary definition of “to dream.” To dream is to experience visions of thoughts as you sleep. However, you can also dream while you are awake, when you envision an event, hope for something, or just daydream. To illustrate, here is a quote from Epigrams by Oscar Wilde:

Oh, I dream of dragons with gold and silver scales, and scarlet flames coming out of their mouths, of eagles with eyes made of diamonds that can see over the whole world at once, of lions with yellow manes and voices like thunder. . .

Dreamed or Dreamt—What’s the Difference?

In addition to definitions, you can also search for the past tense of verbs in a dictionary. Merriam-Webster.com lists two forms for dream—dreamed and dreamt. So, the two words have at least one thing in common; they function as the past tense of dream. As you probably guessed, which one you favor depends on where you live. In all varieties of English except British, dreamed is the most common form by a landslide. However, in the United Kingdom, dreamt is almost as prevalent. Here are a couple of examples of dreamed and dreamt, both from ESPN sites. Pay attention to the meaning. Do you see a difference?

“Our goal is gold―we’ve dreamt about it from when we were little kids, laying in bed dreaming about it, getting that gold medal put around our necks on the podium.”ESPN W

Cristiano Ronaldo said Portugal [has] “dreamed” of making the final of Euro 2016 “since the very beginning.”ESPN FC

Don’t worry if you couldn’t find a difference. There really wasn’t one. Both sentences use dream in the sense of “to hope” for a future goal. Dreamt, if it is chosen, is most often used in this capacity. Writers talking about a sleep state or a waking fantasy are more likely to choose dreamed, as you will find in these literary examples:

He no longer dreamed of storm, nor of women, nor of great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strength, nor his wife. He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach. . . . He never dreamed about the boy. ―Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

I dreamed I flung the violin into a brackish, wind-rippled slough, where the glue would slowly soften until it fell to pieces. I dreamed I laid it on the frozen ground and stepped on it, crushing the thin shell into jigsaw shards. ―Marta Iyer, The Pilgrim’s Book of Hours: A Baroque Migration

Besides the preference for dreamed over dreamt when refering to sleep or fantasy, some writers favor dreamed when duration matters. Here is the dreamt spelling in a sentence where duration is unimportant: The dog dreamt of bones last night. Does it matter whether the dream lasted three or five minutes? No, the main point is that the dog’s dream was about bones. Now, consider this sentence where duration is important: The dog dreamed of bones all night. Now, the focus is on how those bones filled the dog’s dream so much that he dreamed of nothing else. Other times, people decide which form to use based on other factors. For example, consider the “I dreamed a dream” lyrics from Les Misérables. Perhaps the composer just didn’t think “I dreamt a dream” sound right with the melody.

If someone asked you what your dreams were about last night, how would you answer? Would you say, “I dreamed of. . .” Or would you say, “I dreamt of. . .”? If you are British, dreamt is almost as likely a choice as dreamed. American English speakers would probably opt for dreamed, but they are both acceptable options. What is the difference between dreamed and dreamt? You know the answer to that, but what about learned vs. learnt?

Weekly Grammar Tips
Weekly Grammar Tips
Want more good reads?

Get the best stories delivered to you each week.

Comments
  • Marc-Andre Daniels

    I always thought ‘dreamt’ was the past participle form & ‘dreamed’ was the simple past tense. I never dreamt they were exchangeable forms of the same thing! 😊

    • KrissieDee

      Marc-Andre, I thought so too! I dreamed or I have dreamt. I still think this is correct 🙂

    • John Galt

      I use the two forms those ways for all verbs that have them.

    • Cyrus James

      “Dreamt” is similar to a pretrerite which defines a specific moment(s) in time, whereas “dreamed” implies imperfection in grammar e.g. a longer duration of said verb. Also, “exchangeable” in the context you’re using the word for would be better served by the word “interchangeable”.

  • Jean M

    I’m Canadian and I say ‘dreamt’ all the time. ‘Dreamed’ just doesn’t roll off the tongue right for me. However when written, ‘dreamed’ looks more correct.

  • Avril MacBain

    I am English but now live in Australia. Both ‘dreamed’ and ‘dreamt’ seem to be used here but I tend to use ‘dreamt’ as it sounds better to me.

  • Paul Block

    So there two slightly nuanced meanings but no difference at all. I’m pleased we cleared that one up.

  • robertlenson

    There is actually a simple but true difference between the two and it was used in the example given in the article. Has vs had. I still remember my grade school grammar class where the teacher drilled into our heads that the correct word was based on how current the action was. “He has dreamed” vs “He had dreamt””.

  • Peta Brown

    I think you should have mentioned the bad grammar used by Hemingway in his quote. Every time he wrote ‘nor’ it should have been ‘or.’ Double negatives are deemed wrong in English.

    • Celia Jennings Bolton

      Would you mind giving a Hemingway example?

  • KATE FITZROY

    I made an embarrassing error in one of my books… edited out now… weeped instead of wept. A reviewer on Amazon pointed that out… I wept with shame that day. Not the kind of error that Grammarly can find, i suppose?

  • I wouldn’t put too much store by the ESPN quotes; in one of them they say ‘laying in bed’, an absolute no-no as far as British English is concerned.

    • Isela Pena-Rager

      It is an absolute no-no everywhere.

  • Derrin Redfeather-Bond

    I like to think of dreamed as being singular and dreamt as being plural. I dreamed, they dreamt.

  • roxxr soxxr

    Laying on a bed is putting on the egg! 😉
    I dreamed as “they” dreamt. I haven’t adopted a rule for either usage, dreamt just doesn’t roll off the tongue or out of the mouth as nicely as dreamed.

  • Emy

    Is there a difference on spelling?

  • Robert Allen

    Am I the only one who clicked on this article just because of the picture of the puppy?

    • Jean-Michel Aubin

      I think so, yes. Others would type “puppy” on google images and enjoy the endless stream of cuteness.

Your writing, at its best
Why not make your writing mistake-free across the web?
Get Grammarly It’s free
Blog Updates
Sign up for our weekly newsletter and never miss a story.
Want more good reads?

Get the best stories delivered to you each week.

Embed Code

Copy code below to embed this post to your site.