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Is "Shined" or "Shone" the Past Tense of "Shine"?

It's time for the latest in our series of quick tips on usage and style shared by Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl. Here Mignon tackles the question of whether the past-tense form of shine should be shined or shone.

What's the trouble? The verb shine has two past-tense forms: shined and shoneShined and shone are competing acceptable past tense forms of the verb shine. Some (but not all) sources recommend using shined when the verb has an object and shone when it does not:
  • Grammar Girl shined her headlights at the abandoned house. (object)
  • The light shone brightly. (no object)

The meaning matters too: shined is the only acceptable past tense when you mean "polished," as in "He shined his shoes."

What should you do? Stick with the traditional rule of using shined with an object and shone without an object unless you have a good reason to deviate.

Quick and dirty tip: The rhyme It's shone when alone will help you remember to use shone when the verb is alone (i.e., has no object).


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Mignon Fogarty is better known as Grammar Girl. She is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network, author of Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, and the creator of the iOS game Grammar Pop. She is also the Donald W. Reynolds Chair of Media Entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism and Advanced Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. Click here to read more articles by Mignon Fogarty.

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Comments from our users:

Friday September 5th 2014, 10:30 PM
Comment by: LEE (New York, NY)
Hi Grammar Girl!

Well we wouldn't say he shoned his shoes... would we.

Love your addition to Visual Thesaurus.
Saturday September 6th 2014, 8:28 AM
Comment by: Joe ..."crazy about words" (greenport, NY)
Thanks, Mignon!

Great to have this rule of thumb: "shone when alone."
I love to use the word "shone;" it rolls out of your mouth in much the same unusual way that "wont" (another favorite) does!
It's a good thing to notice what words please you to iterate because of how they feel in your mouth.

Joe Mc Kay, author, "Crazy About Words"... toasting our language since 2003!"
Saturday September 6th 2014, 4:59 PM
Comment by: Harvey A.
sneaked or snuck?
Sunday September 7th 2014, 4:48 AM
Comment by: Victor G. (Vancouver Canada)
However, it's also fine to say "The moonlight shone on the lake." (object)
Sunday September 7th 2014, 3:12 PM
Comment by: Philip T.
I need to think about this for a couple of centuries, but isn't it a matter of the "aktionsart" of the verb? I mean "to shine" is definitely on the imperfect/continuous side on a par with "to reign", where at the other end of the scale you have "to beat" or "to shut". I have this theory that morphologically the imperfect aktionsart in English prefers the -ed ending in the past tense. If someone has any links or material to back this up, I would love to know about it.
Tuesday September 9th 2014, 11:50 AM
Comment by: Robert J.
Greets, Wordies - - -

Please be advised that "shone" is pronounced differently in UK English (including many parts of Canada) than in the United States. In the US most dictionaries prescribe "shown," but you'll find it pronounced as "shawn" in UK English. http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/pronunciation/british/shone The rule of thumb "shone when alone" is therefore helpful only stateside.

Blessings, The WordHawk
Tuesday September 9th 2014, 2:48 PM
Comment by: CaspianRex (Nashville, TN)
This is why it drives me nuts when I am asked to perform "The Lighthouse" with my church choir. There is a line in the song that says, "He has shone a light around me..." Drives me nuts every time! (Even worse, when I looked up that lyric just now, the first hit I got on Google printed the same line as, "He has shown a light around me..." Grrr.)
Monday September 22nd 2014, 4:14 PM
Comment by: catwalker (Ottawa Canada)
Interesting points all around.

I grew up in the US Northeast. I would not use the form in the first example. I would have said "The girl shone her headlights on the abandoned house." I'd leave "shined" for the polishing.

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