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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.