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

Both sped and speeded are accepted past tense and past participle forms of the verb speed, though sped is the preferred past participle.

Speed/speeding/sped in conversation.
Speed/speeding/sped in conversation.



What’s the past tense of “speed”?

The consensus seems that both speeded and sped are both correct past tense and past participle forms of the verb speed.


That said, sped is speedily (adverb) becoming the more prevalent past tense and past participle, with speeded mainly being used as a phrasal verb, (followed by –up). Feel free to speed through this one—and enjoy the reoccurring dad jokes.

The gist on the verb ‘speed’

The topic is the word speed, which can be both a noun or a verb. As a noun, it refers to “the rate at which an object covers distance.” As a verb, it refers to “moving along quickly”; as in “we sped up when we heard the dog’s barks getting closer”.


So, for example, in describing myself, I could tell someone that ‘I’m not the kind of person who speeds out of bed in the morning’. This is true, and also shows speed in the third-person present singular form. Take a look at the other verb forms of speed:


presentpastfuture
simpleI speedI sped/speededI will speed
continuousI am speedingI was speedingI will be speeding
perfectI have sped/speededI had sped/speededI will have sped/speeded
perfect continuousI have been speedingI had been speedingI will have been speeding
Verb tenses of ‘speed’.



‍Irregular verbs like “speed”/”sped”

base verbpast tensepast participle
leadledled
speedspedsped
bleedbledbled
feedfedfed
breedbred bred
Irregular verbs with one past tense.



When to use “speed” vs. “sped”

The simple past tense of speed (rhymes with beed) is sped (rhymes with shed). But what’s the difference between the simple past tense sped, and the past participle sped (or speeded)?  See a comparison of both past forms of the verb sped in context:

The paperboy sped/speeded through the neighbourhood on his bike


They had speeded/sped along the road towards the village.

What’s the difference between the two sentences? Both are in the past tense, and so describe actions or states that have been completed entirely in the past.

The difference is the use of auxiliaries in the past perfect (such as had) to form other aspects of tense, along with the past participle verb form (e.g., sped or speeded).

Speed, used in context

1. The car is quite noisy at speed.

2. Under the right conditions the car can reach speeds over 200 miles an hour.

3. He drove the speed limit.

4. I was amazed at his speed of working.

5. The work was done with remarkable speed.

Examples of the word sped in context

1. They waited for him to explain, and he did, as they sped along.

2. The paperboy sped through the neighbourhood on his bike

3. I was left shouting abuse as the car sped off.

4. The jewelry thieves sped off quickly in the gang’s getaway van.

5. The carjacker hastily sped away in search of a chop shop.

Examples of sped as a past participle

1. Mina had speeded away on her bike.

2. They had speeded along the road towards the village.

3. Fields and trees and houses she had first seen seven years earlier sped by in reverse without her being aware of them. Martin, Joy The Image of Laura (1993)

4. She had sped past the other car without understanding why.

5. They had sped down the windy and long road for hours until finally giving up.



Practice questions: forms of ‘speed’

QuestionsAnswer options:
1. True or false:

“Speed” has both a regular and irregular verb form.
a. true
b. false
2. “Speeded” and “sped” are both accepted past tense and past participle forms of ‘speed’.a. true
b. false
3. Choose the tense the sentence is written in:

They sped off to get help.
a. past simple
b. present tense
c. present perfect continuous
4. The sentence is in what tense:

We could hear the sound of a motorcycle speeding down the street.
a. simple past
b. present continuous
c. past perfect
5. The sentence is in what tense:

Most drivers speed, at least occasionally.
a. present simple
b. present continuous
c. past perfect
6. Select the tense the sentence is in:

I’d sped up when I realized he was about to pass me.
a. present perfect
b. past perfect
c. present simple

Answers

  1. a
  2. a
  3. a
  4. b
  5. a
  6. b



Origin of the verb speed

From etymology online on speed (v.):

Old English spedan (intransitive) “to succeed, prosper, grow rich, advance,” from the stem of speed (n.).  German sputen “make haste, hurry.” Meaning “to go hastily from place to place, move rapidly” is attested from c. 1200.

Read more about verb conjugations!

Sources

  1. “Speed.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/speed. Accessed 14 Jan. 2023.
  2. Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of speed.” Online Etymology Dictionary, https://www.etymonline.com/word/speed. Accessed 14 January, 2023.


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