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

Lean, which is an intransitive verb, accepts both leaned and leant as its past tense and past participle forms.

Lean/leaning/leant in conversation.
Lean/leaning/leant in conversation.

What does “lean” mean?

To lean, the intransitive verb, describes “a deviation from the perpendicular” (as in, not standing up straight, but resting on something for physical support). Lean accepts both leaned and leant as its past tense and past participial forms.

Verb forms of “lean”

simpleI leanI leaned/leantI will lean
continuousI am leaningI was leaningI will be leaning
perfectI have leaned/leantI had leaned/leantI will have leaned/leant
perfect continuousI have been leaningI had been leaningI will have been leaning
12 tenses of ‘lean‘.

Lean is in the present tense: I lean against this wall from time to time while on my break.

Leans is third-person present singular: She leans on her friends for support during tough times.

Will lean is future tense:  I will lean on your for support in the future.

Leaning is the present participle: He is leaning against the car while waiting for his friend.

Leaned is the simple past: She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes.

Leaned/leant is also the past participle form of the verb: We had leaned/leant against the wall for a quick break.

Usage note: it’s best to stay consistent in writing in general, so stick to the past tense/past participle form rather than alternate between forms.

What does lean mean?

Besides the definition already provided, lean is also understood as relying on someone or something for support, as in “he leans on his family for help and guidance”. Also, to lean can be understood as having a preference towards something: I’m leaning towards the lasagna over the salmon.

Is lean a regular or irregular verb?

What makes regular and irregular verbs is:

Regular verbs end in –ed in their past tense and past participle forms. Irregular verbs end in something other than –ed in their past tense forms.

Lean has two accepted forms as its past tense and past participle: leant and leaned. Leant is irregular because it ends in -t, not -ed; whereas leaned clearly adheres to the regular rule of verb conjugation to the past by adding an -ed to the end. Here are other verbs in English that share two accepted past tense and past participle forms, just like lean. See the chart:

base verbpast tensepast participle
dreamdreamed/dreamt dreamed/dreamt
smellsmelled/smelt smelt/smelled
Irregular verbs (two past tense conjugations).

British English or American English: leant vs leaned

Which past tense or past participle is appropriate in the particular case depends (hopefully you guessed it) geography.  Whichever side of the pond is home is what dictates the correct spelling and orthographic conventions to adopt.  

Which past tense form of learn to use depends on where you live. American English, thanks to Noah Webster (of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary), popularized leaned as the standard past tense. UK English, which is the original form, prefers leant. The same is true for other verbs that share the same pattern (i.e., spell, leap, lean, smell, dream and so on).

Examples of the word lean in sentences

Can I lean my bike against the wall?

Lean the plants against a wall and cover the roots with peat.

The man was leaning heavily on a stick. (present participle)

They stopped to lean over a gate.

The tower is leaning dangerously. (present participle)

Examples of the word leant used in sentences

He leant his face against his hand.

Terry leant toward (was partial to) the arts rather than the sciences.

He leant forward and dropped his voice.

The gambler tossed down his cards and leant back in his chair.

Then, over tea, he leant forward suddenly.

Examples of the word leaned used in sentences

He leaned over and kissed her.

Kate leaned comfortably against the wall.

She leaned forward and whispered something in his ear.

My wife leaned in to listen.

Jackie leaned on her parents to buy her a new car for her birthday.

Origin of the verb lean

From etymology online on lean (v.):

c. 1200, from Old English hlinian “to recline, lie down, rest; bend or incline” (Mercian hleonian, Northumbrian hlionian), from Proto-Germanic *hlinen.

Learn more about verbs


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

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