Burned or Burnt | Meaning, Difference & Examples

Burned and burnt are two different spellings of the past tense of the verb “burn,” used to refer to the act of undergoing combustion and the act of injuring someone or damaging something by heat or fire.

The spelling tends to vary based on whether you’re using UK or US English:

  • In UK English, both “burned” and “burnt” are commonly used for both the verb and adjective sense of the word.
  • In US English, “burned” is standard as a verb, but both “burned” and “burnt” can be used as adjectives.
Examples: “Burned” and “burnt” in a sentence
Shawna burnt/burned her hand on the stove.

Gina forgot to turn the oven off, so the chicken was burnt/burned.

The fire burnt/burned all night and kept the room warm.

Luckily, I remembered to blow out the candles; otherwise, the house might have burnt/burned down.

Note
Verbs that form their past tense in some way other than by adding the suffix “-ed” are called irregular verbs. “Burn” can be either regular or irregular, with the irregular form more commonly used in UK English. This is also true of “learnt/learned” and “dreamt/dreamed.”

Burned and burnt as adjectives

Burned and burnt can also be used as adjectives meaning “injured or damaged by burning” in both UK and US English. While both are acceptable, burnt is more common.

Examples: Burned and burnt as adjectives
Nick actually likes the taste of burnt/burned toast.
Note
While the adjectives burned and burnt can be used interchangeably regardless of the version of English, some special meanings are only spelled one way. For example, the color “burnt sienna,” the food “burnt cream” and the religious sacrifice of a “burnt offering.”

Burnt out or burned out (at work)

Burnt out and burned out are the past tense forms of the phrasal verb “burn out” used to refer to the act of becoming exhausted due to excessive stress.

Both can also be used as an adjectival phrase meaning “worn out” or “exhausted.” It means the same whether it’s written with the regular “-ed” ending or the irregular “-t” ending. The phrase is hyphenated when it’s used in the attributive position (before the noun it applies to).

Examples: Burnt out and burned out in a sentence
After a month of working two jobs, Jessie burnt/burned out.

Emile needs a holiday because he is burnt/burned out.

Burnt-/burned-out employees are more likely to quit.

Burnt out and burned out can also be used interchangeably to more literally describe something that has been destroyed by fire.

Example: Burnt out and burned out meaning “destroyed by fire”
All that was left of the farm was the shell of a burnt-/burned-out barn.

The house was burnt/burned out.

Get burned or get burnt

To get burned/get burnt is a phrase used to mean “be cheated” or “be insulted.” While both are acceptable, get burned is more common in both UK and US English.

Examples: Get burned and get burnt in a sentence
Try not to get burned/burnt by the car salesman!

Kyle always insults me. Every time I see him, I get burned/burnt.

Other interesting language articles

If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

 

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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.