Kneeled or Knelt | Meaning, Difference & Examples

Kneeled and knelt are two different spellings of the past simple and past participle of the verb “kneel,” used to refer to the act of placing one or both knees on the ground. This action is often used as a gesture of respect or worship (similar to “genuflecting”).

The spelling of the past tense varies somewhat between UK and US English:

  • In UK English, “knelt” is standard (though “kneeled” is still acceptable).
  • In US English, both “knelt” and “kneeled” are commonly used (“knelt” is more popular).
Examples: Kneeled and knelt in a sentence
The people knelt/kneeled before the queen.

The worshippers knelt/kneeled and prayed every morning.

The mother knelt/kneeled on the floor to play with the child.

Verbs whose past simple and past participle are formed in some way other than by adding the suffix “-ed” are called irregular verbs.

“Kneel” can be either regular or irregular; the irregular form is more popular today, especially in UK English. Other verbs that can be either regular or irregular are “learnt/learned,” “dreamt/dreamed,” “spelt/spelled” and “burnt/burned.”

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Kneeled down or knelt down

Kneeled and knelt are often followed by “down” to form the phrasal verb kneeled down/knelt down. “Kneeled down/knelt down” means the same thing as “kneeled/knelt.” The same distinction applies to these forms:

  • In UK English, “knelt down” is more popular (though “kneeled down” is still acceptable).
  • In US English, both “knelt down” and “kneeled down” are commonly used (though “knelt down” appears more often).
Examples: Knelt down and kneeled down in a sentence
I knelt down/kneeled down to scrub the floor.

The theater was so crowded that some people stood in the aisles while others knelt down/kneeled down in front of the stage.

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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.