When to Use Spilled or Spilt

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  • 0:04 Spilled vs. Spilt
  • 1:00 Examples
  • 1:33 Use as Adjectives
  • 1:52 Use as Verbs
  • 2:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
'Spilled' and 'spilt' sound like similar words, and they are often confused and used interchangeably. In this lesson, you'll learn a brief history of these words and the correct way to use each one in a sentence.

Spilled vs. Spilt

An American meets a British citizen and they go out for a friendly cup of coffee. By accident, the American knocks over his coffee. ''Oh no,'' says the American, ''I spilled my coffee!'' The British friend says, ''Don't you mean you spilt your coffee?''

Which one is correct?

'To spill' means to run or fall out of a container, to give out information, or to fall over.

The past tense of spill is 'spilled' or 'spilt;' either one indicates an action that is finished. 'Spilled' and 'spilt' are also the past participle of 'to spill'. The past participle is used when you use the perfect tense to express an action that happened some time before now: 'have' + past participle form of a verb (in this case, 'spilled' and 'spilt'). Here's an example:

  • They have spilled the milk all over the table.

The past participle is also used in the passive voice: 'be' + past participle, to express an action that was done to something else. For instance:

  • The milk was spilled on the table.

Examples

Let's look at some more examples of how to use 'spilled' in a sentence:

  • Having spilled the beans, I realized I had given away the secret of the surprise party. (Here, 'spilled' is used to disclose information.)

  • The crowd at the garden party was so large that it spilled over into neighboring yards. (In this sentence, 'spilled' is used to describe an overflow.)

  • The water spilled out of the bowl and caused a stain on the table. (Here, 'spilled' is used to describe the action of the water.)

  • The spy spilled the information when she was under pressure. (In this sentence, 'spilled' means to give information.)

Use as Adjectives

'Spilled' and 'spilt' can sometimes be used as an adjective, a word used to describe another word. For example:

  • Don't cry over spilt milk. (This is a traditional phrase meaning that you can not change what has been done.)

  • The spilled juice ran onto the floor. (Here, the word is used to describe juice that was already spilled.)

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