Burnt vs. Burned

Tomee Cseh

Language can be a tricky thing, and sometimes, even seemingly similar words like “burnt” and “burned” can leave us scratching our heads. Are they really the same, or is there more to it? Let’s dive into the world of these two past tense forms of “burn” and figure out what sets them apart.

What is Burnt and Burned?

“Burnt” and “burned” are different ways of saying something caught fire and is now in the past. The main distinction is in where you use them, mostly depending on whether you’re speaking British or American English.


Meaning: “Burnt” is what you say in British English when you want to talk about something that got all crispy from a fire in the past.


  • Used more in British English.
  • Works as a verb and an adjective.
    • Verb: “He burnt the toast.”
    • Adjective: “The cookies are burnt.”


Meaning: “Burned” is the American English version of “burnt.” It means the same thing – something got cooked by fire in the past.


  • More common in American English.
  • Also works as a verb and an adjective.
    • Verb: “She burned the old documents.”
    • Adjective: “The forest is burned.”

British vs. American English

The Brits tend to lean towards “burnt,” while Americans often go for “burned.”

RegionPreferred Form
British English“burnt”
American English“burned”

So, in the UK, you might say, “The logs are burnt,” whereas in the US, it would be, “The logs are burned.”

Quick Tip: In British English, use “burnt”; in American English, use “burned.”

What is the difference between “Burnt” and “Burned”?

“Burnt” and “burned” both denote the past tense of “burn,” with “burnt” being more common in British English, while “burned” is preferred in American English. Essentially, it’s a matter of regional variation: use “burnt” in the UK and “burned” in the US.

Verb or Adjective?

Another thing to think about is whether you’re using the word as a doing word or a describing word.

VerbExample: “He burnt the toast.”Example: “She burned the old documents.”
AdjectiveExample: “The cookies are burnt.”Example: “The forest is burned.”

Idiomatic Expressions and Phrasal Verbs

Sometimes, it’s not just about which one is right; it’s about what sounds better in certain phrases or sayings.

PhrasePreferred Form
“burnt out”“burnt out”
“burned down”“burned down”

Example: “After working tirelessly for weeks, she felt completely burnt out.”

A Quick Comparison Table:

FormBritish EnglishAmerican English
Usage as Verb“He burnt the letter.”“She burned the old papers.”
Usage as Adjective“The toast is burnt.”“The house is burned.”


In conclusion, picking between “burnt” and “burned” is about where you are and what sounds good to you. British English likes “burnt,” while American English goes for “burned.” But they mean the same – something got cooked by fire in the past. It’s mostly about who you’re talking to.

Whether you’re using it as a verb or an adjective, knowing these differences adds a bit of language style to your talk. So, next time you’re talking about slightly toasted bread or a forest touched by fire, just think about where you are and choose “burnt” or “burned” accordingly.