The word sneaked has long been recognized as the standard past tense and past participle of the verb sneak, but it’s no longer the only option. The word snuck is now also commonly used the same way. While some believe that sneaked is the best past tense form of sneak, it is not incorrect to use snuck in most circumstances.
Sneaked vs. Snuck in Grammar: A Simple Explanation
Conjugating Sneak: Regular or Irregular?
A regular verb is conjugated following a traditional, predictable pattern, such as forming the past tense by adding -ed to the present tense form of the verb. Sneak was originally considered to be a regular verb, though it is now often treated as an irregular verb. An irregular verb is an action word that does not follow a predictable pattern when changing tenses.
Regular: When treating sneak as a regular verb, the past tense form is sneaked.
Irregular: When treating sneak as an irregular verb, the past tense form is snuck.
Traditional (Sneaked) Versus Modern (Snuck)
The word sneaked has been used for much longer than the word snuck, but that doesn’t mean that one word is more correct than the other.
Sneaked: Standard Past Tense
The word sneaked has always been a correct way to express the past tense of sneak. For a long time, it was considered to be the only standard option.
Snuck: Nonstandard Becomes Standard
The word snuck was introduced to the English language much later than sneaked. The less formal past tense option for sneak is said to have originated in the United States.
Snuck was originally considered to be a nonstandard past tense form of sneak, and so has not always been considered to be an appropriate term to use in formal communication.
As usage of the word snuck became more widespread, though, it came to be widely accepted. The word has long appeared in many dictionaries as an acceptable alternative to the word sneaked.
Sneaked vs. Snuck: Examples in Everyday Language
The words sneaked and snuck can now be used interchangeably. Examples of sentences and questions in which either word would be appropriate are listed below.
She snuck / sneaked into the theater to watch the end of the play.
The deadline snuck / sneaked up on me.
They snuck / sneaked into the party at Stan’s house.
My parents snuck / sneaked out of town to relax for a few days.
We snuck / sneaked in a workout at the gym after class.
I have snuck /sneaked some kale powder into the soup recipe several times.
I didn’t realize you had snuck / sneaked off on your own.
The dog snuck / sneaked a bite of my sandwich when I looked away.
What did you think would happen when you snuck / sneaked out of class?
Has she ever snuck /sneaked out of her house after curfew?
Who snuck /sneaked this cat into my house?
If you’re wondering how to choose between sneaked and snuck, be sure to consider the formality of what you are writing. Generally speaking, you can’t go wrong when you choose standard terminology when writing a formal document. Opting for a word that may be considered nonstandard, though, can have a negative impact on some readers.
If you are drafting a formal document, consider opting for the term sneaked, as no one who reads your work is likely to perceive it as an appropriate word to use.
People who are sticklers for traditional word use may view snuck as either incorrect or too casual for a formal document.
Not all writing is formal. If the document or story you are writing is relatively informal or is intended to come across sounding like ordinary conversation, then you may want to choose the word snuck.
Consider the Audience
While snuck is a word and it is not wrong to use it as the past tense of sneaked, that doesn’t mean that it will always be viewed as the best option.
If you’re working on a writing assignment for school, don’t be surprised if you receive feedback suggesting that sneaked would be a better option.
Depending on when your teacher studied the rules for conjugating snuck, he or she may have learned that sneaked is the standard (and therefore preferable) choice.
Even if your teacher knows that snuck is now considered acceptable, he or she still may want to encourage you to incorporate the most standard and widely accepted language in your writing.
English is spoken in many different countries. While snuck is commonly used in the United States and Canada, it is not as accepted in countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.
People who learn English as a foreign language are typically more familiar with standard word usage than nonstandard. Using an unexpected past tense of a word could lead to difficulty for readers who are not Native English speakers.
It’s not at all uncommon for language to change in a way that leads to acceptance of terms once considered nonstandard. New words are added to dictionaries each year, a practice that helps make sure that language keeps up changes in how people communicate over time. If language didn’t evolve, Old English would never have developed into Middle English, and Modern English wouldn’t exist. Now that you are familiar with how language evolves, take the time to explore how slang affects the English language.