Friday, May 20, 2011


There seems to be a lot of uncertainty about the past participle of prove. I regularly notice the NY Times waffling between has proven and has proved, sometimes even from one paragraph to the next, as in this article:
Ryan’s medical update on Sanchez seemed to carry an underlying message. Sanchez has proved to be a much better quarterback this season than he was as a rookie, when Ryan made a point of not relying on Sanchez to win games on his own, especially in the playoffs.
Now that Sanchez has proven he is more capable of playing his position."
The traditional past participle is proved, which is much more common than proven in the UK even today. But in both British and American English, proven has been gaining ground, especially since the 1970s, and in the American section of the Google books corpus has all but pulled abreast of proved.

Frequency of past participles of prove in British section of Google Books corpus.

Frequency of past participles of prove in American section of Google Books corpus.

BTW, any theories about those humps around the ends of the two world wars?


David Craig said...

Any significance to the fact that in Sanchez has proved to be ... Sanchez is the provee and in Sanchez has proven he is ... he is the prover?

Brett said...

There may be some significance in the mind of the writer, but it is by no means a generalizable pattern.

David Craig said...

I've seen that in a wordie board I visit a lot. Someone will ask what the difference is between two similar words; reliable and dependable came up recently. What we tend to see is that many will agree that there is a difference but few will agree on what the difference is.

xcyus said...

the humps - those are certainly obits and biographies of heroes who have proven/proved themselves on the field of battle