Shining a light

The verb shine gives some writers trouble because it has two spellings in the past tense: shined and shone.

Here is an example of the confusion, from an AOL Web site report about the Grammy Awards:

It was pure old-school Hollywood for eight-time nominee Mary J. Blige, who shined in a form-fitting Michael Kors gown.

The standard verb form in that construction is shone.


Use the past tense shined when the verb is transitive; use the past tense shone when the verb is intransitive A transitive verb has an object; an intranstive verb does not. Here is a sentence that I hope illustrates the difference”

The chef’s diligent helper shined the copper pot until it shone like newly minted penny.

The first use of shine has an object (pot) and the second does not.

The Columbia Guide to Standard American English explains that shone in the intransitive construction is more common, but that shined shows up sometimes. The key is whether the subject of the verb is taking an action that affects an object (either stated or implied).

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.