Is it wrong to say “the sun shined yesterday”? Well, maybe. It depends on where you live.
|Belle had shined her buttons carefully the night before, determined to be the most dashing bear in the regiment.|
In the UK, the past tense of shine is shone—except when shine is used in the sense of “to polish”; then its past tense is shined (see OxfordDictionaries.com and Collins English Dictionary). So Brits might say they shined their shoes, their silver, or their snooker trophies, but the sun hasn’t shone in ages.
- The full moon shone down on Professor Lupin at a most inconvenient moment.
- Belle had shined her buttons carefully the night before, determined to be the most dashing bear in the regiment.
Americans are much more likely to use shined. Merriam-Webster and The American Heritage Dictionary list the past tense of shine as either shone or shined. However, as with the Brits, shined is the only correct option when you’re talking about your boots or your car.
But though US writers can use both shined and shone, there is a preference in formal writing for one over the other (as noted by American Heritage and Grammar Girl). If you want to be scrupulously correct, use shone when the verb is intransitive and shined when it’s transitive. In other words, use shone when something was itself shining—the sun, his eyes, a lava lamp—and shined when something was being shined—a flashlight, a laser, a spotlight.
- US: The UFO shined its tractor beam on a hapless Holstein.
- UK: The UFO shone its tractor beam on a hapless Holstein.
Canadians take their cue from the British in this, but the Guide to Canadian English Usage notes that though shone is more common for sentences like “the sun shone,” shined is not incorrect.
- The city lights shone on Tony’s white polyester jumpsuit.
- Paloma shined her robot’s engine until it gleamed.
- Hien shone his flashlight into the coffin to make sure he hadn’t left anything behind.
|Paloma shined her robot’s engine until it gleamed.|
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