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Kneeled vs. Knelt

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips
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As you listen to English conversation, you may notice that not everyone uses the language in an identical manner. Differences in English speech may be due to pronunciation, grammar, or even word choice. Some words, like kneeled and knelt, are used in similar situations. The -ed and ­-t endings represent different ways of conjugating verbs into the past tense, with -ed being used for regular verbs, and -t being better suited to irregular verbs. But, which of these variants is correct for this particular verb? If you struggle picking kneeled vs. knelt, you aren’t alone. Many English speakers and writers aren’t aware that one of these words is proper and the other is substandard.

Continue reading to find out which is which.


The words kneeled and knelt have the root word kneel which originated from Old English cnēowlian, from cnēow meaning knee.

Kneel as verb:

Kneel is used as a verb in English language where it means to be in or assume a position in which the body is supported by a knee or the knees, as when praying or showing submission.

They knelt down and prayed.

Use of knelt:

Knelt is the past tense and past participle of the verb kneel, which means to drop to one’s knees.


On that occasion in 2000, Michael knelt in his jail cell and begged God to help him.  (The Herald-News)

Soon after his appointment to the post of VP in December last year, Mnangagwa knelt before Grace and Mugabe as a show of loyalty and gratitude. (The Standard)\

Kneeled vs. Knelt

The sobs of a man, grief-stricken with pain, could still be heard feet away, even as he buried his face and hands in the grassy ground and knelt in front of an American flag that leaned against a caution-tape-wrapped pole.  (The Terre Haute Tribune Star)

The veterinarian knelt over my three-legged Australian shepherd, Patou, in my living room. –The New York Times

Use of kneeled:

Kneeled is another version of the same word. It is not commonly used, and is considered substandard.


When doctors told Thicklin her long odds, she kneeled and began to pray. (The Washington Times)

“It’s growing in not just artists but attendees,” said Ronning, founder and director of the Chalk.a.Lot Sidewalk Festival in Two Harbors, as people sat, crouched, kneeled or even lay alongside squares of the walk along either side of Waterfront Drive, creating temporary works of art.  (The Duluth News Tribune)

They said Herrington kneeled over him, applying a headlock for as long as half an hour while waiting for backup and an ambulance. (The Press Examiner)

Kneeled or knelt:

Kneeled and knelt are both used as the past tense and past participle of the verb kneel, which means to drop to one’s knees. Knelt is much more common, and is considered standard. Kneeled is not widely accepted. You should avoid kneeled in academic and professional writing. Since knelt contains the letter T, just like past tense and past participle, you should always be able to remember when to use it. Even though these two words are similar, you can avoid common and embarrassing mistakes by engaging in basic research. Don’t forget to check this site if you need a quick refresher, or any time you have questions on word choice or other writing topics.

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