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Labelled vs. Labeled

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  Marius Alza  —  Grammar Tips
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Labelled vs. Labeled

Rules of past simple tense formation of regular verbs are quite simple and easy to remember, from adding the suffix "-ed" to applying some few exceptions in several cases. Even so, there are some words that might create difficulties in choosing the right rule to apply in order to obtain the correct form of the verb at past simple.

This confusion is created, for instance, by the verb "to label", which qualifies as a regular verb. Some people claim that the correct spelling of its past simple is "labelled", while others are certain that "labeled" is the correct one. So which one should you use and what is the explanation for this confusion? Let Grammar.com clear this up for you! 

Labelled vs. Labeled

First of all, you should know that both forms are correct. "Labelled" is frequently used in the UK, just as "labelling", while "labeled" and "labeling" are preferred in the US. Otherwise there is no difference regarding the meaning or message of the verbs - both are used in the same contexts and mean the same thing. So what is the explanation for the correctitude of both spellings?

Given the basic rule of obtaining the past simple of regular verbs ending in a consonant + vowel + consonant pattern, just like "label", the final consonant must be doubled before adding "-ed". That's how British obtain and prefer using "labelled" as the correct form.

On the other hand, in American English, if the verb ends with the same consonant + vowel + consonant pattern, if it has more syllables and its final syllable is not the stressed one, then the final consonant is not doubled. Therefore, "-ed" is simply added without any other modification. Given the fact that in "label", the syllable stress is on the first, not on the second syllable, the final "-l" is not doubled and this is how you get "labeled" the spelling preferred in the US.

When should we use "labelled"?

"Labelled" is defined as the past simple form of the verb "label" mostly used in British English, referring to the action of fixing a small piece of paper (containing more information) to an element (piece of material, product etc.). Secondly, the verb can also be used when describing someone's quality or condition using a specific word or phrase.

Example 1: All products in this store are labelled with their expiration dates. - "labelled" refers to the fact that all products have a piece of further information fixed to them.

Example 2: They were quickly labelled with the word "thieves", even before evidence was found. - here, "labelled" is used referring to how people were described with a specific word.

When should we use "labeled"?

Just as "labelled", "labeled" can be used in all contexts presented above. Simply replace "labeled" in the previous examples in order to illustrate what it means and how you can use it. The only difference between these two spellings is given by the fact that "labeled" is the form preferred in American English and should be, therefore, used while communicating with a person from the USA.

Conclusion

"Labelled" and "labeled" refer to the same thing and are two different spellings of the same verb at the past tense. The difference comes from the different ways of applying the rules for the past simple of regular verbs in UK and US, but this doesn't change the fact that none of them is a misspelling. You should make sure, yet, that you prefer "labelled" in your British vocabulary and "labeled" in American English.

Labelled vs. Labeled

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