Kneeled or Knelt – What’s the Difference?

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.

What is the Difference Between Kneeled and Knelt?

In this article, I will compare knelt vs. kneeled. I will use each of these words in a sentence, so you can see them in their proper context.

Plus, I will demonstrate a mnemonic that you can use to make choosing kneeled or knelt simpler.

When to Use Knelt

Definition of knelt definition and definition of kneeled definition What does knelt mean? Knelt is the past tense and past participle of the verb kneel, which means to drop to one’s knees.

For example,

  • Ser Pounce climbed the marble stairs to the throne and knelt before his queen.
  • Martin turned to face Mecca and knelt in prayer.
  • Edgar was last seen knelt in fealty to our robot overlords.
  • The veterinarian knelt over my three-legged Australian shepherd, Patou, in my living room. –The New York Times

When to Use Kneeled

Is kneeled a word? Kneeled is another version of the same word. It is not commonly used, and is considered substandard. The graph below shows the relative usage of kneeled and knelt in books written in English since 1800,

kneeled versus knelt

Though kneeled does appear, knelt is much more common. It is important to note that this graph is not scientific or exact, since it only looks at data from one source and only goes back to 1800.

Corroborating this data, Bryan Garner, in his book Garner’s Modern American Usage, estimates the ratio to be 6:1 of knelt vs. kneeled.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define knelt and define kneeled Kneeled and knelt mean the same thing. That said, knelt is the standard form of this word, and you should always choose it.

Remember that knelt is spelled with the letter T, just like the words past, tense, and participle. This way, you will always know that knelt can be used as those parts of speech.


Is it 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.