Two scenarios—when discovered—that cause me confusion with rules
- An old rule I didn’t know about because I had been originally taught the new rule (one developed in the past few decades).
- A new rule brought in by popular demand I didn’t know about because I used the old rule.
In the case of shined vs shone, I was using a rule that was relatively new. I didn’t know another existed. But it does and in some circles, it is still used.
In many instances, these sentences are equally correct.
- The sun shined on the water.
- I shined the flashlight on the sleeping dragon.
- The boys shined shoes at the corner.
However, only one of them is correct if you follow the old rule.
The verb to shine has two meanings:
- to emit light
- to cause to gleam by polish
The past tense of the first meaning is shone.
The past tense of the second meaning is shined.
Those first two sentences should be written…
- The sun shone on the water.
- I shone the flashlight on the sleeping dragon.
However—this is where it gets tricky—North America is angling towards shined in both these instances. The Internet is spreading this new use of the word across the world, so if you google “he shined a light” you get positive hits as if this is the rule.
There’s also a rumour out there that states shone is used in formal writing only and sounds a little pompous. This rumour will aid in the demise of shone.
The other reason shined may be winning the battle is it is becoming a trend that two rules for one word is too difficult to remember. This is why practice (noun) and practise (verb) have become only practice in both instances in many circles. Licence (noun) and license (verb) has gone that way too. I suspect effect and affect will one day succumb to this trend because people are tired of struggling over which one to choose.
Searching my 150,000-word Scattered Stones manuscript for shone and shined, I found shone once and shined eight times.
- The moonlight shined down on Bronwyn’s face as he peered from the slit beneath the outer defence wall.
- The night had passed quietly, and the sun shined on their modest encampment.
- The light shined directly into the protective alcove, and he kept his eyes closed against its brightness.
- The sun cut through the cloud and shined upon the last few workers who tidied up.
- Finally, his head emerged and the afternoon sun shined down upon him, blinding him temporarily.
- A dim light shined from within.
- On their approach, he spotted a tall woman with long black hair that shined like satin.
- Bright sunlight shined upon it.
- The bright palette sparkled and shone down upon them.
I have been using the ‘modern’ day use of shined in all but once instance.
Now I am left with the dilemma of either switching shined to shone or the lone shone to shined. Consistency—in this case—is more important than which rule to follow.
The questions are…
- Do more readers think shined is correct or shone in these sentences?
- What does the future hold for these words?
- Will using shone date my books when the word falls out of favour?
For my fantasy novels, the answer is simple: shone will be used. I often harvest archaic words to use in my world of Ath-o’Lea, so one more won’t make a difference.
If you want a thorough definition of to shine and the uses of its tenses, visit the Motivated Grammar blog.
What about you? Do you write “The sun shined on the basking sea dragon.” or “The sun shone on the basking sea dragon.”
PS: Did you know the archaic meaning for wife was a woman, especially an old or uneducated one?
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