Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: tread / trod / trodden.

tread / trod / trodden. So inflected. “Trod” is a variant past participle. Although many American dictionaries (surprisingly) list ‘untrod’ as the standard adjective in preference to ‘untrodden,” the latter form is four times as common. Many writers, unfortunately, have tried to make “trod” into a present-tense verb. They’re treading heavily on the language — e.g.: “A truce was declared yesterday in the latest battle of Manassas, as state and federal officials announced a plan to widen a perilous intersection without trodding [read ‘treading’] on a sacred Civil War battleground.” Dan Eggen, “Past Gives Ground to Safety,” Wash. Post, 29 Oct. 1998, at B5. The mistaken form *”trodded” appears as both a past tense and a past participle — e.g.: o “He trodded [read ‘trod’] on Cardinals’ foreheads for 124 yards in the opener.” Tim Tyers, “Key Match-Ups,” Ariz. Republic, 15 Nov. 1998, at F4. o “Kanika has trodded [read ‘trodden’] loyally down the road less traveled with Tarrik in the last four years of marriage.” Mike Kiley, “Wife Helps Brock Keep Faith in Cubs,” Chicago Sun-Times, 20 Mar. 2000, at 90. “Treaded” is the accepted past tense and past participle only in the sense of treading water, both literally and figuratively — e.g.: o “He reached the western wall and treaded water as he groped for a handhold along the frosted stone.” Michael Allen Dymmoch, The Cymry Ring 8 (2006). o “Connecticut treaded water for the first half of the year before beginning its jobs descent, losing 10,500 jobs in September-November.” Kenneth R. Gosselin et al., “Battered and Bruised; The Year in Business,” Hartford Courant, 1 Jan. 2009, at A12. Language-Change Index — (1) “trod” misused for present-tense “tread”: Stage 1; (2) *”trodded” for “trod”: Stage 1; (3) *”trodded” for “trodden”: Stage 1; (4) “treaded” in reference to treading water: Stage 5. *Invariably inferior form.
Quotation of the Day: “The abiding principle of good coherence is providing transitions. All this means is that you put up verbal signs showing your reader that you’re moving to another point.” Elizabeth McMahan, A Crash Course in Composition 31 (2d ed. 1977).
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