Jeremy Butterfield

Making words work for you

Forecast or forecasted? Broadcast or broadcasted?

8 Comments

One-sentence takeaway

Both are correct, but the irregular form is much more common than the regular one;  the regular form forecasted seems to be more often used in American English than in other varieties.


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The other day I was checking my fuel bills online, thanks to the wonders of the Interweb (I live in Scotland; it’s cold, and heating bills are painfully high). One of the graphs helpfully provided by the energy supplier contrasts “forecasted usage” with actual usage. That’s right, forecasted usage.

That set me thinking about that minuscule set of verbs whose past tense forms (simple past and participle) can be either regular or irregular:

broadcast(ed)
• forecast(ed)
• input(ted)
• output(ted)
• offset(ted)
• podcast(ed)

ipod

(I’ve left out cast and cost, which raise different issues).

In online forums (or fora, if you’d prefer; I certainly don’t), people ask which is the correct form, i.e. forecast or forecasted. This is one of those fairly rare instances in English verb morphology to which the answer is “both”.

But, as usual when it comes to English usage, there are some ifs and buts.

Before we look at those ifs and buts, though, it might be worth trying to find out why these two different options exist in the first place.

Results as of 19 October, 2016:
Would never use/regard it as wrong: 24
Depends on domain/syntax: 9
Wouldn’t use but not wrong: 9
Sometimes use: 2

(See note at the end for more on the past tense of “broadcast.”

New verbs are always regular

Of course, many of the most common verbs in English are irregular (e.g. bring, forget). But regular verbs far outnumber them, though they may not outweigh them in frequency.

(Just to remind ourselves, regular verbs just add –ed or –d to their base form, e.g. talk => talked, for past tense forms, sometimes with spelling modifications, e.g. try => tried.)

jabberwock

 

Any newly invented verb should automatically follow this pattern. Lewis Carroll famously made use of this rule in Jabberwocky with the word he invented that is now part of English:

 

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

 

(He also playfully invented an irregular verb as well, but that’s another story: ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves | Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: | All mimsy were the borogoves, | And the mome raths outgrabe (from to outgribe).

 

 

 

Verbs from nouns always…

follow the regular pattern almost without exception, in the process known as verbing (the possible and controversial exception being text).

Stephen Pinker (The Language Instinct, p. 380 ) states, having  proved it experimentally,  that verbs derived from nouns are filed in a different part of the mental lexicon from verbs derived from verbs; contrast outshone [from verb] with grandstanded [from noun, and not *grandstood]). grandstand

In fact, this pattern is so firmly imprinted in our internal grammars as a basic process that if I were now to ask you to make the invented noun flixxle (= a panicky attack of fidgeting) into a verb, you would automatically know how to do so. Ditto for verbing the noun bafflegab–but don’t forget to double the final –b!

The verbs we’re looking at can be irregular or regular

All, obviously, contain an irregular verb as their second element: cast, put, and set.

Their alternative forms reflect two different and conflicting analyses. If we mentally analyse them as deriving from a noun, they are regular; but if we analyse them as based on the irregular verb within them, their past tense forms will also be irregular. On the whole, the influence of their verb affix prevails.

(The results of the poll above, i.e., resoundingly against “broadcasted” — seem to confirm that, though results might vary according to which verb was in the poll.)

People subconsciously analyse them in different ways, which explains online bewilderment such as:

“I am having a problem with the word offset. This is what I’m going to type to my vendor:
If we do not receive your Statement of Account by 30 Mar ’12, all payments will be ‘offsetted’.
Is it OK to use offsetted in this sentence?”

Most dictionaries show both forms for most of these verbs; Collins is the only one I know of to show podcasted. Incidentally, the WordPress spellchecker flags up the –ed forms.

 

As long ago as 1926, Fowler in Modern English Usage Fowler's cover (2)made the verb from verb/verb from noun distinction with forecast, but brought in historical etymology to justify his aesthetic preference: “Whether we are to say forecast or forecasted…depends on whether we regard the verb or the noun as the original from which the other is formed…The verb is in fact recorded 150 years earlier than the noun, & we may therefore thankfully rid ourselves of the ugly forecasted ; it may be hoped that we should do so even if history were against us, but this time it is kind.”

Conclusionconclusion

You can’t go wrong if you use the irregular (i.e. shorter) form in all contexts. If you use the regular form, some people may find it rather odd, question it, or even dismiss it as “wrong”.

Ifs and buts

(if you want some more analysis)

I wondered if different forms might be used with different syntax and/or meaning, e.g. attributive vs predicative, or past tense vs past participle.

I suppose there is no obvious reason for these verbs all to behave in the same way, and a brief analysis of three of them shows that indeed they don’t.

forecast_graph

A rough-and-ready analysis of the March 2013 build of the Oxford English Corpus provides the following figures:

  • broadcast vs broadcasted: as the past tense 2,160 vs 465, or 82% vs 18% of all occurrences of the past tense. That means that broadcasted occurs more often in percentage terms compared to broadcast than forecasted does to forecast.
  • When it comes to the past participle, the tagging of the data meant that broadcasted could not be retrieved in its own right. However, the string BE + broadcasted within a five-word span, in other words passive use of the verb, accounted for roughly 40% of all occurrences of the form broadcasted. In contrast, there was not one single occurrence of broadcast in a passive construction. This suggests that there could be a marked syntactic differentiation between the two forms of the participle. The figures do not suggest that this passive use is specifically American.
  • As regards offset, the corpus yielded only two occurrences of offsetted against 461 of offset as past and past participle.
  • However, a Google search reveals (apart from dictionary entries and queries over which is the correct form) that offsetted appears mostly in contexts of geometric modelling and accounting, and occasionally in relation to emissions offsetting, e.g. Leaving on a carbon-offsetted jetplane! (obviously referring to the well-known song).
  • Finally, forecast vs forecasted for all uses = 3,394 vs 360, or 90% vs 10% with roughly the same relative distribution of the forms applying both to past tense and participle.
  • The data also suggests that forecasted may be more common in American English than in British, particularly as a past participle.
  • Unlike broadcasted, however, there are very few passive uses of forecasted.

I am reliably informed that, according to Asa Briggs’s History of Broadcasting, the radio pioneers approached C. T. Onions, Fellow of Magdalen and Editor of the OED, and asked him if they could adopt “broadast” as the past tense because it was more euphonious. (“Broacast” in this meaning was a simple and colourful metaphor which the BBC pioneers had devised, based on the original meanings of “to scatter seed widely” and “to disseminate widely.”) Onions is said to have replied “Since it is what you do, you can decide the grammar of the term for yourself,” And he adopted their suggested usage.

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Author: Jeremy Butterfield

Editor of Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Writer, wordsmith, copywriter, copy-editor and lover of words. I provide editing, web copywriting, and marketing copywriting services in the Central Belt of Scotland, including Stirling, Glasgow, Edinburgh and surrounding areas, as well as throughout the UK. You can find me on Twitter @JezzB2.

8 thoughts on “Forecast or forecasted? Broadcast or broadcasted?

  1. Reblogged this on transtalk.

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  2. Interesting! The comments about verbing (I wonder how many people object to the verbing of verbing?) remind me of the fact that English allows words to pass between grammatical categories very easily, at least in comparison with highly inflected languages like Irish. It also reminds me of the old linguists’ joke about nominalisation. (Who lies awake at night worrying about the nominalisation of adjectives? Only the lonely …) The fun we linguists have, eh? 🙂

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  3. Hi Jeremy – Loved the blog post as my husband and I were discussing the merits of just this topic today! As an American, I have to say that the ‘broadcasted’ usage sounds extremely weird – except in the passive as you found in the ‘Ifs-Buts’ section. And we had never realized the difference in approach for verbs from verbs vs from nouns, but once pointed out, yes!

    But I wanted to comment on a completely off-topic item. In your opening header, you have the following: “One-sentence carry-out -(that’s Scots and US for takeaway)” In the US, “Carry-out” is food. In the context of a ‘summary/concluding concept’, we would use the term ‘takeaway’. (At least in the northeast, perhaps other regions have different usage. It’s hard to make definitive statements about US usage sometimes!)

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    • Hi, Penny

      Thanks for your appreciative comment about the blog. I do hope you will sign up (if you haven’t already) for updates.

      Yes, I know: “carry-out” is food. But so is “takeaway”, in some areas. So, it was my little linguistic joke, which didn’t quite work. I’ve changed it now, to simple “takeaway.” I’ve also added a footnote that I’d been meaning to for ages, about that past tense.

      Kind regards, Jeremy

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  4. Hi jeremy,
    please give me a brief but comprehensive difference between the use of (broadcast & broadcasted) also explain about the use of forecast & forcasted. these words are making very confusion about their use. that would be very beneficial for me if you explain, because i really need your help. my exams of CA studies are going to be start.

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