Skip to main content

Snuck vs. Sneaked

"Sneaked" versus "snuck" is one of those classic grammarian conundrums that you'll hear word enthusiasts debate all the time. Here's a simple explanation to make sure you're using the right word.
Snuck vs. Sneaked

Q: I say "snuck" all the time (as in, "I snuck some cookies before dinner"), but my grandma is always telling me "snuck" isn't a word and I should be saying "sneaked." I've never heard anyone (other than her) use the word "sneaked." Is she right? –Anonymous

A: "Sneaked" versus "snuck" is one of those classic grammarian conundrums that you'll hear word enthusiasts debate all the time. Many people (including my sister) will say "snuck" without even slight hesitation, while supporters of "sneaked" (like me) will adamantly throw red flags on them, calling them out for improper use of our fine English language. But do we who say "sneaked" really have a case against the "snuck-ers" of the world?

(Grammar Rules for Writers)

Twenty years ago, maybe. Today, probably not.

"Sneaked" is the standard past tense and past participle form of "sneak." Last night I sneaked into the movie theater. Unfortunately, the ticket taker sneaked in right behind me and tossed me out on my rear. What this means is that "sneaked" has always been accepted as the past tense of "sneak." So if you use it, you will be abiding by the long-time language rules preached by most of our high school English teachers.

Of course, the rules of the English language are always evolving, and "snuck" has sneaked its way into our American lexicon. It's considered the nonstandard past tense—basically meaning that "sneaked" is the preferred word-choice, but "snuck" is also acceptable. (English teachers across the nation just united against me—though if any start a "We Support Sneaked" Facebook page, I promise I'll join.) I snuck into the meeting a few minutes late hoping no one would notice. The next week, my boss snuck a few dollars out of my paycheck. Even Merriam-Webster, who calls itself "America's foremost publisher of language-related reference works," doesn't make the distinction in its online definition and fully recognizes "snuck" as a past tense and past participle of "sneak."

In another 10-to-20 years, "snuck" may even become the preferred past tense form of "sneak"—who knows? But until then, I suggest using "sneaked." It will not only make you sound smarter, but it'll also keep the English teachers from hunting me down like a movie-theater ticket-taker.

Grammar and Mechanics

Do you remember the difference between the 8 parts of speech and how to use them? Are you comfortable with punctuation and mechanics? No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.

Click to continue.

Good Samaritan or Bystander?

Good Samaritan or Simply Bystander?

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, your character witnesses something bad happening—will they intervene?

Lygia Day Peñaflor: On Writing Unconventional Villains

Lygia Day Peñaflor: On Writing Unconventional Villains

Author Lygia Day Peñaflor discusses the high school experience that inspired her new YA psychological drama, Creep: A Love Story.

Writing Doesn't Have to Be Lonely: 5 Benefits of Joining a Writing Organization

Writing Doesn't Have to Be Lonely: 5 Benefits of Joining a Writing Organization

Author and Sisters in Crime Vice President Jennifer J. Chow reflects on 35 years of the women's crime writer's organization and the five benefits of joining a writing organization—even if you're an introvert.

5 Tips for Forming Your Own Distinct Voice (and Why That’s Important)

5 Tips for Forming Your Own Distinct Voice (and Why That’s Important)

While emulating authors you love is a natural starting point, finding your own voice in storytelling is paramount to your success. Author Ronald Kelly shares 5 tips for forming your own writing voice.

From Script

Keeping the Emotion of the True Story (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, Barri Evins offers writers invaluable pointers on navigating the pitfalls, as well as capturing the potential of the true story, peppered with lots of real-life examples.

Sarah Bonner: On a Rom-Com Becoming a Psychological Thriller

Sarah Bonner: On a Rom-Com Becoming a Psychological Thriller

Author Sarah Bonner discusses how she started her debut novel as short story before it became the psychological thriller, Her Perfect Twin.

Kerri Maniscalco: On Big Reveals in Fantasy Fiction

Kerri Maniscalco: On Big Reveals in Fantasy Fiction

New York Times bestselling author Kerri Maniscalco discusses the satisfaction in finishing a series with her new fantasy novel, Kingdom of the Feared.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: A New Podcast Episode, Novel Conference Registration, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce a new podcast episode about literary agents, Novel Conference registration reminder, and more!

5 Tips on How To Write Fast—And Well!

5 Tips on How To Write Fast—And Well!

Who says your first drafts can’t be completed manuscripts? Author Kate Hewitt lays out 5 tips on how to write fast and well.