The Red Pen: “Born” vs. “Borne”

We Need to Talk About Grammar is a weekly feature in which I complain about grammatical mistakes I encounter all too often. Feel free to commiserate below, and check out the archives here!

This one is actually a bit more complicated than I had originally thought. Hang on tight and let me know if you have any questions.

Both words are forms of the verb to bear. When relating to birth, the form is almost always born, without an e, as in, “Do you think I was born in a barn?” This construction is in the passive voice, meaning that you are the person that someone else—i.e., your mother—bore. Okay, easy enough.

However, if the verb is in active voice but still relating to birth, you would use borne, as in “Our dog has borne a litter of puppies every spring since 2010.”

When not relating to birth, borne is always the correct form to use when using the past participle of to bear: “I have borne your insolence long enough—you’re fired!”

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4 thoughts on “The Red Pen: “Born” vs. “Borne”

    • Ahh that’s one that annoys me too! And yeah…I try not to take Facebook too much to heart grammar-wise, because it’s just so awful, but it’s not always easy to ignore!

  1. So interesting. I didn’t know the difference between these too. I’ve never really used borne before because I’ve never talked about animal bearing offspring or something similar. And, I always use something like “I’ve dealt with your insolence” whenever I talk about things like that. I’m going to have to use borne more often just for fun!

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