What is the difference between spent and spend?

The difference between spent and spend is not reduced to a verbal tense. It’s true that, as a verb, spend indicates a present action and spent a past action. However, the main substantial difference is that spent can be also used as an adjective, referring to something that has no longer any value or efficacy, and it can also be employed for animals and people, whereas spend is basically an action or verb – either in the present or future – meaning the handing out of something that can be measured or counted in exchange for a good and/or service, or the passing of time in a specific way or place.

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Spend

Spend is an irregular verb (to spend) that conveys two meanings. The first meaning involves the use of a medium of exchange – like money or other exchangeable and measurable goods – in order to receive something. The second meaning is used with regards to time, as in passing time in a particular location or manner.

The word “spend”, mainly when used in an affirmative sentence (and sometimes in a negative or interrogative), implies an action that is continued and is not yet finished. For example, when I state “I spend $50 on gas”, I’m illustrating an action that is performed periodically, even if I don’t specify the frequency in the same sentence (it’s assumed from the context of the conversation). It could be finished with “every month”, “every week”, every time I visit my aunt”, among others.

Examples:

  • “Why did you spend more money during your last trip?”
  • “Andrew didn’t spend much time fixing the car.”
  • “Where did Monica spend her tokens?”
  • “Trisha didn’t spend $8 on the wine bottle.
  • “I used to spend much more money on modern video games.”
  • “You spend too much time with that guy!”
  • “Matthew spends $300 on rent monthly.”
  • “I don’t spend my coins on useless stuff.”

When the verb is used in interrogative or negative sentences, it could refer to actions or events that happened or finished at one point in the past.

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Spent

The word spent can be used as a verb (simple past or past participle of the verb “to spend”) or as an adjective. As a verb, it’s an action indicating that a measurable good has been handed out in exchange for something (for example: “I spent 100$ on food.”) or when something has been used or handed out to the point of exhaustion (e.g., “Kevin spent everything he had left on that house”, “I spent the oil that was left in the bottle.”, etc.) As an adjective, it states the quality of a person, thing or animal that has lost power, energy, or efficacy and is usually conveyed in a derogatory sense.

For illustrative purposes, when something has been applied or utilized to the point of being rendered useless, we speak of a spent thing (a spent lighter, a spent pen, a spent cow, etc.) Also, it can refer to someone who has drained his/her energy to achieve something (so it’s not reduced to money or time).

Examples:

  • “Patrick spent all my energy on that project for nothing!”
  • “I brought a spent battery with me this whole time.”
  • “I’m spent from doing all the gardening yesterday.”
  • “That spent cow can still be our pet”.