My friend and I are debating whether or not "costed" should be used in a particular sentence.

"I wonder how much it costed to get all of that paint on."

I understand "costed" to be used when something like "priced" or "valued" would work, like

"He costed the vacation to be somewhere around three thousand dollars"

meaning he calculated the cost of the trip. I don't think that using "costed" in the first sentence serves that purpose. In response to these thoughts, my friend said this:

"'Costed' is inflected for the dummy pronoun 'it' which is coreferential with the infinitive phrase 'to get all of that text painted on.' 'To cost' is a transitive verb where the agent is the thing being purchased, which is 'it'. Have you only ever used 'to cost' as a where the thing being purchased is a patient?"

As you may be able to tell, my friend is a bit more linguistically inclined than I am, and I don't really understand what this whole thing means. Can someone translate, and tell me if he's right?

  • 1
    This might help from the Wiktionary entry for 'costed' The only non-proscribed use is in the sense of "to give a cost to". Where proper grammar is expected, use cost instead for non-specialized past-tense and past-participle uses such as answering the question "How much did it cost?" Your friend's explanation seems to me like he was trying to confuse you.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 7, 2017 at 0:10
  • Your friends answer is gibberish and costed you much worry. Apr 8, 2017 at 23:45

5 Answers 5


There are two English verbs whose infinitive is "to cost", their meaning is closely related, and they conjugate almost exactly the same, but not quite.

The most commonly used one is as you've indicated, the verb used to indicate cost or price; the subject is the object in question and the object is the price. Sometimes it's bitransitive, taking two objects - "it costs me two pounds to take the bus"; "me" and "two pounds" being the two objects. There's also the idiomatic usage where there's only one object, and that's the person (or whatever) that will have to pay the price, as in "it'll cost you", meaning that there will be a significant cost to doing something.

Most often, this sense of "cost" is used in the third person, as you're generally referring to a non-person, though sometimes you talk about the cost of a person. In that case, the present tense is I cost, you cost, it costs, we cost, they cost. Both the simple past and past participle are formed irregularly, and are 'cost' regardless of number and person. "It has cost" and "it cost" are essentially identical in meaning. Use of the progressive aspect in this sense is also possible, such as "three meals, costing a total of £100".

The other verb "to cost" means, I would say, "to assign or determine cost". This one forms past tenses more regularly, and generally behaves more as a simpler sort of verb describing an action a person would take - because it is an action people take. "The building work was costed at £10,000". "I asked him to cost the proposal".

Sometimes it's normal in a dialect to conjugate the first sort the same as the second, and sometimes people just speak in a way that's technically incorrect. But if you want to stick to standard English grammar, what I've described above is how it works.


Although it may not be correct, there are a few cases in which "costed" is commonly used as a past tense of cost. For example:

College costed an arm and a leg when I was in school.

"I wonder how much it costed to get all of that paint on" might not be a popular phrasing because of the "how much". When there is explicit quantification in the sentence, people are more likely to use "cost" as the past tense of "cost". But a generic reference like "what" might be used with "costed":

I wonder what it costed to get all of that paint on.

This is just idiom, but "costed" is commonly used in speech in certain cases.


I couldn't really say why, but you'll note that you don't see "costed" much. I think the preferred expression is "used to cost" if you need to refer to things in the past.

College used to cost only a few thousand dollars, as compared to the 'mortgage payment' it is today.

Otherwise the simple "cost" is more common:

I wonder how much it cost to get all of that paint on.

"Costed" to mean "measured the cost" is, I suppose, something people say, but personally I prefer "priced" for this context:

He priced the entire trip to be about 3000 dollars, including airfare.

  • That's exactly what I thought, but I don't know what he means in that last quote. Can you explain it?
    – Phlebas
    Mar 6, 2017 at 23:48
  • He's referring to the use of "cost" as in the first example, where "it" means "the price of the paint job". It costed X dollars (or euros, or whatever). A transitive verb requires a subject and an object, like "I stopped the car", as compared with intransitive verb which just needs a subject "The car stopped". Some verbs can be both, depending on context, but your friend insists that cost is only transitive. We'd have to get one of the more linguistically professional ELL people to give their opinion.
    – Andrew
    Mar 7, 2017 at 0:06

I wonder how much it costed to get all of that paint on.

The sentence is not grammatical.

When you say something (it) costs, You use the verb as a linking verb to mean "to have the price of". The past or past participle of the cost is the same - cost, not costed. So the correct sentence is:

I wonder how much it cost to get all of that paint on.

On the other hand, you say somebody cost (past/past participle costed) to mean to estimate the cost of something. For example:

He costed the material that would be used in the building.


I would prefer:

I wonder how much did it cost to get all of that paint on.

It avoids confusions, questions...

And according to Wiktionary:

The past tense and past participle is cost in the sense of "this computer cost me £600", but costed in the sense of 'calculated', "the project was costed at $1 million."

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