Two people were playing cards. So a person folded a card by mistake. So what sounds natural:

You have spoilt the card.

You have damaged the card.

Do both "spoilt" and "damaged" sound natural?

6 Answers 6


As a native American-English speaker, I can tell you 'spoilt' does not sound natural. 'Spoilt' would be better applied to food that has gone bad.

'Damaged' would be the better option of the two. You might also refer to how the card was damaged, such as "You bent the card" or "You crumpled the card."

  • 9
    As a British English speaker "spoiled" or "spoilt" would sound perfectly reasonable to me, but "damaged" is also fine, and clearly crosses the Atlantic better!
    – Muzer
    Commented May 31, 2019 at 9:25
  • 2
    @Muzer As a British English speaker, neither "spoiled" or "spoilt" sounds reasonable to me at all. It may fit the definition of the verb "spoil", but it's not a usage I have ever heard, or would expect to ever hear. Commented May 31, 2019 at 10:35
  • 3
    Also, you can "spoil the plan" but "damage the plan" sounds odd
    – Kevin
    Commented May 31, 2019 at 14:24
  • You are safer with damaged, as an Australian english speaker, spoilt is not natural.
    – B-K
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 6:35

Although it's somewhat hyperbolic, the expression 'you've ruined it' comes to me in this situation.
Whilst the card will hardly be in ruin, someone annoyed about its being damaged may still simply complain that it was 'ruined', i.e. rendered in an unacceptable condition.

‘Spoilt’ does sound perfectly natural to me as a British speaker; damaged is obviously correct but, because it's so literal, sounds strange, given nothing is being conveyed that the addressee can't already work out.

  • 12
    Ruin in this case would be appropriate if, as in most games, knowing the identity of the card reveals secret information. Commented May 31, 2019 at 1:33

Specifically for cards, you have "marked" it. That's what makes it completely unplayable. Marking a card means you can track it through the deck.

  • 1
    "JUUUDGE! My opponent is playing with marked cards!"
    – nick012000
    Commented Jun 1, 2019 at 9:20

In British English 'spoilt' and 'spoiled' are equally correct past participles of the verb 'spoil'. In American English, only 'spoiled' is usually considered correct. Other verbs like this include 'burn': burnt/burned (British) burned (American), and learn: learnt/learned (British), learned (American).

I would prefer to use spoilt/spoiled since the card is no longer suitable for use in a card game, even though it is not completely destroyed.

  • 4
    My experience is that "burnt", particularly in such phrases as "burnt toast" is not uncommon in US Englsih, particularly in the Northeast, although 'burned" is more common. I agree that "spoilt" and "learnt" are not. Google Ngrams seems to confirms this, and suggests that "spoilt" is significantly less common than "spoiled" even in BrE Commented May 30, 2019 at 23:24
  • In colloquial Br Eng there are a lot of these - somethings I feel they are part of the north/south divide, the 't' ending more common in the north. Dreamt/dreamed, spelt/spelled, leant/leaned. Oddly, I'd say "I burned the toast, the toast is burnt." Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 9:25

Native Brit; to me the meaning of spoilt/spoiled in this context would mean the card were no longer usable in the game, for example if someone wrote the denomination on the back of the card for all to see. I would expect that particular usage to be uncommon in comparison with something like ruined.

To damage or bend a card doesn't necessarily render it unusable.

  • 3
    If I know which card was bent, I might as well have written the denomination on the back of it...I know exactly which card it is, either way. For a serious game, this card would actually be unusable. Commented May 31, 2019 at 19:17
  • As an American, I would think that a card was "spoiled" if it was removed from play as a consequence of accidental exposure, but not as a result of physical damage; it would often be deliberately shown to everyone to ensure nobody would have an unfair advantage. I would definitely favor "ruined" for cases where the card is physically and irreversibly damaged.
    – supercat
    Commented May 31, 2019 at 20:50
  • @user3067860 In that context, of course. Not in all contexts, hence not necessarily unusable. For example, playing ring of fire at university I'm pretty sure all the cards were completely ruined, but they were still entirely usable for the purposes of the game at hand :) Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 16:17

The reason why the current accepted answer states that it doesn't sound natural to say a "spoilt card", is because the comment not quite correct.

You have damaged the single card - but spoilt the whole deck and the game.

The difference between them is that when goods are damaged, it's very rare in English culture to look at the components individually; but the functionality of the product as a whole. The product is not a single card, but the whole deck...

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