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What verb do you use to describe a situation in which you pour too much of something into a cup and it flows over the top? Can I use the word spill? For example:

I poured too much milk into the cup and spilt it.

2 Answers 2

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  • I poured too much milk into the cup and it spilled over.

  • I have poured too much milk into the cup and it has split or has spilled over.

  • The milk spilled over the edge of the bowl.

spill has two past participles: spilt and spilled.

Generally speaking, spilt is more UK but it can be used in AmE too. It's like: learn and learnt.

spill

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The most idiomatic word for this behavior is "overflowing," which can describe either the substance or the vessel (both are common).

I poured too much milk into the cup and it (the cup) overflowed.

I poured too much milk into the cup and it (the milk) overflowed.

If one insists on an active construction focusing on you, the one who poured the milk, "spilt" would indeed be understood with sufficient context.

Informally, it would be common to hear some kind of colorful description of where the milk ended up: "made a mess," "got it all over," "soaked the tablecloth," etc.

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  • A washing machine overflows is more common.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 22:43
  • @Lambie Anything can overflow if it's over-filled. Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 8:40
  • The dam overflowed, The river overflowed its banks. The bank was overflowing with customers. You say that a cup that overflows with milk is the most idiomatic. I disagree.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 23:29
  • I said it was the most appropriate grammatical construction for the situation described. I didn't say it was the most typical conceivable scenario for the idiom. Where would you even get that idea? Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 6:49
  • You did say the most idiomatic. As for grammatical construction, that's not really relevant. I poured too much milk into the cup and it spilled over.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 21:36

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