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He was also suspected of another robbery, but again nothing could be proved/proven.

I know that both are used, but which one would Americans be inclined to use in this example?

As I understand it "proven" is more common in AE than in BE, but is it more common than "proved"?

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  • You're quite right that "proven" is more common in AE (that's the AmE corpus in Google NGrams; compare to the BrE chart). But this is a relatively recent phenomenon / affectation - until 40-50 years ago, hardly anyone except Scottish lawyers used the form proven. Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 16:42

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In British English, "proved" is a verb, "proven" is an adjective, and Cambridge Dictionary (chiefly BrEng) only lists it as such (although it does note under the definition of the root verb that "proven" is an acceptable "chiefly US" tense). Normally then, you would describe something as "proven", for example "it is a proven fact". 'Proved' is the past tense of the verb to prove, so you would use it to refer to the process of proving something, for example "we have proved this fact".

However, Websters Dictionary (chiefly an AmEng dictionary) lists "proven" as an alternative past-participle of the verb alongside 'proved', so it seems your example could take either in AmEng.

A Google ngram of the well-used phrase "innocent until proven guilty" and the alternative "innocent until proved guilty" suggests that in both BrEng and AmEng, "proven" is used more - this would seem to contradict the dictionary definitions. However, this trend only occurs after 1990 in British English, suggesting that we may have become influenced by use of this phrase in American media, where "proven guilty" has been the more commonly used version in literature since around 1958.

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    Scottish criminal juries famously have three verdicts available: guilty, not guilty, and not proven. Only the first results in a sentence for the accused. Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 17:23
  • @MichaelHarvey Good point, I've added in some detail and research on that.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 17:29
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    I don't think NGrams can be relied upon to distinguish accurately between British and American English.
    – rjpond
    Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 17:38
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    @rjpond Agreed, books printed and published in the UK often have American-English speaking authors, and in literature the list of American characters written by British authors are chockablock.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 9:17
  • @rjpond Agreed, and I never use ngrams to prove a point beyond doubt. They do show useful trends though, and if the UK book data is muddied by American books printed in the UK, that can only widen the gulf between the use of 'proved' and 'proven'.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 11:53

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