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Swelled Vs. Swollen - Which Is Correct?

HSSchulte is an ESL teacher and loves to share English tips.

The past tense of swell is swelled.

  • For example, "Her arm swelled after she crashed her bike."

The past participle of swell is swollen.

  • For example, "Her arm has swollen to twice its size."

Swollen can also be used as an adjective.

  • For example, "Her swollen arm made it difficult to dress."

Swollen foot

Swollen foot

Swelled or Swollen: Which is Correct?

To use the simple past tense of the verb swell, use swelled.

  • His leg swelled yesterday.
  • My face swelled to twice its size from an allergic reaction.

To use the past participle form of the verb swell, use swollen.

  • My finger has swollen since the accident.
  • Our pride had swollen because of our victory.
  • The ideas have swollen in my head.

Note: the past participle will be preceded by has, have or had.

When is "Swelled" Correct?

Swelled is correct whenever you are talking about something that happened in the past that is over. You might be talking about something that happened yesterday or two years ago, but in general, we use simple past to talk about things that are completed. We never use have, had or has before simple past tense.

Example Sentences Using "Swelled"

  • I swelled with pride when I won.
  • His head swelled after the race.
  • Her nose swelled last week.
  • Your eye swelled and turned black two months ago.
  • They swelled with pride for their team.
  • The sound swelled to a loud roar.


When is "Swollen" Correct?

Swollen is correct whenever you want to use the past participle form of the verb, "to swell."

Past Perfect

Past participles are used after the word had to make past perfect sentences.

We use past perfect to talk about an event that finished before another event started.

  • His toes had swollen before I came into the room.
  • She had swollen up with pride before the race started.
  • My arm had swollen before I got to school.

We also use past perfect to talk about things that finished before a given time.

  • Her whole body had swollen before she woke at 7:00 AM.
  • The dam had swollen and broken the gate before 9:00 PM.
  • His ear had swollen before we got to school at 8:00 AM.

Finally, we use past perfect sentences to talk about conditional statements using if/then clauses.

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  • If my leg had swollen, then I wouldn't have fit into this dress.
  • If the river had swollen, the house would have been swallowed up by the raging water.
  • If her head had swollen any bigger, she would have been impossible.

You can also use past perfect in the interrogative form to ask questions.

  • Had your leg swollen before you left the house?
  • Had the river swollen before you fell asleep?
  • Had her head swollen any bigger after the victory?

Present Perfect

Past participles are also used after the words have or has to make present perfect sentences.

We use the present perfect tense to talk about things that started in the past and continue today.

  • The fingers have swollen to twice their size and are still getting bigger.
  • The balloons have swollen each time she breathed air into them.
  • The knuckles have swollen larger for the last half an hour.
  • It has swollen to the size of a watermelon.
  • She has swollen since she started eating candy.
  • The arm has swollen to the size to the size of a leg since noon.

We can use present perfect to talk about things that started at an unspecified time in the past and continue until now.

  • My foot has swollen.
  • His ego has swollen.
  • Their pride has swollen.

We can also use present perfect to talk about things that started at a specific time in the past and continue until now.

  • Her ego has swollen since she got the award at noon today.
  • My thumb has swollen since I shut my hand in the door when I left at 5:00 PM last night.
  • His eye has swollen since I arrived at work this morning.

You can also use present perfect in the interrogative form to ask questions.

  • Has her ego swollen since she got the award?
  • Has my thumb swollen since I shut my hand in the door at 5:00 PM last night?
  • Has his eye swollen since he got to work this morning?

Future Perfect

Past participles are also used after the words "will have" to make future perfect sentences.

We use future perfect to talk about what is going to happen in the future.

  • It will have swollen to the size of a watermelon by tonight.
  • Her tongue will have swollen to twice its size by this afternoon.

You can also use the interrogative form to ask questions using future perfect.

  • Will it have swollen to the size of a watermelon by tonight?
  • Will her tongue have swollen to twice its size by this afternoon?


How "Swollen" Can Also be Used as an Adjective

Swollen can also be used as an adjective, or to describe a noun. In the phrase, "swollen hands," swollen is used to describe the person's hands. In the phrase, "swollen lake" swollen is used to describe the lake as larger than usual.

Example Sentences Using "Swollen" as an Adjective

  • His swollen hands could not turn the handle.
  • The swollen lake flooded the small village.
  • The swollen balloon popped and scared the children.

"Have Swelled" Vs. "Have Swollen"

We always use the past participle after the words have, has, or had, so we don't use the phrase, "have swelled," as this would be incorrect.

The past participle for should be used after each: "have swollen," "has swollen," or, "had swollen," are all correct.


Final Thoughts

Swell is a verb that means to become bigger in size. It is usually used to talk about parts of the body, but can also be used to talk about other things like water, sound, or ideas. It can also be used to talk about things becoming bigger or more intense.


Use swelled to talk about something that already happened. If you use the word have, has or had, always follow them with swollen, or the past participle form. Swollen is also used as an adjective to describe things that are enlarged.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 hsschulte

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