I’m working on a story that includes the sentence “One meter from his feet was a place no man had ever tread.” I realized tonight, after I’d read that sentence a few times, that it was incorrect. The past of ‘tread’ is ‘trod’. Worse yet, the past participle is ‘trodden’.
I’m okay with ‘downtrodden’, but while I can barely stomach ‘trod’ I just can’t imagine writing a sentence with ‘trodden’. It’s ugly. Even substituting ‘trod’ in my sentence is painful; I considered changing the verb rather than use that form. The only problem was, ‘to tread’ is easily the most parsimonious word for the job. Parsimonious, yes, but ‘trod’ carries an archaic air with it that I don’t want in the story. People just don’t say ‘trod’ anymore.
But ‘stepped’ is a junky substitute, lacking gravity. ‘set foot’ is probably the closest modern substitute for ‘trod’, but it’s almost a cliché. I could go long-winded and say something like “… was a place that had never felt the foot of man.” In this context, that’s a bit much. So I have ‘trod’. Honestly, though, I can’t use it. It’s like a big archaic raspberry at the end of the second sentence in the story, when I’m going all-out to set the tone. The more pleasant, albeit incorrect, use of the present tense bothers me less.
In the end, I will have to go with some alternative that, while lacking parsimony, does not go plop on the page. Alternatively, we could launch a campaign to make ‘to tread’ less irregular by allowing ‘tread’ to be the past tense.