Life Passed Me By

By Maeve Maddox

Cezar wrote:

Can you clarify differences or subtleties between:”my life passed by me” and “my life passed me by.”

Sometimes the placement of a word makes all the difference in meaning.

My life passed by me could mean simply that a portion of one’s life has gone by.

Anyone who bought stocks in mid-1929 and held onto them saw most of his or her adult life pass by before getting back to even.

The sun is shining on my brown eyes; eyes that have seen these past three years of my life pass by me in a flash.

My life passed by me could also mean that the speaker had a vision or revery in which the events of his life replayed in his mind the way the thoughts of a drowning victim are thought to cause his life to “pass before his eyes” before he dies. Usually the preposition is “before,” rather than “by.”

I felt panic and fear at first and saw my whole life pass by me in an instant.

How could he come that close to death and not see his life pass before his eyes?

Just saw my life pass before my eyes as elevator I was in … plummeted 10 floors before lurching to a stop …

My life passed me by, on the other hand, conveys the idea of a wasted life, a life that has been frittered away in meaningless activity.

I feel like my life has passed me by to the point where I experience very dark and depressing days

Has life passed me by at 40?

If spoken of another person, “life passed him by,” the expression can mean that the person so described passed his life in uneventful obscurity:

[Harish Chander Mehra] Saved Nehru’s life, but life passed him by

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9 Responses to “Life Passed Me By”

  • kirc

    Nice post.

    Anyway, since the topic seems to be about word misplacement, I would like to ask if the sentence

    “My life passed by me could simply mean that a portion of one’s life has gone by.”

    different from

    “My life passed by me could mean simply that a portion of one’s life has gone by.

    Thanks in advance!

  • cezar

    thanks for the answer. the explanation was very clear.
    Cezar

  • Andy

    what a depressing one!

  • Lynn Jarrett

    I just subscribed yesterday and was not offered the free e-book on Daily Writing Tips. How do I get it?

  • Peter Stockwell

    Or the autobiography, ‘My Life Passed’ by Me.

  • Maeve

    @kirc
    I think both mean the same thing, although there are those who would prefer the “could mean simply” construction.

    @Lynn
    The download link for the free ebook is at the very bottom of the DWT email. It takes some scrolling to find it.

  • Red

    Hi, can you explain to us which of these statements is grammatically correct?

    My moral standard is different to yours.
    My moral standard is different than yours.
    My moral standard is different from yours.

    Thanks!

  • teddy-the-bear

    Can someone please explain to me the difference between “past” and “passed” ? I always get the two confused.

  • Maeve

    @ Red
    Here’s a post about “different from,” etc.
    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/different-from-different-to-different-than/

    @ teddy-the-bear
    So far, I’ve written two posts to explain the difference between “past” and “passed”:
    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/confusing-passed-with-past/

    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/taking-another-pass-at-“passed”/

    Ali Hale has also written one:
    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/passed-vs-past/

    short answer:
    passed is the past tense of the verb “to pass”
    past can be used as an adjective, noun, or preposition

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