Passed vs Past

By Ali Hale

Sandi from Inspiration for Writers wrote to ask:

“Can you do a segment on Past vs. Passed–if you haven’t already? Too many get these words mixed up.”

Very happy to oblige, Sandi!

Past – relates to location

The word past locates something in time, and sometimes in space. It can be
used as an adjective, noun, or adverb.

“Past” as an adjective

The first definition which the OED gives for past as an adjective is “Gone by in time; elapsed; done with; over.” For example:

  • “The days for mourning are now past.”

When attributed to a group of people, past can also mean “Having served one’s term of office; former.” (OED)

  • “All past presidents of the United States were male.”

And in grammar, we have more examples of past being used as an adjective, such as in “past tense” and “past participle”.

“Past” as a noun

The main meaning for the noun form of past, given by the OED, is “The time that has gone by; a time, or all of the time, before the present.”

  • “In the past, standards were higher.”
  • “We cannot live in the past.”

“Past” as a preposition

As a preposition, past can mean: “Beyond in time; after; beyond the age for or time of; (in stating the time of day) so many minutes, or a quarter or half of an hour, after a particular hour.” (OED)

  • “It is almost half past five.”

It can also be used for location: “Beyond in place; further on than; at or on the further side of; to a point beyond.” (OED)

  • “My house is the one just past the turning.”

“Past” as an adverb

The first meaning the OED cites for past being used as an adverb is “So as to pass or go by; by.” For example:

  • “The ball sped past the goalkeeper.”

Passed – a verb in the past tense

Passed is the past participle of the verb “to pass”. It can be an intransitive verb (one which doesn’t require an object) or a transitive verb (one which requires both a subject and one or more objects).

“To pass” means “To proceed, move forward, depart; to cause to do this.” (OED) This can refer to movement forwards in time, in space, or in life (such as “to pass an examination”).

For example:

  • “The weeks passed quickly.” (Intransitive: subject “the weeks” and no object).
  • “I passed all my exams!” (Transitive: subject “I” and object “my exams”.)
  • “He passed the ball well during the match earlier.” (Transitive: subject “He” and object “the ball”.)

When do “past” and “passed” get confused?

Often, writers muddle the words past and passed in sentences such as:

  • “The heroes passed a village on their way towards the mountains.”

It’s common to see this written as:

  • “The heroes past a village on their way towards the mountains.”

But the word should be passed, as (in this sentence) it’s the past participle of the verb “to pass”. An easy way to tell is to rewrite the sentence in the present tense, as though you’re describing something which is happening currently:

  • “The heroes pass a village on their way towards the mountains.”
  • or “The heroes are passing a village on their way towards the mountains.”

However, if you wrote:

  • “The heroes walked past a village on their way towards the mountains.”

It’s correct to use past. The verb in this sentence is “walked”, and the “past” is acting as an adverb.

Unusual uses of the word “passed”

Most of the time, passed is a verb, as described above. There are a few occasions when it can be used as a noun or an adjective, though. For example:

  • “Don’t speak ill of the passed.” (noun)
    – This comes from the phrase “passed-away”.
  • “A passed pawn” (adjective)
    – Term used in chess.
  • “A passed ball” (adjective)
    – Term used in baseball.
  • “A passed midshipman/fireman/surgeon” (adjective)
    – Someone who has passed a period of instruction and qualified through examination – apparently this usage arose in the navy.

Have you come across any other unusual uses? Are there still any cases where you’re not sure whether to use passed or past? Share your examples with us in the comments below!

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


Share


190 Responses to “Passed vs Past”

  • Tim

    is “loose” and “lose” a similar example?

    I often see something like “You will loose a lot of money on that deal”. Maybe it is a cultural thing of which I am unaware, but I think it should be “lose” not “loose” in that context.

  • marketeer

    I would like to see an explanation for usage of the “sure” words: insure, ensure and assure. I find misuses of these words quite common.

  • Ali

    Tim,

    You’re completely correct, it should be “lose”. Many people misspell “lose” as “loose”.

    Lose = the opposite of “win”
    Loose = the opposite of “tight”

    Hope that helps!

  • kim

    I still am not clear which spelling in the phrase “to get passed” something (or is it “to get past” something)? I see it both ways. The former feels like one passed or got beyond something and left it behind in the past!

  • …..

    THIS IS CONFUSING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Cynthia Pinkstaff

    ……given the approximate eight (8) months that have passed since we last communicated on this matter.

    This was part of the sentence that the word “passed” was questioned. I feel “past” is the correct term. Please help me out here.

  • Hailey

    So would it be I biked this passed weekend? Or I biked this past weekend?

    Thanks for the help!

  • cindy

    If you are telling someone that they are too late to do something, do you say “your time to do this has past” or “passed”? or does it matter?

  • jennie

    cindy,
    it’s is passed as in “you time to do this has passed”. Since you are using it as a verb, it is passed not past.

    Hailey,
    the correct word is “past”, since you are using it as an adjective.

    hope this helps.

  • Mary Vanderpool

    Am I correctly using passed and past in the following expression:

    What’s passed is past.

    (NOTE: What’s means what has)

  • Neil

    I hope you can help me. I have been asked to write a sign.
    The organisation has asked for a sign to stop cars driving any further. They would like the sign to say:
    NO CARS PASSED THIS POINT PLEASE

    I think it should say: NO CARS PAST THIS POINT PLEASE.
    Which one is right?

  • Ali

    Hi Neil,

    You are correct. It should be “NO CARS PAST THIS POINT PLEASE.”

    Hope that helps,

    Ali

  • george

    boy i hope i passed this test befor it to late and the test has pass me by?

  • Ali

    Hi George,

    That sentence should be:

    “Boy, I hope I passed this test before it’s too late and the test has passed me by.”

    “Pass” is the present tense form of the very “to pass”, and you want the past form (“passed”).

    If you want to use “past” and “pass2 in your sentence, you could write, “Boy, I hope I passed this test before it’s past the time to pass.” (I don’t think that’s the greatest sentence in the world, but it’s grammatically correct!

  • Phong

    I was wondering when to use the word
    “pass” or “past” when using it in a sentence
    dealing with someone or something that had died.

    For example:

    Barbara recently passed away.
    or should it be
    Barbara recently past away.

    ?? =/

  • Ali

    Hi Phong,

    It should be “Barbara recently passed away.”

  • Sally

    I am a little unsure of which to use in this sentence: “If we notice that the expiry date of your credit card has past, we will automatically contact you.” Passed or Past?

  • Cherie

    How about this?

    For the “past” few days

    Should it be past or passed?

  • Zeek

    Sally, passed is the correct word. When you use a helping verb [has], your next word is a verb [passed].

    Cherie, your sentence is similar to Hailey’s. Past is correct, because it’s acting as an adjective. Or adverb. One of the two.

  • Mike Jones

    which is correct, it is PASSED the deadline or it is PAST the deadline?

  • dakota

    It tastes good if you can get past the looks. Past or Passed?

  • Lynne Mohl

    My grandson & I made some cookies for my son-in-law in Iraq. I told him “If he could get passed the looks of the cookies, they would taste great”. My daughter said it was past. Which is correct?

  • stretcher bars

    Mike, It is passed the deadline…

  • Alyce Masen

    Would I be:
    “I passed out as soon as the liquor took hold of my senses.”

    or,

    “I past out as soon as the liquor took hold of my senses.”

    ?

  • P

    which is correct?

    I need to run something PAST/PASSED you.

  • martha ramirez

    Ten minutes passed and so I decided…

    Is this correct or does it need to be past?

  • mondo

    which is correct?

    Los Angeles is lovely once you get past the insane traffic.

    OR

    Los Angeles is lovely once you get passed the insane traffic.

  • Stephanie

    If everyone in the world associates a place with Communism and Communism alone, tourists will never be able to look (past or passed) that and see the good in the country and all it has to offer.

    Which one?

  • Regina Stanley

    Help…. should this read,”half the length of the truck was past the white line” or “half of the length of the truck was passed the white line?”

  • D. Deciantis

    Which is correct: passed or past?

    The car that past you had passed the intersection first.

  • D. Deciantis

    Which is corect: passed or past?
    The car that past you had passed the intersection first?

  • Kirsten

    If I’m getting this correctly, I think with a lot of the unanswered examples posted, if you use the trick mentioned above about trying to say it in the present tense, then you can figure it out. If it makes sense in the present tense as “pass”, then it should be “passed”. If it doesn’t make sense as “pass” then it should be past. (Though if it’s an unusual case, that could behave differently.)

    Such as,

    Los Angeles is lovely once you get pass/passing the insane traffic. — doesn’t make sense, so it should be: Los Angeles is lovely once you get past the insane traffic.

    It tastes good if you can get pass/passing the looks. — doesn’t make sense, so it should be: It tastes good if you can get past the looks.

    But if you reworded it to say, “I am passing the looks of the cookies and enjoying the taste.” You could use “I have passed…”

    Also:
    “I passed out as soon as the liquor took hold of my senses” is correct because it also works as:
    “I pass out as soon as the liquor takes a hold of my senses.”

    Please correct me if I’m wrong!!

  • Daniel Grossberg

    It seems like syntax and tense have a huge influence. Let me give five examples of saying the same thing:

    1. “I have gone past the deadline” vs. “I have gone passed a deadline”. The latter is correct.

    2. “I am past the deadline” vs. “I am passed” the deadline. The former is correct.

    Both sets of above sentences clearly mean the exact same thing, but use different homonyms.

    3. “The deadline has passed” vs. “The deadline has past”. The former is correct.

    4. “The deadline is in the passed” vs. The deadline is in the past”. The latter is correct.

    Once again, both sets of sentences clearly mean the exact same thing but use different homonyms.

    Interestingly, you can be correct with both of the following:

    5. “It is a passed deadline” or “It is a past deadline”. The former means the deadline has gone by (similar to the “passed ball” or “passed pawn”), the latter means the deadline existed in a prior time (i.e. it is in the past).

  • Mary

    past vs passed

    As the months past or As the months passed

  • Peggy Lanahan

    Is it correct to say, “how does the food always get passed the bib? or past the bib”?

  • Jennifer

    Which one is the correct sentence

    He’s going to past out when he gets home?

    He’s going to passed out when he gets home?

  • Klepto

    Jennifer, neither of those are correct. It should be: He’s going to pass out when he gets home.
    The sentence is future tense, not past tense. If it was in past tense it would be: He passed out when he got home.

  • Emery

    I get the “change to present tense” and the heroes passing by the village, but what if the heroes are stationary?

    “The carriage trundled past the heroes”
    or
    “The carriage trundled passed the heroes”

    ??
    Thanks!
    – Emery

  • Michael

    Please clarify the difference between PAST-[office holder] and FORMER-[office holder].

    I know that one refers to the person who held office immediately preceding the current office holder and the other refers to all those preceding the current office holder – but which is which?

    Is G.W. Bush our PAST-President and G.H. Bush a FORMER- President, or vice versa?

  • Dandy Abesamis

    Emery, it should be “The carriage trundled past the heroes”
    It is used as an adverb. The verb is “trundled” and the adverb is “past.”

    Michael, G.W. is both “past” and “former;”
    while G.H. can only be “former”

    “Past” is the one immediately preceding the current.

  • sandy24

    So I see the use of “immediate past president.” Is this redundant and should be just “past president?”

  • romy

    I want to know which word to use in the following sentence…

    “I looked passed/past his appearance…”
    um
    I guess “I look passing his appearance” (puttting it in the present tense doesn’t work) so I guess it’s “past”….right?

  • Dave

    How about “The report came from a driver who was driving “passed” the scene of the accident?

    Or should it be past or pass? =|

  • Christina

    Daniel: 1. “I have gone past the deadline” vs. “I have gone passed a deadline”. The latter is correct.

    You are incorrect & slightly correct.
    “I have gone past the deadline.” Past” describes how far gone, so it is an adverb. This sentence is CORRECT.

    “I have gone passed a deadline.” The wording “have gone passed” is grammatically incorrect. It sounds more like Country slang.
    This sentence would be correct if it said, “I have passed a deadline.” The key difference here is the articles in each sentence: the first sentence refers to “the” deadline & the second refers to “a” deadline.

  • Greg

    I think that pass is more of an action word.

    Past is more about time. With the exception of a postion that was served by someone, such as, past president.

  • Rufferto

    >> Dave on August 26, 2009 8:52 am
    >>
    >> How about “The report came from a driver who was
    >> driving “passed” the scene of the accident?

    The report came from a driver who was driving past the scene of the accident.

    Hopefully, after he drove past the accident, he pulled over to use a phone to report the accident, he had just passed. The victims of the accident wished they had passed that place without incident – or without it’s set of dents – but that’s all in the past, now.

    Just don’t let accidents become part of your future.

  • Art

    Which one:
    We have already (past, passed) that down.

  • Dandy Abesamis

    >> sandy24 on August 14, 2009 3:21 pm
    >> So I see the use of “immediate past president.” Is this redundant >> and should be just “past president?”
    >>

    Sandy, yes “past president” is more proper.

    ==

    >> romy on August 24, 2009 11:47 pm
    >> I want to know which word to use in the following sentence…
    >> “I looked passed/past his appearance…”
    >> um I guess “I look passing his appearance”
    >> (puttting it in the present tense doesn’t work)
    >> so I guess it’s “past”….right?

    Romy, that’s correct. “past”

    ==

    >> Art on October 2, 2009 9:02 pm
    >> Which one:
    >> We have already (past, passed) that down.

    Art, it’s “passed.” It’s used as a transitive verb in that sentence.

  • Aj

    That was very helpful, thank you. I actually found several misuses of “passed” in my own writing, which have been fixed.

  • jill

    which is correct, ‘we have passed our initial deadline, or we have past our initial deadline?’

    Thanks,

  • Joel

    Jill, I believe “passed our deadline is correct”.

    I have one: “This may force water PAST the seals” or “This may force water PASSED the seals”?

    Thnx!

  • Laura

    A local television news weather segment featured Autumn colors, using “Passed Peak”. Should it be “Past peak”?
    Thanks

  • Dandy Abesamis

    Joel, “past”
    Laura, I believe you’re correct. It should be “Past Peak”

  • Jane

    is this right?

    This is a new technology and already people have found ways to get passed it.

  • Dandy

    Jane, it’s “past.”

    A good rule to remember is: whenever there’s a main ‘action’ verb before “past,” then it should be “past.”

    Examples: get past, walk past, look past

    Moreover, just a little correction on your sentence; it should be “people have already” instead of “already people have”

  • Elizabeth Marie

    Which is correct?
    “Whether the storm has passed, or you’re still going through it…” or
    “Whether the storm has past, or you’re still going through it…”
    Thank you.

  • Maeve Maddox

    Laura and Dandy,
    That’s the trouble with headlines. They are often ambiguous.

    One could correctly say either
    “The autumn colors have passed their peak.”
    OR
    “The autumn colors are past their peak.”

  • Maeve Maddox

    Jill,
    The word “have” is a helping verb. It’s a signal that the form to follow must be “passed.”

  • Maeve Maddox

    Elizabeth,
    If the sentence contains the helping verb has/have/had, then “passed” is the word called for. The storm has passed.

  • Elizabeth

    Thank you Maeve … that is what I had written. Just wanted to make sure. Thanks for the rule – I knew it not! [Olde English] (:-)

  • Angel

    It was the sound of horses being ridden past.
    It was the sound of horses being ridden passed.

    The latter makes sense. The horses pass the person, so they passed the person, therefore it is the sound they make as they approach and then pass the person. It more correctly discribes the sounds.

    The former looks better and feels right. The horses went beyond a certain place so they were ridden past the person. It fits with your example “The ball sped past the goalkeeper.”

    To get the disired sound effect I could change it to “It was the sound of horses approaching than passing,” but while it is discriptive, it is rather clumsy and wordy.

    I don’t want to use, “It was the sound of horses passing.” That sounds like they died.

  • Dandy

    Angel, that’s a good analysis. However, I believe “past” is the proper one as it is used as an adverb in that example.

  • Dandy

    Hi Millie,

    Four months of the school year have already passed.

  • Debise

    Ali, re passed /past
    My example is Time has passed but time has sped past.
    After reading your column I think it is like your example, ” the heroes passed” or “the heroes walked past”. So “sped”is the verb and past becomes the adverb. Am I right?
    Cheers,
    Denise

  • Raja

    The time is past.
    The time has passed.
    Both correct, right?

  • Denise

    Which is correct and why, please, thanks!:

    1) The moratorium for this product has now past

    or

    2) The moratorium for this product has now passed

    or

    3) The moratorium for this product is now past

    I think either 2 or 3, not 1.

  • jourdan

    I couldn’t sleep passed 7am.

    I couldn’t sleep past 7am.

    Which one?

  • Dandy

    Jourdan, why couldn’t you sleep past 7am?
    On a side note, if this happens frequently or every night, use “can’t” instead of “couldn’t.”
    And try going to bed late, like past midnight or so. I hope that helps 🙂

  • CL

    Hi there,

    I’m confused as to which form of ‘pass’ to use in this sentence:

    (Giving someone an instruction)

    “Walk past the shops.”
    or
    “Walk pass the shops.”

    Thanks!

  • Jamie Kitson

    “Passed” can always be used as an adjective, your examples make out like they’re special, if you pass me the salt and there’s another cellar on the table I could differentiate by calling the one you passed me the “passed salt”.

    Do you know what sort of milk moves in front of your face?
    Passed your eyes milk.

  • Antonio Bonifati

    I’m not sure if it’s better to say “a passed expiration date” or “a past expiration date”. Googling I found “a past expiration date” is more common. Please explain.

  • Caro

    I just wanted to thank you for posting this so clearly for us. It was very helpful, and will come in handy for people (even like myself) who often get these two words mixed up. 🙂

  • Dandy

    Antonio, “a past expiration date” is the correct one as it is used as an adjective.

    “It has passed the expiration date” is also correct; wherein “passed” is used as a verb in the past tense.

    Ask yourself, “is it a verb/action word?” If yes, then use “passed.” I believe this is a good general rule although it may not be 100% correct as Jamie’s example above is one of the exceptions.

  • james

    Following on from the expiration date question, would it be correct to say “If the chemical is past its expiration date…” or If the chemical is passed its expiration date….”? Many thanks.

  • Antonio Bonifati

    Hi James. I’m not a native speaker, but I think the correct form is “if the chemical has passed its expiration date…”.

    “has passed” is a verbal form, the “present perfect” formed by combining the auxiliary verb “has” or “have” with the past participle (passed). Keep in mind that “past” is not a past participle (excuse the pun), “passed” is.

  • Kylie

    What is correct?

    “I want to run something past you?”
    or
    “I want to run something passed you?”

    I have a bet running on this, so clarification would be great. thanks,

    K

  • mariaa

    I am pretty certain it is “run something PAST you”
    PASSED is a past tense VERB.

  • mary macneill

    Which is correct?

    The summer has passed.
    The summer has past.

  • Sarah

    Say it like you would say “The summer has passed us by”
    like they say, “the past has passed” does that make any sense?

  • Sarah

    just so everyone knows… that last message one was to Mary

  • Sharon Lewis

    by which time the time for service of the statement had passed or past?

    i think it’s passed but getting really confused now and so need your help!
    thanks

  • Dandy Abesamis

    Sharon,

    Yes, it’s passed. To simplify, there was an ‘action’ there, to pass. Whenever it’s used as an ‘action’ verb, use passed.

  • skaizun

    Is it “I’m passed the age of 50” or “I’m past…”?
    I know I could have used “beyond”, instead,
    or just said, “I’m over 50”, et al.,
    but, the sentence I’m using needs to use passed or past.
    I’m assuming “passed” is right,
    but would appreciate verification or correction!
    Thanks!

  • Jane

    When you are telling somebody directions do you say go past the school and turn right or go passed the school???

  • Dandy Abesamis

    skaizun, it’s “I’m past the age of 50.”
    Whenever it’s used to describe “beyond a certain age or time like minutes or hour,” use the preposition “past.”

    I’m past the age of __
    I’m two years past the age of __
    I’m 2 years past 30
    It’s five minutes past the hour of 12
    It’s half past the hour

    BUT…when it’s in a perfect tense, see below

    I have passed the age of __
    She has passed the age __

    ===

    Jane, go past the school.
    It’s an adverb where “go” is the verb.

    Saying “Go pass the school” is also grammatically correct; but simply saying “Pass the school” would be more appropriate.

  • james Aitken

    what would you say:
    “come passed my house”
    or “come past my house” ?

  • Will

    Much like what has been commented previously, the lose vs loose phenomenon is an early indication that children are beginning to face the nasty truth about technology in the 21st century. The years of study and observations, particularly with online gaming and chat rooms, I have conducted has led me to posit that, although technology such as spell-checking contains wondrous abilities to aid a person in writing, it does not catch mistakes in word usage if the words are spelled correctly, but used in the wrong context.

    Consequently, there is an increased usage of similarly sounding words in any form of messaging that without proper scrutiny and attempts to correct will only further disable a person from speaking and writing later in life.

    Examples that are increasingly becoming occurrences include loose vs lose, there their and they’re, our vs are, although that last one perplexes me as there exist a distinction in the pronunciation of both words. For how advanced spell-checking programs have become, there will still be instances where the program will not be able to recognize the incorrect usage of similar sounding words.

  • Irene

    ‘Days passed’ or ‘Days past’ to describe how many days you are over the end date? Please help.

  • angel

    “No food or drink passed this point”. Is this the correct passed?

  • Michael

    “No food or drink passed this point” would mean “no food or drink has passed this point (a food free zone?)

    “No food or drink past this point” would mean that food is not permitted beyond that point.

    ———————————————–

    “Days past” is the common phrase.

  • YZ

    which is correct?

    “All these past months…” or “All these past months…”?

    help please!

  • JD

    Thanks for this post – I like to think of myself as having quite a good grasp on the English language, but this particular word mix-up has always got to me. But having passed my eyes over this, I can hopefully say my word confusion is a thing of the past!

  • Cobi

    I was confused on the usage as well, but reading through all the comments has helped me a little.

    Passed, to pass, has to be a verb
    Past, everything else but a verb

    Geez, I feel like I need to go back to school.

  • GrammarNazi

    YZ, just in case you did not notice, you wrote the same form twice. If the question was actually meant to refer to wheter it was “All these past months” or “All these passed months”, the correct form would be “All these PAST month”:
    months – noun
    past – adjective

  • Jim

    Which one?

    “I thought we were past this!”

    or

    “I thought we were passed this!”

    My gut tells me the former if referring to an incident which happend some time ago, or the latter if you refer to a landmark whilst [while?] out for a walk.

  • Michael

    Jim – your gut is correct, although keep in mind that the latter infers that you are walking in circles. 😉

  • Maeve

    @Michael and Jim
    Whether you’re thinking of a landmark or not, “I thought we were passed this” is incorrect in modern usage. You could say “I thought we had passed this.”

    In the first example, “I thought we were past this,” past is a preposition. The sense is “I thought we had moved beyond this.”

    There are two more posts on past vs passed in the DWT archives:
    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/confusing-passed-with-past/

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

    Jim, you might find this post on imply/infer of interest: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/imply-and-infer/

    As for past vs passed, insisting on the distinction is futile as long as the teaching of grammar is neglected in the schools.

    Right now I’m reading a novel that was published in 1796. The author, Matthew Lewis, was in his teens when he wrote it. He uses past and passed indiscriminately.

  • Betty

    I have a question. Is it correct to write, “No food or water passed this point.” ? I thought it was “pass” but I asked around and now I’m more confused. Thank you.

  • Michael

    >>>Is it correct to write, “No food or water passed this point.” ? <<>>I thought it was “pass”<<<

    No, "pass" is a verb.
    Please pass the salt.
    I'm going to make a pass at her.
    Are you sure you can pass that car?

    The correct statement for alerting people would be:

    NO FOOD OR BEVERAGES [PERMITTED] PAST THIS POINT.
    Better yet:
    NO FOOD OR BEVERAGES [PERMITTED] BEVERAGE BEYOND THIS POINT.

  • Michael

    sorry – copy & paste strikes again:
    the post above was meant to be:

    Better yet:
    NO FOOD OR BEVERAGES [PERMITTED] BEYOND THIS POINT.

  • Chris

    PEOPLE!!!! If it’s used as a VERB, it’s PASSED!!! Rule of thumb! You know verb, right? Words that convey an action…?

  • Garrison

    “Times passed are times past.”

    “We are by the past passed.”

    “The past passed quickly,”

    “We are past the past,”

    “The past is passed down to us.”

    “The salt was passed past me.”

    “The hideout is past the pass we passed before.”

    What fun this language! It corkscrews the tongue into shapes never before imagined.

  • Hal

    Which is correct?

    Did the cat run pass, past, passed the mouse?

  • Michael

    The cat ran past the mouse.
    Having passed the mouse, she was declared the winner.

    Not a moment had passed when, having seen crazy cat run past the defending mighty mouse, the quaterback tossed a pass to the feline.

  • Michael

    >>> The hideout is past the pass we passed before.

    hehe… well done!

  • Tessa

    which is correct,

    “a civilization long since past” or “a civilization long since passed”

  • Garrison

    It would seem to be “a civilization long since passed.” If we were to use the term “past” it would read something like this: “a civilization long since IN the past.”

    “Passed” usually means “gone away,” whereas the “past” tends to mean a specific time frame that came before “NOW.”

    An example: you can say “the past has passed,” but the reverse is not true, “the passed has past.”

    “Passed” is a verb (either transitive or intransitive) and “past” is an adverb, adjective, preposition, or a noun.

    If I say “those things past” I am referring to things that are currently in the past. If I say “those things passed” I am referring to things that have gone by me.

    Yes, it is all rather confusing, which is why great writers rely on great editiors to catch the occasional verbal faux pas.

  • Teresa

    The more I learn of my mistakes of the past the more I am reminded of how very little passing test and my past training has benefited me.

    It is rather depressing but that feeling will pass soon because I don’t want to be hung up over past events.

    I passed the point of no return when I passed the test this past winter as I was passing through my past school classroom.

    I’m so under educated from my past learnings that I can’t even be sure if that is even a sentence or not, but yet I walked away this past year from my school with a certified diploma that I gotten without really passing what I was suppose to pass in my past.
    Is my word usage concerning the subject of this tutoring session being used correctly?

    Plz bypass any other mistakes for one must move in baby steps or I’ll pass up all this learning and wash my hands of it leaving it all in the past.

    I would like to be introduced to the person who invented the English language for all of my past I have been confused while trying to pass the tests I’ve taken in the past as I have passed under the large bridges in my town while driving my past vehicle called the green machine. (Green Machine should be an indicator of my age and all the good times that which have now passed).

    Do kids even play outside anymore or is it really a thing of the past?

    This is my very best effort to correctly use those words. If I am wrong then I am taking up Spanish and will never worry about if I could pass an English test which should be kept in my past anyway.

    Plz help and ty.

  • Garrison

    Do not worry if you feel your formal education was lacking in some way, this is a common experience of many people of all ages. You need never stop learning and anything that you want to know you can learn at any time.

    Perhaps an easy way to remember how “passed” vs. “past” is used is to think of “passed” as an event or something that happens; an action. “Past” is a place (in time) or a description of something.

    So, I “passed” (action) the stop sign and I am now “past” (description of a location) the stop sign.

    In the past (the very distant past), when I was in grammar school, we were taught how to diagram sentences, which I hated at the time, but this skill now allows me to verify correct sentence structure and the role each word plays in a sentence. Real grammar does not seem to be taught in schools anymore and certain aspects of classical education do not appear to be in vogue currently. This is unfortunate, because the ability to understand the meaning of words and sentences is essential to understanding others and ourselves. Effective communication is the foundation of human interaction and when it is difficult to communicate our thoughts and feelings we are left with a sense of isolation and alienation. The vague dissatisfaction people seem to feel in present day society has a lot to do with their inability to share their internal experience with others who can understand what they are communicating.

    It is a good thing that there are websites like this dedicated to increasing our understanding of the language and, as a result, our understanding of each other.

    I will now step down off my soap box.

  • Patricia Clason

    Which is correct?

    My therapist suggested to me that a weekend program would help me “get past” some of my blocked emotion

    or

    My therapist suggested to me that a weekend program would help me “get passed” some of my blocked emotion

  • Patricia Clason

    Which is correct?
    My therapist suggested to me that a weekend program would help me “get past” some of my blocked emotion
    or
    My therapist suggested to me that a weekend program would help me “get passed” some of my blocked emotion

  • Jake

    There is a point of contention between myself and another writer. Is the proper usage:

    “It is past time to [do X]”
    or
    “It is passed time to [do X]”?

  • Kevin Buckingham

    The time passed quickly past.
    Passed times are now in the past.
    With his time machine past events passed before his eyes.

    Am I right?

  • Garrison

    Patricia,

    Your therapist better want you to “get past” blocked emotions . . . that is, “go to a place beyond them.”

    Your MD might want your kidney stone to get “passed” . . . that is, move through you.

    In fact, your therapist most likely wants you to get “past” the blockage (like some dam that stops up the emotional river) so that you can experience the emotions. When it comes to speaking about feelings, hydrodynamic analogies abound. We can be “flooded” by emotion, “overflow” with happiness, or our emotional “reservoir” can be low.

  • Garrison

    Jake,

    It is “PAST” time to end this debate. Your time should not be “PASSED” in this way.

    “Past” is a place. You might say “we are past that point in time when we can do X.”

    “Passed” is an action. “I passed the football,” or “I passed by your house,” or “I passed some time with you.”

  • Bob

    As you proceed south on Quarry Road passed the library, Knoll Meadows, the road comes up just after the white fence on the left (passed the stone wall).

    Past or passed?

  • Kevin Buckingham

    past in both cases

  • rebecca

    Thanks so much for this great article.

    One thing that still confuses me: He’s past his prime. Why is it not “passed”? To me, he has passed his prime, i.e a verb, i.e. his prime was at point A, he passed it and is now at Point B…?

  • rebecca

    Oh wait, I think I just figured it out! the word “is” makes the difference. he passed his prime vesus he “is” past his prime. So is this an adjective or adverb in this case?

  • Eric

    Rebecca, the sentence can be written as:

    “He has passed his prime.”
    “He passed his prime.”
    “He is past his prime.”

    “past” is a place or a state of being. “Passed” is an action.

    You cannot “be” an action. You cannot “act” a place.

    The phrase “past his prime” is actually a prepositional phrase, with “past” as the preposition, since it is descriptive of a location (in the same way “below” is a preposition).

    The phrase “has passed” in the other example is a verb.

  • Elizabeth Starr

    Actually, your last point in the ‘past’ explanation is incorrect.
    The word ‘past’ should only ever be used in conjunction with time. “Past 5 weeks, the past year, 50 years in the past” etc, etc.
    Passed refers to passing something by “I passed it on the way to work”, “He passed me as he drove off down the street”, etc.

  • Kevin Buckingham

    He passed through security with ease
    He got past security with ease
    Something just doesn’t seem right, is it “got”?

  • Kathy

    Which is the correct usage of the word Passed vs Past?

    The dates have already past.
    or
    The dates have already passed.

  • PatPat

    Is this sentence wrong? ” I couldn’t get passed seeing his dirty hair” should it be ” I couldn’t get past seeing his diry hair” ?

  • Ryan

    I hope to be a passed midshipman in a couple of years.

  • Devin Gleeson

    FIVE years have past; five summers, with the length
    Of five long winters!

    -beginning of Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey”

    “past” here seems a poetic variation of the participle “passed”. Is there another reading that can justify passed used in this way?

  • Chris

    I’m pretty sure everyone is making too much out of this. From what I get out of the actual article is that “passed” is a verb and “past” is basically any other part of speech. The only confusion at this point should be whether it is used as a verb or an adverb (or any other part of spech for that matter).

  • tina

    it is not passed the deadline but past the deadline!

  • Jackie

    I was chatting with a friend and the question is which one is correct?
    It is past quitting time or It is passed quitting time.

  • Casey

    Thank you for this article. The explanations were logical and easy to understand.

  • Tom

    I am still a little confused! Can someone help me please.
    If for example i have the sentence:

    It’s hard to believe so many days have now passed

    or is it

    It’s hard to believe so many days have now past

    Thank you in advance!

  • peter

    “9 teenagers with their pants hanging down past their cracks,”

    I know this is a bit of a trend and definitely not something from the past (ahaha) (and sometimes I almost pass out if the girl has some cute underwear and a nice ass), but is it “past” or “passed”?

  • Dandy Abesamis

    @Tom
    It’s hard to believe so many days have now passed.

    @Peter
    You wrote nothing wrong there but I’m afraid looking at teen girls’ ass cracks is very inappropriate and borderline criminal.

  • pushpa

    I want to know whether the sentence “It will still take several decades before these substances have disappeared from the atmosphere” is correct or not.

    Thanks

  • John

    I come up with a lot of unusual uses of passed/past.

    But that’s because my co-workers are idiots. I’m printing this and passing it out to my office!

  • Erin

    So is it appropriate to say “If you can replace the word in question with ‘beyond’ or ‘after’, use ‘past'”?

  • vivian

    whats grammatically correct:
    I need to submit these reports before the deadlines have passed or past.

  • Mandy

    Which one is correct:
    Past business hours or passed business hours?

  • John

    I believe the way I understand it is correct and if you use this logic it can help clear up your confusions.

    Pass/Passed – to throw/have thrown a ball or to not fail
    Pass/Past – present/past tense of doing something to pass or get past…

    To pass the gate is it passed or past?

    Unless you are throwing the gate to someone it is impossible to pass the gate without another action (verb). So if you correct your grammar you can clear the confusion.

    ie: if you passed the gate.. it means you threw it to someone.

    To physically pass the gate you can’t do it standing still, you must walk, run, drive, roll, crawl or perform some sort of action otherwise you will always be standing in the same spot.

    So…

    I walked past the gate. To get past the gate you needed to do an action such as walk, by adding the action you performed in it makes it easier to remember which spelling you need.

    So if you want to throw the gate then you will have passed it, if you want to get by you will have walked past it. (Past for past tense of an action and passed for throwing or passing an exam).

    I hope this helps clear things up.

  • John

    For the last 2 above my comment that may or may not be clarified by my answer deadlines and business hours are time factor, when time is involved just remember how you would write the time (half past five). Time has past, unless you are throwing the clock to someone then you have passed them the time :p

  • agussatoto

    Passing the passed to Past is definitely not recommended because Past has not passed in the past tests of past perfect tense and past simple tense. However, after passing the tests, Past happily walked over the passed.

    what do you think? Do the sentences make sense?

  • Fiona

    What’s past is prologue.
    What’s passed is prologue.

    I just want to confirm, but aren’t both of these uses correct in their own way, it just changes the meaning?

  • Fiona

    To clarify, it needs to be said that in order for my above example to make sense it must be written as follows:
    What is past is prologue.
    What has passed is prologue.

    To my knowledge, these are both grammatically correct.

  • Nat

    I would not have put it ‘passed/past’ you. ? Any suggestions?

  • Brendan

    What about:

    The person had bad qualities that were hard to look past.

    Would that be “past” or “passed”?

  • Ronjon

    “I was angry this passed/past weekend.”
    Are they both correct? ‘Past’ in the sense that the weekend is in the past. Passed in the sense that we have passed the weekend in time. So unsure.

  • Jennifer

    Very helpful. I tried to sign up for the free Basic English Grammar book but it gave me an error when I put in my email address.

  • Becky

    In answer to your question Brendan I think it would be “passed” because I see it as being “on the further side of” in that example.

  • Alan Lambourn

    Can’t remember the rule on this one:
    She had to get past me first or
    she had to get passed me first

    Clarification please
    Thank you.

  • JenLeigh

    Hopefully this will help. The most common mistake I see with these words is when someone or something passes another thing.

    When pass is used as the sole verb, passed is the correct word choice:
    She passed by the sign.

    When pass is preceded by another verb, past is the correct word choice:
    She rushed/drove/ran/hopped past the sign.

  • Jenni

    What about “this passed December”? Or is it: “This past December”? If you say “Decemeber will pass” then I assume it would be “passed”. I am so confused. I have never been able to use these terms correctly, which frightens me as I went to a pretty good university. 🙁

  • Nel

    English is such a confusing language, I know when to used past and passed but don’t really know why.

    “When I was running I passed the ball”

    Same words but two different meanings!

    They could mean I was running and went past the ball, or I had the ball and gave it to someone else when running.

  • Otevia Andy

    I’m glad I read this article; it’s been of great help in making clear the difference between ‘past’ and ‘passed’. Nice one.

  • Vivian

    Whe a man dies has he passed or past. I’ve always used past but I’m being told I’m wrong . I can’t believe I am wrong .

  • Bill Girard

    Simple Rule: if you can use the word with the helping verb “has” or “have,” then it’s “passed.”

    e.g., When people die, they HAVE passed (away).
    e.g., The time to make speeches HAS passed.
    e.g., The time to make speeches is in the past.

    Note: while the verb “to be” is an auxiliary verb, too, only “to have” is used with the past participle (to indicate perfect aspect).

    So, “The time HAS…” calls for a past participle verb, i.e., PASSED;
    In contrast, “The time IS…” calls for a predicate adjective, i.e., PAST.

    Adjectival nouns, like “passed” when it stands for “person who has passed away” or “people who have passed an examination,” look odd grammatically, but only because of the omitted words.

  • Confused Writer

    So if you say “I walked past the twins,” would it be correct, or incorrect?

    I am still confused.

  • Mona

    I am still not sure if I have to use Passed or Past when I want to say ” The scriprt could not go past or Passed that point where we left off”.

    Thanks,
    Mona

  • venqax

    Confused Writer: Yes, “I walked past the twins” woud be correct. As in the e.g. above, “The heroes walked past a village on their way towards the mountains.” The verb in both sentences is “walked”, and the “past” is an adverb describing the walking.

    Mona: You would want past as well. As again, the e.g. above illustrates: “My house is the one just past the turning.” Here past denotes location, as a preposition, “Beyond in place; further on than; at or on the further side of; to a point beyond.” (OED)

  • Renata jackson

    okay, which is the correct phrase:
    1) making all your dreams come to “pass” or
    2) making all your dreams come to “past”

  • Rick V

    Is it okay to use “past” in an Old English sense such as

    “’til waves have past” – as in gone past?

    Thanks,

    RV

  • pat

    John seems to be confusing things for people. Past tense of the verb ‘to pass’ is passed. If you passed the gate .. that would mean that you went past the gate

    Pass – move ( a doing word) you could pass past the gate

    Of course you could hand someone a gate presumably !

  • Chris

    Thank you. I just woke up after dreaming that Stephen Fry (who else?) was trying to explain all this to me. Of course he was limited by my own understanding. (It was actually just a very patient blurry face with a bent nose and a posh voice. Sorry Stephen.)

    Specifically: “I need to squeeze one car past the other.”
    and:” I did manage to pass her car with mine okay.”

    Now it is (hopefully) clearer, I can go back to sleep for him to remind me of my incorrect usage of brackets and colons. Or is it ‘use’?

    I’ve bookmarked this website. 🙂

  • Fiona Scandrett

    The excercise below is in my 9yr olds homework.

    Write the words past or passed to complete these sentences.

    1.My aunty laughed as she walked___________us.
    2.We_________a calf on the path.

    I feel I know which is which. Q1. past Q2. passed, but how do I know that. How did they teach that to us in school and how do I teach it to my young child?

  • venqax

    Fiona: the only “abbreviated” way to think of it that come to mind is to identify the verb in the sentence. Passed is the past tense of to pass. So if the verb is to pass, etc. Past tends to be an adjective (or less often a noun, the past). As in the type of tense described in the previous sentence. That is by no means a fix-all, but it is a handy first test that can get you through a lot of dilemmas, including your examples. If your 9 yr-old is getting questions like that, I’m sure he or she is already able to ID verb, noun, adjective, etc.

  • Feno

    My favorite method to check myself if i’m really unsure if it’s passed or past is to exchange the word against one similar from the same wordclass.

    So instead of “The group passed the crossroads and continued to travel into the mountains” I would look for another verb with a comparable meaning and insert it like “traversed”, “circled”, “circumvented”, “jumped” or even “crossed” (though that sounds awful in the example sentence)… maybe depending on the context “spent” if it’s something like “we passed the noon with homework”, or “went by” in a sentence like “The time passed faster than any of us had wished for” still it would always be a verb that gives the perfect match in the slot.

    for “past” it would be words like “along”, “across”, “through”, “after”, “over”, “behind” etc. And it will NEVER be a verb that fits here.

    You could even use that for the noun… just surrogate with “ancient times” “last year” or a similar denomiker of time that has gone by…

    As usually the danger of mixing them up is only occuring in a small range of meanings/context, this helps pretty well and i’m not aware of cases where it misled me.

  • Graham

    How about, “the year just passed” vs. “the year just past”? Or “this Wednesday past” vs. “this Wednesday passed”?

    My inclination in the second is to use “past”, as in past time. I’m not so sure about the first, because there is the sense of passed time, that is, motion of time past a reference point.

    I would refer to a car that has just gone by me in the street as “the car just passed”, so why not refer to the year that has just gone by as “the year just passed”?

    I guess there’s a difference between the two examples.

    “The year just passed” is a contraction of “The year that has just passed”, and here “passed” is correct, as a past form of “to pass”. “This Wednesday past” has no implied motion verb, it is just a noun phrase, and “past” fits. Similarly I would say “This year past” vs. “The year just passed”.

    Am I on the right track?

  • Matt

    Is the phrase “passed due” correct? or is it past due?

    Help!

  • Jeremy Barger

    Graham, that’s not right. In both of your first two examples, the word is “passed”. Time has passed, time passed, but that time is in the past and it’s past time to get past it. One thing you need to know is that “past” is never a verb.

    Matt, that would be past due. Something could have passed the due date, but nothing could be passed due.

  • vanessa

    I was wondering if it is proper to say,”I hold my breath and get passed the stinky smell as quickly as possible.”

  • Roy Token

    Which sentense is correct:

    A full inspection of both the primary and secondary seals and all roof components was conducted in response to benzene being forced past the seal system.
    OR
    A full inspection of both the primary and secondary seals and all roof components was conducted in response to benzene being forced passed the seal system.

  • Dave

    Roy,

    Past would be the correct use (as a preposition of location) but try to avoid passive voice. I would rewrite your sentence to this:

    Benzene forced past the seal system resulted in conducting a full inspection of primary and secondary seals as well as all roof components.

  • Dave

    vanessa,

    Since you are speaking in present tense with “hold” continue with present tense on your second action and “pass the stinky smell as quickly as possible.”

  • Kathy

    “Glad those teenage days are long *passed*.”

    I wavered but setted on “passed” rather that “past”. I believe the word is being used as a past participle of the verb “to pass” in the sentence.

    Agree or disagree?

  • Dee

    Hi thanks for this article
    I am struggling with the following, it is used in a speech expressing concern:

    “that is quite a good sign, especially since the time that has passed since her arrival”

    I keep yo-yoing between past and passed, it is a passage of time so I want to use past but then it is also indicating something that is moving past as the time is still on going and I think passed looks correct.

    any help would be greatly received thanks

  • Lucy

    What is correct, please. I can’t find it in the article or comments.

    I wouldn’t put it past her

    I wouldn’t put it passed her

    Also, why?
    Thank you!

  • Colin

    Whereas all the “past vs passed” questions are very legitimate, never forget that you will usually be able to work around your dilemma by using alternative sentence structure and/or words. This is very useful when a quick decision is required.

    Glad those teenage days are long passed/past – substitute “long gone”
    Glad those teenage days are in the past (should be no confusion here)
    Passed\Past due – substitute Overdue.
    etc.

    Whereas it is certainly important to understand as many idiosyncracies of the English Language as possible in order to communicate in writing effectively, it is always worth keeping in mind that there many ways to effectively convey the same message.

  • stephen

    I can’t get my head around passed and past. How should it read. Choy passed him his drink, or, Choy past him his drink.? He glanced past her at the spider on the wall, or, he glanced passed her at the spider on the wall. Silly I know but it throws me every time.

  • Stephanie

    An example I have is “I’m long past that now.”

  • Koko

    You are past your end date or you are passed your end date?
    Your end date has passed? or Your end date has past?

  • Katie

    I can get the hang of ‘past’ and ‘passed’ in most instances but for some reason really can’t get my head around which is right to use in sentences like the following:

    “She looked passed him to James, a pleading expression on her face.”

    “He shot them a look as he passed them on his way to the door.”

    Am I using the wrong word in those sentences…?

  • Tiffany

    Past vs Passed
    There is a sentence here at work that is driving me nuts, my gut tells me it should be ‘Past’ but I could be wrong. Please help. Which is correct.

    “Policy effective date is passed 30 days.”

  • Denise

    Is it do not go passed this door or Do not go past this door.

    Now that I think of it, maybe it is correct to be passed, because you would be passing the door frame to get into the room.

    So to say “Do not go (passed, past) this point”. Would seem similar the the above statement.

  • Jon

    Hi
    ‘I will run it passed him’, is my take on this one.

    The it is trying to confuse thing, but I don’t think it changes things.

    Regards
    Jon

  • Eddie

    It’d be “past the door” and “run it past him”

    Past = noun, adjective, preposition,

    Passed= past(adj. form) tense verb
    Pass=present tense verb
    “I will pass(verb) it by him.” You are passing it to the guy, a thought, idea, concept.

    “It was passed(verb) by him.” The idea,thought,concept was passed by him.

    “I will run(verb) it(object) past(preposition) him” (It is being related to him, spatially, temporally, figuratively)

    Do not go passed/past this point = “Do not pass(verb, an action) this point.” VS “Do not go(verb) past(preposition relating to point) this point.”

  • Rhonda Felton

    If I said: “It’s always fun catching up on all those years passed!” Is passed spelled correctly?

  • Jennifer

    Once I get passed the typo’s this is a good presentation.
    Should this be past or passed or either?

    I think either but thought I’d ask.

  • Sana

    Hi there!
    I recently got into a discussion with a friend about whether the correct saying is to “move past an issue” or to “move passed”. I think it would be past because it’s being used as a noun but I’m not sure. Would really appreciate your help 🙂 Thanks!

  • Susan

    I’m all for dropping either “past”or “passed”, and using one word only.

  • Sandy

    Get past, unless you are the object being passed around. Also, move past.

    Beyond = past

    Passed is a verb. Something was passed (thrown, handed to another person, waved before your eyes). Something passed (drove by, died, didn’t fail).

    Past is a noun (the past),
    Or an adjective (a past life, past months)
    OR a preposition (the house past the corner)
    OR an adverb (run past the house)

    Ok, so I’m not sure which are adverbs vs prepositions, but they’re all PAST. 🙂

  • Karl

    I corrected a friend that wrote that she “was passed being angry”, I wrote that it should be “past being angry”. She wrote back that not in that case, but I still maintain that I’m correct. Being is the verb, angry is the noun, and past should be the the adverb. Correct?

Leave a comment: