Confused Words #2: Past and Passed

By Maeve Maddox

background image 323

Two words that many English speakers confuse are past and passed.

The confusion between past and passed is understandable because they sound the same: [past].

The spellings have been confused for centuries, but modern speakers who have access to free dictionaries and universal public education may be expected to master the difference.

Passed is the past tense of the verb to pass.

Past is the spelling of four other parts of speech, but NEVER a verb.

Pass (the verb)
The verb pass has numerous meanings, among them,”to move or move on, to go by, to move or be transferred to the next place.” The principal parts are pass, passed, (have) passed. The verb is used both transitively and intransitively. Here are some examples:

You must study harder if you expect to pass your exams. (transitive)
Please pass me the salt. (transitive)
Did you pass? (intransitive)
Dorothea passed the bar exam last September. (transitive)
That reckless driver passed on the right. (intransitive)

Past (NOT the verb)
The word past can function as four parts of speech: noun, adjective, adverb, and preposition:

past (noun): time that has gone by. Usually preceded by the article the.
Example: It’s not a good idea to dwell on the past.

past (adjective): gone by in time.
Examples: They never dwell upon their past losses, except to learn from them. (attributive adjective)
Our relationship was mutually beneficial, but now it is past. (predicate adjective)

Note: An attributive adjective stands before a noun. A predicate adjective completes a being verb.

past (adverb): beyond
Example: He came to the haunted house and then ran past.

Related posts:
Past vs past
Confusing passed with past
Taking Another Pass at Past

Want to improve your English in five minutes a day? Get a subscription and start receiving our writing tips and exercises daily!

Keep learning! Browse the Misused Words category, check our popular posts, or choose a related post below:

8 Responses to “Confused Words #2: Past and Passed”

  • Dale A Wood

    A painful use of the word “passed”:
    My sister passed a kidney stone last night.
    My worst enemy passed a kidney stone yesterday.
    Gallstones are supposed to be even worse than kidney stones, and gallstones mostly strike females.

  • venqax

    Yes. Relevant to that, that is why they are called “gal”-lstones. The second L was erroneously added by francophiles. The male equivalent, guystones, are much rarer. Interesting bit of faux trivia.

  • Roberta B.

    Ha! No, venqax. “Guystones” are something entirely different and really aren’t that rare. However, I’ve only heard the second part used since the first part can be assumed to be associated with their related gender. Calling attention to a lack of this attribute would be an insult or reason for scorn, since they usually represent (mostly by a number of other terms) self-respect, honor, or courage expected from any ordinary guy. Anyway, that was a funny (and brief) response to the recently resuming OT commentary!

  • Dale A Wood

    Roberta: I don’t see any reason for branding comments as “OT” except by people who want to bury there heads in the ground and learn nothing.
    Usually there is a simple and obvious connection with the topic at hand. All you need to do is to open up your eyes.

  • Roberta B.

    DAW – Whether you want to hear it or not, you write A LOT of OT drivel that no one really gives a rip about. I’m not “branding” anything, just stating a fact. Sorry, but a lot times there is no connection unless you’re playing “6 degrees to the DWT” through your sequence of comments. Why do you think you have to educate people? Why do you think you’re so much smarter than anyone else who reads this blog, sometimes even insulting the moderator. There are plenty of educated people who read the DWT but don’t feel like trudging through your tidbits and wanderings. That doesn’t mean someone has buried their heads or closed their eyes to learning. I don’t appreciate the insult. All your superfluous BS ends up in my face, in my wide open eyes, whether I like it or not. You’re a scourge to this blog.
    A number of readers have tried to tell you in many ways – polite, direct, rude, funny, facetious, etc. I know you’re not stupid enough not to see – just a rude and obstinate person. Now if that’s the reputation you want, you’ve earned it. It was a nice from mid-June to mid-September when your comments had vanished for a time. Go start your own blog, DAW. In the back of my mind I had hoped you had done just that, but you’re back to being the same public jackass as before. Please go back in your cave…..

  • Dale A Wood

    Roberta, you have a sick, vile, closed mind. You may not have noticed, but everything that I have placed here has been approved
    by the moderator, and it can be removed by him/her at will. Roberta, you just have your head in the sand, and you don’t want to learn anything new – especially from someone with a far larger vocabulary than yours.
    You are a slow learner.

  • Maeve

    Hmm. Perhaps there’s fodder for a post here: how words that mean one thing in the real world mean something else in the blogging world. For example, comments are “approved” by a site manager, but all that means is that the “moderator” has allowed the comment to appear, not that the comment has been “approved” in the sense of approbation.

    Btw, I’m not the moderator. I’ve no control over the comments in any way.

  • Roberta B.

    Dale A. Wood…..and you think you know a lot more than you do or than anyone else. Please spare everyone your from your self-serving clutter and take your inflated ego with you to another blog.

Leave a comment: