The Past of “Pay” is “Paid”
A reader expresses dismay at lapses in the spelling of the past form of the verb pay:
An article in the Burlington (VT) Free Press today had this heading: Isle La Motte to vote on spending repayed funds.
[W]hen did repayed become an acceptable word?
The answer, of course, is that it hasn’t.
Note: a Free Press reader pointed out the misspelling on the paper’s site:
“repayed” ?? Who buyed your English classes?
and the misspelled word was promptly corrected.
Our DWT reader offers another, more unfortunate example:
My friend’s son received a report card from his teacher that read: Tate payed attention in class.
Language changes and irregular verbs morph into regular verbs with -ed endings, but some words are in such frequent use that the older forms endure. It’s difficult to understand how someone educated as a teacher or a journalist could fail to master such a basic irregular spelling as paid.
The OED does include the spelling “payed” as a form used “chiefly in the nautical sense”:
pay: v. To smear or cover (a wooden surface or join, esp. the seams of a ship) with pitch, tar, or other substance, so as to make watertight or resistant to damage. Also (occas.) with over.
Merriam-Webster lists “payed” as a past form used for another nautical expression:
pay: to slacken (as a rope) and allow to run out
For the everyday sense of pay as remuneration, the past tense is paid.
Two other common verbs ending in -ay that also change the y to i in the past are say and lay:
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