Using ‘passed’ and ‘past’ correctly #writingtips #amwriting

Following on from my post explaining the differences between ‘lying’ and ‘laying’, another very common issue I find when I’m editing is confusion when using ‘passed’ and ‘past’.

Passed is the past tense of the verb ‘to pass’. It’s used to describe things that have already happened. It’s also the past participle of ‘to pass’ so it’s used for the passive voice (the law was passed) and perfect tenses (thirty years have passed by so quickly).

The definitions of ‘to pass’ are:

  • To move or make something move (the cars passed along the street)
  • To go by someone or something (we passed the supermarket on the way to the meeting)
  • To give something to someone (he passed me the salt)
  • To go by (time has passed so quickly)
  • To be successful in something (I just passed my driving test)
  • To approve a law (the law was passed)

Passed is only ever a verb form.

Past, however, has lots of different functions – it is an adjective, a noun and a preposition.

As a noun:

  • The time before the present moment (we didn’t use that method in the past)
  • The history of a place or person (he never talks about his past)

As an adjective:

  • Gone by in time or no longer existing (his best years are past)
  • Happening before and leading up to the time of speaking or writing (he’s really grown in the past year)

As a preposition:

  • From one side of something to the other (he ran past her and into the house)
  • Telling the time (it’s past midnight)
  • Further than a specific point (I can see past the harbour and out over the sea)

As an adverb:

  • To move from one side so as to move from one side of something or someone to the other (she saw a car going past) 
  • time going by (a year went past before she saw him again) 

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11 comments

  1. Alison, Thanks. Each one of your writing tips is worth so much more that we, your followers, have invested.
    My brother was multi-lingual and he once said that English is a very difficult language. I suspect lay-lie and past-passed are a part of that difficulty.
    Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much 🙂 English is very difficult – so many things that can catch you out. Mind you, my husband and my daughter are both learning Welsh at the moment (something I must do too) and that seems incredibly hard. it is lovely to hear it spoken so much here though.

      Like

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