Feed or Fed – How to Use Each Correctly
What’s the Difference Between Feed and Fed?
These two words share a common definition, although one is the past tense form of the other.
Feed is the base form of a verb that means to give food to a person or animal.
- The parents are careful to feed their baby a healthy diet.
Fed is the past tense form of feed.
- The babysitter fed the child before putting her to bed.
By understanding them each in context, you can avoid the error of confusing one for the other. Now, let’s go over a few ways you can use these words in your sentences.
Using Feed in a Sentence
When to use feed: Feed can be either a noun or a verb. In either case, it relates to food.
As a noun, feed means the food that domesticated animals, especially farm animals, eat.
As a verb, feed means to give food to.
- The farmer has special ingredients in his cattle feed. (noun)
- The children are too young to feed themselves, so their parents must feed them instead. (verb)
There are many idioms and expressions that use feed, some of which are included below:
- don’t bite the hand that feeds you: don’t harm the person helping you
- I don’t know why he always insults his boss. Pretty soon the boss will get sick of it and fire him. That’s why you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
- feed a cold and starve a fever: get better by eating lots of food when you have a cold, and by not eating much when you have a fever
- I think the advice about feed a cold and starve a fever has been disproven by medical professionals.
- to feed off of: to gain power from
- Bullies feed off of the fear from their victims.
- mouths to feed: children or other dependants who need to be provided for
- I can’t lose this job. I’ve got a family! I’ve got mouths to feed!
- to spoon feed: to give someone food on utensils or to help someone excessively
- The teacher spoon feeds her students the answers. In the long term this will hinder their education rather than help it.
These expressions show that usually feed refers to literal food, but it can also have other figurative meanings.
Using Fed in a Sentence
When to use fed: Fed is the simple past tense form and past participle of feed. It can also be short for the federal reserve, or a federal official.
- Don’t worry. I already fed the dogs this morning. (verb form)
- The local police are here now, but it won’t belong before the feds show up. (short for federal officials)
In addition to the expressions for feed that can also appear in the past tense, there is one other idiom that exclusively uses fed:
- to be fed up with: to be completely annoyed with
- I am so fed up with facing huge traffic jams every day when coming home from work!
Fed as a shortened form of federal reserve or federal official is informal. Therefore, it is okay to use in conversation, but not appropriate for formal speech or academic writing.
Remembering Feed vs. Fed
When trying to remember the difference between feed and fed, it may help to think of the verb meet. Like feed, the base form of meet has two of the letter e. When in the past form, both words get reduced to only a single e.
Alternatively, you could remember that both feed and eat have a long e sound, and both compose the base form of the verb.
You can also use the long e sound in feed and in meal to remember that feed can also act as a noun meaning food. Additionally, the pronunciation of fed and federal agent or federal reserve can help you remember that fed can be a shortened form of either of those phrases.
- “Most squirrel bites occur when someone attempts to feed the animal. Keep a safe distance from wildlife and never feed wild animals.” –New York Daily News
- Whales and turtles often get caught up in crab traps because they feed in biologically rich areas, Kilduff said. –OC Register
- While announcing its decision to hold short-term rates steady, the Federal Reserve said that it may begin paring the massive $4.5-trillion balance sheet it built up after the financial crisis “relatively soon,” which some analysts took to mean September. The Fed also said that in the near term, inflation looks to remain below its target of 2%. –LA Times
- When squirrels get used to being fed, they lose their fear and start approaching people for a handout. If they don’t get food, the university said, the squirrels may attack. –USA Today
Quiz: Fed vs. Feed
Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either fed or feed, in the correct form.
- I need to buy some new chicken _______________.
- It is ironic that whales are so large yet _____________ on such small creatures as plankton.
- The zoo keepers __________ the animals before they went home for the night.
- When people told her it was impossible it only ________ her desire to prove them wrong.
See answers below.
Should I use feed or fed? Both feed and fed share a common definition, but they indicate different tenses. Therefore, they are not interchangeable.
- Feed is the base form of the verb, and relates to giving someone or something food.
- Fed is the past form of feed, and can also be short for federal reserve or federal official.
Be careful to know which tense is appropriate when choosing which of these two words to use.
Answers from Quiz