Hanged or Hung – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ August 30, 2017/ Uncategorized

hanged versus hung

What’s the Difference Between Hanged and Hung?

Hanged and hung are both the simple past and past participle forms of the same verb. However, they have slightly different meanings.

Hanged is the past tense form of the verb hang. It refers to when a person dies by hanging from his or her neck.

  • In the past, many men were hanged for their crimes. People would often gather to watch the hanging occur.

Hung is also the past form of hang. It refers to any object that is suspended, from near its top, over the ground. It does not refer to people, and it doesn’t deal with death.

  • My grandmother hung new curtains at her house last weekend.

Let’s look at some of the ways to use these words in English.

Using Hanged in a Sentence

When to use hanged: Hanged is the simple past and past participle form of the verb hang, in the sense of putting a noose around a person’s neck to strangle them to death, or to break their neck in the fall from the gallows.

For example,

  • Police found a hanged man on an old oak tree along a country road this morning and currently have no suspects.
  • Many criminals were hanged in the past, but nowadays death by lethal injection is the most common form of capital punishment.
  • Although the man’s family was sad that he had hanged to death, they were glad that the fall broke his neck, so at least it was quick.

Interestingly, the reason that hanged is different than hung is because in Old English, there were two different words for hang. The present tense forms of hang became the same over time, but the past tense forms remained different.

Using Hung in a Sentence

When to use hung: Hung is also the past tense of hang. However, it should never refer to a person hanging by his or her neck. Rather, it refers to any other type of hanging.

For example:

  • The dog’s tongue hung out of its mouth as it panted heavily in the summer sun.
  • The clothes hung on the laundry line in the woman’s back yard, gently blowing in the breeze.

There are many idioms and expressions with the word hang, some of which can appear in the past tense as well:

  • to hang on one’s every word: to listen carefully
    • He was a great storyteller. His grandchildren hung on his every word.
  • to hang on by a thread: to be in danger of something bad happening at any moment, or at the slightest provocation
    • The patient was very ill and her life hung by a thread. Luckily, she was able to recover due to the diligent care of her doctors!
  • hang a right (or a left): to turn right (or left)
    • I’m not sure if I remember how we got here. I think we hung a right a while back though.
  • to hang in the balance: to have an undecided fate
    • At that moment, all our lives hung in the balance. We had no idea if the plane’s engines would start again in time to keep us from plummeting to our deaths.
  • to hang out with someone: to spend time with someone
    • We hung out last night at Nick’s birthday party.

Remembering Hanged vs. Hung

Hanged and hung have meanings that are somewhat related. You can use the spelling of the words to remember how to use each.

Hanged contains the letters an, just like the word man. This can help you remember that only people can be hanged.

Hung has the first four letters of the word hungry. Butchers often hang their meat, and farmers often hang certain vegetables to dry them. In other words, food (and anything other than people) is often hung. This can remind you that if you are feeling hungry you should look for some food that is hung up.

Outside Examples

  • He had hanged himself and his death was ruled a suicide, according to the Cook County medical examiner. –Chicago Tribune
  • The mom whose 11-year-old son hanged himself because of an internet prank wants the boy’s girlfriend to be punished. –New York Daily News
  • Once middle class, she hung on as long as she could. Now she and her two dogs live in a car in Carlsbad –LA Times
  • As a poor student in the high school on the wealthier side of town, Abraham often felt like an outsider. He walked, not drove, hung out on playgrounds, not in restaurants. –New York Times

Quiz: Hung vs. Hanged

Instructions: Fill in the blank with either hung or hanged in the correct form.

  1. The news report said that the man was ______________ around midnight with a crudely fashioned noose.
  2. The photographer developed her own film, and ___________ the pictures up to dry in a dark room.
  3. As her car skidded across the icy highway the girl knew that her life __________ in the balance.

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use hanged or hung? Despite the fact that these words have similar meanings, and even share the same present tense form of the verb, they are not the same.

  • Hanged is the past tense of hang that refers to person dying from hanging from his or her neck.
  • Hung is the past tense of hang as well, but it refers to every other sense of hang, such as objects that are suspended above the ground in one manner or another.

Using the context above can help to ensure that you always remember the difference between hanged and hung.


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