Passed vs. Past – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ September 2, 2017/ Uncategorized

passed versus past

What’s the Difference Between Passed and Past?

Passed and past are homophones, which means that they sound identical. However, they each have different definitions. This means we can’t mix the two words up.

Passed is the past tense form of the verb pass. It has two main definitions that include to move by something or to move onward or to complete a test successfully.

  • He needs to pass his math test if he wants to graduate math class.

Past can act as an adjective, adverb, noun, or preposition. Its two main definitions are before the present time and beyond.

  • I worked as a lawyer in the past, but now I work in engineering.

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

Using Passed in a Sentence

When to use passed: Passed is the past tense form of the verb pass, which means to move by someone or something or to omit someone or something. It can also mean to throw something to someone or to not fail.

For example,

  • I can’t find the restaurant. I think it’s possible that we already passed it. (first definition)
  • No, it’s okay. I didn’t want to take my turn. They passed me because I told them to. (second definition)
  • He passed me the ball, but I couldn’t catch it. (third definition)
  • Those who want to become firefighters must pass physical. (fourth definition)

Some common expressions with pass (or passed) include the following:

  • to pass muster: to meet the required standards
    • If I pass muster, I’ll be able to join the football team.
  • to pass away: to die
    • The beloved athlete passed away last night due to his injuries.
  • to pass judgment: to judge someone
    • Who are you to pass judgment on me? Only God can do that!
  • to pass something off as: to make something fake appear real
    • I can’t believe she thinks she can pass off that piece of junk as a real Louis Vuitton purse.
  • to pass gas: to emit flatulence
    • It is rude to pass gas in the company of others.

Because pass is a regular verb, the simple past tense form and the past participle form are both passed.

Using Past in a Sentence

When to use Past: Past can be an adjective or noun that refers to a point in time before the present. It can also be an adverb or preposition that refers to beyond.

For example:

  • The past is in the past. Try not to let it bother you.
  • Working until half past midnight every night is making me tired all of the time.

There are many idioms and expressions with the word past, some of which appear below:

  • a blast from the past: a reminder of a fun time
    • I love this song! I haven’t heard it in twenty years. What a blast from the past.
  • past one’s prime: after the best part of one’s life (usually when a person is elderly)
    • In the prime of my life I was a great gymnast. Now that I’m past my prime I can barely move around without my cane.
  • wouldn’t put it past someone: wouldn’t believe that someone was a good enough person to not do something bad
    • I hate to say that Rob stole your wallet, but unfortunately I wouldn’t put it past him.

Remembering Passed vs. Past

Passed and past have meanings that are somewhat related. There are a few different methods you can use to remember how to use each.

Passed ends in ed, like all past tense regular verbs. This can help you remember that it is a verb meaning went by.

Past ends in the same three letters as last. The last thing you did is now in the past, rather than the present. This can help you remember that meaning of past.

Outside Examples

  • Only about 39 percent of high school students passed the new science exam in 2016, meaning those kids were considered “proficient.” Close to 60 percent of grade school students passed, according to an analysis by the Illinois State Board of Education. –Chicago Tribune
  • Time passed. New Yorkers were chiefly imbibing ales and stouts and porters of the English style until the 1840s, when German braumeisters began to arrive on these shores with the lagers devised by their ingenious Bavarian forebears. –New York Daily News
  • In his past 11 starts, Gausman has lost only twice — both against the Angels. –LA Times
  • The Spanish authorities said on Saturday that they were hunting for a 22-year-old Moroccan-born man who they now suspect was the driver of the van that plowed through central Barcelona this past week, in the country’s worst terrorist attack in more than a decade. –New York Times

Quiz: Past vs. Passed

Instructions: Fill in the blank with either past or passed in the correct form.

  1. My grandparents love to tell us stories about the ____________.
  2. I lost my dog many years ago. He ________________ through the gate and never looked back.
  3. I also lost my cat many years ago. She ran ______________ me through the door and I never saw her again.

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use passed or past? Despite the fact that these words sound the same, and even have related meanings for one of each of their definitions, they cannot be interchanged.

  • Passed is the past tense form of pass and refers to moving by, to omit, to throw to someone, or to not fail.
  • Past can be an adjective, adverb, noun, or preposition that refers to the time before now, or beyond.

Using the tips above can help to ensure that you always remember the difference between passed and past.


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