Passed & Past

Wednesday's Words 1


Today’s edition of Wednesday Words & Woes comes thanks to Paul Croubalian, who suggested the words, two of the tougher ones to learn because they’re true homophones. And as we all know, spellcheck will not help us here.

The easiest way to remember them is by recognizing that we form the past tense of a regular verb in American English by adding “ed” to the present tense form.

So, “passed” is the past tense of the verb “to pass.” Yeah. It’s really that simple.

  • I am sure I will pass the exam tomorrow.
  • Look! I am passing the exam!
  • I passed the exam!
  • Paul passed by the house without noticing it.
  • Joel passes his knowledge on to his students every day.
  • JoeI passed a lot knowledge on to his students before he left.
  • The clouds passed over the valley quickly.

The word “past” has several meanings, and it can be a noun, an adverb, an adjective, and a preposition.


But what is it NOT? Past is NOT a verb. So if your sentence already has a verb in it, you want “past,” not “passed.”

  • The danger is now (in the) past, not the present.
  • He rode his bicycle past the house.
  • She’s sharp, and you can’t get much past her.
  • The car blew right past us.
  • Can you believe she walked right past me?
  • Bill Clinton is a past president of the United States.

Bottom line:  If you’re looking for a verb in your sentence, use “passed.” If not, use “past.”

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