Writing Tip #93

Passed versus Past. Lots of writers get passed and past confused, but there’s an easy way to remember the correct word choice: Identify whether the word in question is a verb in the past tense. If it is a verb, then you should use passed:

  • I passed the sign-up sheet to the person sitting next to me.
  • He passed by my house on the way home from work.

If the word is an adverb or an adjective or a preposition or a noun, then it’s past:

  • My mom doesn’t like to think about the past. (noun)
  • She was past president of The Rotary Club. (adjective)
  • The little girl threw the Frisbee past her mother. (adverb)
  • My house is located on the second block past the McDonald’s. (preposition)

Seems easy enough, right? How about these examples?

  • The young lady _______ an ominous-looking fellow on the street corner.
  • The young lady walked _______ an ominous-looking fellow on the street corner.

In the first sentence, the missing word is the verb, so we use passed. In the second, it is an adverb (the verb is walked), so we use past.

Got it? Or, rather, have you passed the test?


4 thoughts on “Writing Tip #93

  1. Good tip. I can see how passed/past might be a problem for some folks because the past tense of some verbs is formed by adding -t rather than -ed: e.g., dealt, burnt (in UK English), felt, smelt (also in UK English). Cheers!

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