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Passed / Past–“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”  Mark Twain

Check this category every week for a new set of ceaselessly confused, misused or misspelled words to master. Break the cycle of language abuse! 

The simple solution to this problem pair is a little bit of grammar. I saw that eye roll, but, I promise—this is easy.

Passed is a verb. It’s the past tense of the verb to pass.

     We passed the exit we wanted and had to go miles out of our way.

Past is an adjective, adverb, preposition or noun—but never a verb.

     We drove past the exit we wanted and got lost. (Preposition)

     She talked incessantly about all her past boyfriends. (Adjective)

     You’ve got to stop living in the past. (Noun)

     We were standing there when the bus went past. (Adverb)

It’s as simple as that.

So, if you want to express an act of passing that has been completed, use passed.

If you want to describe an action that has already happened (adjective or adverb), name it (noun) or use it to show a connection between two other nouns (preposition), use past.

Her past life was a blur. (Adjective)

Forty kids ran past. (Adverb)

In the past, this never would have happened. (Noun)

We are long past the expiration date. (Preposition)

Your Turn

(Find answers on the Horde / Hoard page.)

  1. In the __________ when we went __________ that house, there was always a light on. We __________it yesterday and it was dark.
  2. It is way __________my bedtime. But I __________the fridge on my way to bed and I remembered a piece of pie that was nearly __________its prime. I have never __________up a good piece of pie and I wasn’t about to start now.
  3. I didn’t have a move so I __________my turn. Then I lost. Alas.
  4. When grammy __________away, she __________all of her jewelry to me. I love having it. It keeps the __________ in the present.
  5. Our DNA gets __________from one generation to the next. Who knows how far into the__________my genes have been kicking around?