For Gold, Peace, and Freedom


English Lesson 18: Correct Use of Passed and Past

July 19th, 2008

passed-past-english-usage.jpgLast night I received a query from a searcher at Ask.com who wanted to know about the correct use of passed and past. Since I had already included this pair of homophones in my list of future post ideas, I might as well use this one for the current week. I have seen people confuse these words on web page copy enough to justify writing up a short tutorial on this so that webmasters can get past the relatively mundane task of worrying about grammar errors and can instead concentrate on the really fun things like monetizing their websites and blazing their own trails to economic freedom.

The usage of passed is relatively easy to explain; it is simply the past or past participle form of pass. Although pass can be used as a noun, the past tense form passed is always used as a verb. Generally speaking, it means to move beyond, to proceed, to transfer something from one person to another, or to gain an acceptable outcome. Here are some example sentences:

  1. The quarterback passed the ball to the wide receiver.
  2. We passed several cars on the way to our destination.
  3. The students passed their exams while the legislature passed more laws.
  4. Google AdSense will release payment to publishers after their earnings have passed the $100 mark.

Meanwhile, the word past has a few different uses. When used as a noun or adjective, it refers to something that has already happened, is no longer current, and has become a part of history. If the word is used as an adverb or a preposition, it carries the connotation of moving beyond something. For example, if you walk past something, you have traveled beyond it. If we stay awake past midnight, we have moved beyond that point in time and into the next day. Again, here are some example sentences:

  1. Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. — George Santayana
  2. During the past few days, I have begun implementing AdSense units on selected pages of my website.
  3. My Clickbank earnings moved past the $100 threshold and triggered another check payment, thanks in part to my page on bum marketing techniques.
  4. Due to the current schedule of events, I have had to stay awake past midnight to finish this blog post.

Now we come to the fun part of finding examples of incorrect usage from various web pages and supplying the needed corrections.

Incorrect: I’ve Moved Passed Falling In Love to Pure Obsession With This Product! — title of a product review article written by “Catherine” at Epinions.com

Correct: I’ve Moved Past Falling In Love to Pure Obsession With This Product!

Incorrect: There probably isn’t much you will be able to do since you have went passed the cooling off period. — user “greenbrucelee” at CertForums.co.uk

Correct: There probably isn’t much you will be able to do since you have gone past the cooling off period.

Incorrect: i called dishnetwork already but of course they past the buck to discovery channel. — user “esxsctt” at Yahoo Answers

Correct: I called Dish Network already, but of course they passed the buck to Discovery Channel.

Incorrect: I past the ball to Andrew and he shot at the goal and he made it! — Taylor & Alexa’s Weblog at blog.penwellfamily.com

Correct: After I passed the ball to Andrew, he shot at the goal and made it!

Quick Summary: If you are moving beyond something AND using the word as a verb, use passed. If you are NOT using the word as a verb, use past.

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