Past vs. Passed: Useful Differences between Passed vs. Past

There are many homophones or words that sound almost the same in the English language, and no wonder that they are causing many problems for everyone. No matter if you’re a native or a non-native speaker, you might find yourself pausing when you need to choose between two words, such as past vs. passed, in your writing. However, if you clearly understand how different the meanings of these two are, there really is nothing difficult.

Past vs. Passed: the Primary Differences

Past vs. Passed

Definitions 

What Does “Past” Mean?

PAST can be a noun, an adjective, an adverb or a preposition and, in the majority of the cases, it has something to do with time.

Examples:

  • He is very reticent about his past.

What Does “Passed” Mean?

PASSED can only be a verb. More specifically, it’s the past tense of the verb “to pass” which means “to move on” and “to proceed”.

Examples:

  • The candidate has passed all the tests.

Usage of Past and Passed

When to Use Past

If you need an adjective that describes something that has happened before, you need past. For example, if you’ve just returned from the best vacation of your entire life, you can say, “The past week has been amazing”.

If you need a noun that describes the time before the present, you also need to use past. One example would be saying, “In the past, I’ve had more friends than I have now”.

Sometimes past can be an adverb that means “so as to pass by”. For instance, someone can drive past you in his car.

Finally, it can be a preposition that means “further than”. You probably use past as a preposition all the time without even realizing it when you’re speaking about the time. e.g. “It’s half past seven”.

When to Use Passed 

Now, what about passed? Most of the time it’s connected to some kind of a movement. Let’s imagine that earlier today you didn’t recognize one of your friends in the crowd. So, what did you do? You passed by him.

In some other cases, however, passed has nothing to do with physical movement. For example, you can say that two days have passed since the last call from your father, or that someone has passed away. Though there’s no movement involved, you still need to use this spelling of the word.

Tips for Correct Using Past vs. Passed

The best way to remember the difference between these two homophones is to always keep in mind that past is related to time, while passed is related to movement. Of course, you’ll also have to remember a few exceptions but you’ll find this trick helpful very often.

Rephrasing the sentence and turning the past tense to present might also help. If the sentence still makes sense after you replace the word in question with pass, then you need to use passed. For example, instead of “I passed by my friend” and “Three hours have passed you can say, “I pass by my friend” and “Three hours pass.

Past vs. Passed Examples

Examples of “Past

  1. Noun: We should learn from the past to improve our future.
  2. Adjective: In his past life, he was a sailor.
  3. Preposition: The store is just past the traffic lights on the right.
  4. Adverb: The time for discussion has gone past, and now it’s time to decide.

Examples of “Passed

  1. He passed the store without noticing it.
  2. The family passed down the antique clock through generations.
  3. She passed her driving test on the first attempt.
  4. As time passed, they grew more accustomed to the new environment.
  5. The bill passed in the Senate with a unanimous vote.

Interactive Exercises

Fill in the blanks 

  1. She has ______ her fear of spiders. (passed/past)
  2. The parade ______ down the main street at noon. (passed/past)
  3. I can’t believe how quickly the holidays ______ by. (passed/past)
  4. The ______ experiences shape who we are today. (passed/past)
  5. He ______ on the opportunity to travel abroad. (passed/past)
  6. The library is just ______ the coffee shop on the left. (passed/past)
  7. As the hours ______, the party got more lively. (passed/past)
  8. The criminal was finally brought to ______ for his crimes. (passed/past)
  9. The rumors about the new product have ______. (passed/past)
  10. We should put these disagreements behind us and start with a clean ______. (passed/past)

Answer 

  1. She has passed her fear of spiders.
  2. The parade passed down the main street at noon.
  3. I can’t believe how quickly the holidays passed by.
  4. The past experiences shape who we are today.
  5. He passed on the opportunity to travel abroad.
  6. The library is just past the coffee shop on the left.
  7. As the hours passed, the party got more lively.
  8. The criminal was finally brought to justice for his crimes.
  9. The rumors about the new product have passed.
  10. We should put these disagreements behind us and start with a clean past.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between ‘past’ and ‘passed’?

  • ‘Past’ refers to a time that has already occurred or something that is no longer present or existing. It can function as a noun, adjective, preposition, or adverb.
  • ‘Passed’ is the simple past tense and past participle of ‘to pass’. It signifies movement, the completion of an action, or success in an examination or test.

When should we use ‘past’ instead of ‘passed’?

  • Use ‘past’ when discussing time periods or locations relative to something. For example:
    • As a noun: “We cannot change the past.”
    • As an adjective: “She has past experience in this field.”
    • As a preposition: “The store is just past the next corner.”
    • As an adverb: “He walked past the building.”
  • Use ‘passed’ when you mean that someone or something has moved past a certain point or that an event is completed. For example:
    • “The runner passed the finish line.”
    • “The bill has passed in parliament.”

Can ‘passed’ ever be used when referring to time?

  • Yes, ‘passed’ can be used for time when discussing something that is completed. For instance, “Time passed quickly during the game.”

Is it ‘time passed’ or ‘time past’?

  • If you’re referring to the flow or duration of time as it moves from the present to the future, you would say “time passed.”
  • If you’re referring to a previous era or period, then it is “time past.”

How can we remember the proper usage of ‘past’ and ‘passed’?

  • A helpful tip is to remember that ‘passed’ is an action (verb), while ‘past’ is more static, dealing with time or location. If you can replace it with ‘walked’ or ‘moved’, use ‘passed’. If it’s about history or position, use ‘past’.