• Using Passed or Past in English with Examples

    Please, PASS the salt.

    It is common for native and nonnative English speakers to confuse these two words. It is also common for Spanish, Portuguese, or Italian speakers to misuse the verb “pass.”

    So, this blog is to clarify the difference between “past” and “passed” as well as to demonstrate where “passed” might be misused by English students.

    Common Mistakes With Passed

    First, lets look at examples common mistakes that English students may make with “passed.”
    1. I passed a good time over Christmas. INCORRECT! I HAD a good time over Christmas. CORRECT!
    2. I like passing time with my family. INCORRECT! I like SPENDING time with my family. CORRECT!
    3. We passed for the park. INCORRECT! We went for a walk in the park. CORRECT!

    The difference between “past” and “passed.”

    PAST – can be an adjective, noun, adverb, and preposition but it can NEVER be a verb. If you think you want to use it as a verb in the sentence (including the participle and continuous form) you really need to use pass, passing, or passed.

    PAST – refers to location and time.


    • This country has a difficult past. -(noun) referring to an earlier time.
    • My house is just past the school. -(preposition) referring to the a location.
    • All past students have gotten very good jobs. -(adjective) describes the time of the students.
    • She sped past the car on her way to the hospital. -(adverb) describes the way she sped.

    PASS/PASSED/PASSING-is a verb. It means to move forward.


    • The students passed the exam. (they are moving forward to the next level)
    • Time passes so quickly. (time is continuing)
    • Please pass me the salt. (give me the salt)
    • She has been passing by a lot lately, I think she likes you. (coming to your house or work or location.)

    There are times when these two words are more likely to be confused. Often in the past participle form they are confused, for example: I like keeping a journal to look at the stages of life that I have PASSED through. (This is the past participle of the verb. Pass through is also a phrasal verb.)

    The children passed the puppies without noticing them. (The children were walking and went by the puppies without noticing. PASSED is the verb in the sentence)

    Still have questions? Ask your teacher to help you understand or take a class with us!

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