Revising Leah

July 25, 2008

What’s Past Is Passed

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 10:23 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Certain homophones give me trouble when I write. Until recently, I’ve had a lot of trouble with “passed” and “past”.  The other day, I finally settled the distinction (in my own mind, at least) once and for all.

The word “passed” is a verb — specifically, it is the past tense form of the verb “to pass”. When “passed” appears in a sentence, it always serves as a verb. For example:

Leah was surprised by how much time had passed.

The word “past” can be used as a noun, a preposition, or an adverb. It is its adverb and preposition roles that has caused the most confusion for me. A sentence like this,

Luckily, Melanie and her friend didn’t want to stop and chat, and they walked past her and disappeared into the crowd.

used to give me a lot of trouble. In the sentence above, “past” functions as a preposition while the word “walked” is the verb. If I were to rephrase the sentence and write, “they passed her and disappeared into the crowd,” then I would need a verb and “passed” would be the correct word choice.

So the way I decide which word is the right word is simply to think about the parts of speech. I ask myself, is past/passed being used as a verb or as some other part of speech? If I’m using it as a verb, then “passed” is what I want; if it’s not a verb, then “past” is the right choice.



  1. Your thought process is always of interest to me, never boring.

    Annie O.

    Comment by cedarstreetwriter — July 25, 2008 @ 4:43 pm

  2. Thanks.

    Comment by jmreep — July 26, 2008 @ 10:14 pm

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