The frequent confusion between the words "passed" and "past" is understandable. The two words sound alike, are spelled similarly, and are derived from the same Latin word.
Passed: The form "passed" is the past participle of the verb "to pass", meaning to proceed, move forward, or extend beyond something. It can also mean to succeed in a subject or to hand something over. Examples:
We passed the store on our way to school.
I passed the maths test.
The athlete passed the ball to her teammate.
Past: The word "past" has several meanings, often locating something in time. Past can be used as an adjective, an adverb, a noun or a preposition.
"Past" as an adjective means gone by in time; elapsed; done with; over. Example: This past year has been difficult.
"Past" as an adverb means to get ahead of or go by. Example: He ran past us.
"Past" as a noun means the time that has gone by, or a reference to the time before the present. Example: In the past, we took an annual vacation.
"Past" as a preposition means after or beyond the age for or time of. Example: It is half past two.
It is also used as a preposition to convey beyond a location or farther on from a point of reference. Example: The school is located just past the traffic light.
Still confused? Consider this simple rule: If there is no verb in the "sentence", then it is usually safe to use "passed". However, if the sentence already has a verb, use "past".
Which word is correct?
1. I can't stay (passed/past) 10pm.
2. Their car (past/passed) ours on the road.
3. The weeks (past/passed) quickly.
4. We cannot live in the (passed/past).
5. They raced (past/passed) the other team.
Heather Vlach is an English-language specialist and Intensive Studies educator at International School Bangkok in Nonthaburi. Heather can be contacted at email@example.com .