Arrow icon
Chevron icon

Passed vs. Past: What’s the Difference?

The difference between passed and past is a brilliant example of a way in which the English language can be confusing. Passed and past are homophones, which means that they sound the same, but are spelt differently and have different meanings.

This particular pair of words are two which are very commonly confused.

 

Definitions and Examples of Passed and Past


If we take a look at the definitions of our homophones, it will become much easier to learn how to use them correctly. Firstly, let us take a look at passed. The word passed is the past tense of the verb to pass.

The verb pass, when used in present tense would look like this: I will pass the ball to you. If you substituted the word pass for passed, I passed the ball to you, it signifies that this happened previously. That is has already happened.

Some examples of this are:

  • Time really passed quickly today.
  • Jake passed the ball and I scored a goal!
  • I passed all of my exams.


By adding -ed to the end of the verb pass, making it passed, you are changing the verb to mean that the event described has already happened.

Now moving to the word past. Once you see the definition for this, all will become clear. The word past is defined as gone in time or no longer existing. An example of this would be, “In the past people used to live differently.” Or, “Frank struggled with his weight in the past.” It is mostly used to signify a point in time.

Speaking of time, you often will hear the word past used to describe the time, “It is quarter past three.” In this instance the word is describing something which has gone beyond a time. “It was past five o’clock when he finally arrived.”

Some further examples of this would be:

  • It is past my bedtime.
  • I drove past her house on the way to work.
  • In the past I had more money.

 

Quick Quiz

Let’s test your skills. This is a great way to see if you’ve understood the difference between these homophones. Choose between the words passed and past in the following sentences:

  • I passed/past up the opportunity to work in France.
  • Jemma waved at me as she drove passed/past.
  • I wish she would have passed/past the ball to me.
  • In the passed/past there were dinosaurs.

 

The results will be at the end of the article if you want to see how you’ve done, or if you need a little help, take a look at the English courses offered by Oxford International in the UK, USA and Canada here.

 

Summary

These two words, past and passed, are two words that cause a lot of confusion in the English language. Past is never used as a verb, that is a good way to remember the difference. Passed is always a verb. If you’ve ever stuck, just think… Is it a verb? If the answer is yes, you know it is passed you need. Happy learning!

Answers to the quiz

  • I passed up the opportunity to work in France.
  • Jemma waved at me as she drove past.
  • I wish she would have passed the ball to me.
  • In the past there were dinosaurs.

 

Want to improve your English? We offer General, Academic and Exam English courses in 6 schools across the UK, USA and Canada. Click here to find out more.

Arrow icon

Courses you may be interested in

Master English with our range of language courses in the UK, USA and Canada. Whether you wish to study English for general, professional or academic purposes, we have a course for you!

Academic English

Our Academic English courses help you develop the skills and confidence needed to achieve an internationally recognised English Language qualification.

General English

Our most popular course, General English suits every level of learner. It builds general proficiency in English by working on the four main language skills – reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Professional English

Our business-focused English courses help you gain the communication tools you need to succeed in the workplace, no matter what career you choose to pursue.