Passed vs Past

Knowing the correct usage of ‘passed’ as opposed to ‘past’ when describing physical action is something I used to find an extremely irritating stumbling block. I could never get it right and I could never seem to follow the reasonings behind others good enough to try and explain it to me.

I have no intention of getting into the whole nitty gritty of adverb, intransitive verb, past passive participle, blah, blah, blah. The purpose of this post is to make the use of passed or past easy to understand. It’s what I needed and maybe you do too.

Pass or passed is usually used as a verb or a noun. (OK, that was just for clarification.)

In this instance I am referring to the use of the word ‘passed’ as a ‘doing’ word, as my English teacher used to say, a physical action.


  • The man passed the buxom blonde.

Here all the man is doing is passing. The action is simply action.

  • The man limped past the buxom blonde.

So here, the man is limping and passing. If you’re describing how the action takes place (in this case limping) the word to use is past.

Another example:

  • The nimble, brown fox passed the lazy dog. –Β All the fox is doing is passing.
  • The nimble, brown fox ran past the lazy dog. –Β Here the fox is running past.


And now, a the secret weapon to test if you’ve got it right. πŸ™‚

Substitute ‘passed‘ with ‘went past‘ or, if your sentence calls for it, ‘gone past‘.


  • The man passed the buxom blonde.
  • The man went past the buxom blonde.

So far all good. πŸ™‚

  • The man limped passed the buxom blonde.
  • The man limped went past the buxom blonde.

Nope, not working. πŸ™


  • She has passed the shoe shop!
  • She has gone past the shoe shop!

So, if you’re using ‘passed’ by itself as your action, use passed. If you’re describing your action word (past) with another action word (went, gone, flew, ran, wandered, limped, etc.) use past.

Hope that was not only useful, but easy to understand. πŸ™‚





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12 Responses to “Passed vs Past”

  1. C.T. Green Says:

    I’m sorry to say Miss Sandy, that last example is incorrect. What woman in their right mind goes past a shoe shop?!? : D
    Great post btw. : )

  2. sandra Says:

    OMG! For a second there I thought ‘Oh NO!!!!’ Then laughed out loud. You’re right, it was a baaaaad example! πŸ™‚ Oh nice correct use of ‘past’, btw! I can see I’m becoming one of those ‘reformed’ people. You know, the ones who resolve a habitual problem then anally want the world to follow their fine example.

    I wonder if there’s a support group? πŸ™‚

  3. C.T. Green Says:

    Ooh and are you sure that man was ‘limp’ when he went past the buxom blonde? ; )
    Yes, I think I’ll stop right there. Thank you for the explanation on passed/past without all those adverbs etc.

  4. sandra Says:

    LOL. He may have been limp when he went past, but after he passed I bet he wasn’t!

  5. Helene Says:

    Love it, Sandy. You’ve demystified one of those common misconception that an editor just can’t go past!

    And yes, CT is quite correct – shoe shops are not to be ignored – she has a wicked sense of humour πŸ˜€

  6. sandra Says:

    Thanks, Helene. I’ve even been to the point where I’ll re-write a sentence just to avoid using passed/past. Now it doesn’t scare me so much – though I do still double check. πŸ™‚

    CT does have a wicked sense of humour, she often has me in stitches.

  7. Cathleen Ross Says:

    I have trouble with this, so thanks so much.

  8. sandra Says:

    My pleasure, Cathleen, glad I could be of help. Thanks for dropping by. πŸ™‚

  9. jenn j mcleod Says:

    CT Green, thank you for the laugh. Sandra, thank you for explanation.

  10. sandra Says:

    Hiya Jenn! Thanks for coming by. πŸ™‚ Yes, passed/past used to drive me insane, I figured I probably wasn’t the only one. CT’s a hoot, I’ll introduce you at conference. πŸ™‚

  11. Suzi Love Says:

    Great explanation! Thanks.
    You’re doing such a wonderful job with your blog and oyu posts,
    Looking forward to lots more,

  12. sandra Says:

    Thanks, Suzi! You know I always enjoy your articles on historical England. πŸ™‚

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