Confusing words: passed, past
Passed and past are confusing words because they are homophones (they sound the same but have different meanings). Here’s the difference:
Passed is the past form of the verb pass. It means ‘go by something or near it without stopping’:
- Jim passed me without saying hello. (He didn’t stop.)
- We passed Big Ben on our boat trip down the Thames. (We saw Big Ben but didn’t stop there.)
Pass can also mean ‘do an exam successfully’:
- He passed all his exams last month.
Past isn’t a verb but it can be each of the following:
- A noun, meaning ‘previous time, before now’: Forget the past, look at the present and the future.
- An adjective, meaning ‘previous’: The politician didn’t want to discuss his past life and jobs.
- A preposition, meaning ‘beyond, after’: The bank is just past the supermarket, on the right.
Here are some more examples:
- The past month has been hard for everyone.
- You can learn a lot from the past and from your experiences.
- I’ve just got my exam results but I haven’t passed any of them.
- She walked past me but said nothing.
- She passed me but said nothing.
Finally, here’s a quick test. See how well you can differentiate between passed and past!
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