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Passed or Past

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There is often confusion over the words ‘passed’ and ‘past’.


The word 'passed' is the past simple of the verb pass or the past participle of the verb:

She passed the exam with distinction. Pass = to be successful in a test
The secretary passed the message to me. Pass = hand over (give)
We'd passed the shop 5 times before we saw it.  Pass = to move past

And this is where the confusion can arise; pass can mean to move past. Other verbs with past show movement – run past, sail past, walk past, drove past etc. The important thing to remember is that 'past' in there phrases is not the verb. If you use the verb then it is always the past tense of pass, 'passed'.


The word 'past' has several uses. It can be used as an adjective, an adverb, a noun or a preposition. 'Past' is usually related to a time before the present or to indicate movement  - from one side of a point to another.

Past – adjective

This past month was a difficult time for me.

Past – noun

Thankfully all the trouble we had with the neighbours is all in the past.

Past – adverb

John ran past. He didn't even see us.

Past – preposition

Walk down the road past the post office. (Past = beyond)
Alan ran past us without even seeing us. (Past = from one side of 'us' to another)

Lesson by Tristan, teacher at EC Malta English school

Now complete the following with 'passed' or 'past':

  • 1. The _ has a habit of repeating itself.

  • 2. I got Peter's message and _ it on to Sarah.

  • 3. To go to the bus stop just walk down this road and take a left _ the ATM.

  • 4. He _ his driving test after five attempts.

  • 5. We walked _ the bar to see if it was busy before we walked in.

  • 6. It's _ time we went on a holiday.