Distinguishing these Homophones:
Two very commonly confused words are the tricksters known as passed vs. past. They sound exactly the same, but have mightily different meanings. Yes, that means they’re homophones! Let’s dive into how to tell the difference between the two, and use them correctly so that your sentences means exactly what you desire.
Passed: Meaning and Definition
The word “Passed” is the past tense (eek — there’s the homophone “past”) of the verb “to pass.” It means moved across, through, or from one place or thing to another. This can be in the dimension of time, space, states of being. Here are examples to clarify, emphasizing how each demonstrates an instance of moving from one thing to another.
Examples of “Passed” in Sentences
1. The snail passed in front of the woman at such a rapid pace, the “zip” sound almost knocked her onto the grass!
- “Passed” is used here because the meaning is that the snail is moving from one side of the woman to the other (passing in front).
2. She passed all of her tests with high grades because she used metacognition strategies to study effectively.
- This is an example of moving across a threshold: the 60% cut-off to a grade that divides failure from success, so the word “passed” is used.
3. The whale passed away after eating 4,000 hot dogs. To keep whales alive, it’s important to educate them about the importance of healthy eating.
- The phrase “passing away” is about crossing over from the state of being alive to no longer alive.
4. During the basketball game, the dragon passed me the ball, and I caught it. He was so proud of me, that later he passed along all his old, former basketball jerseys for me to wear, since he’d outgrown them and wanted them to go to good use.
- In both instances of “passed” above, an object is physically moving from the dragon to the narrator as it is given away: first the ball, then the jerseys.
5. The teacher passed out the tests to her students so fast that she became exhausted. That afternoon when she returned home, she was so tired that she passed out on the sofa and slept until the next morning.
- Here are two different ways to use “passed out.” You can physically pass something out to someone (crossing the threshold from it being in your hand, to being in someone else’s), or you can use the expression “pass out” to mean fall asleep or faint — both of which are crossing the threshold into unconsciousness from consciousness.
Past: Meaning, Definition, and Examples
“Past” is a much more complicated word to define, because it is used in numerous different ways. Some of these ways seem similar to “passed,” but it’s important to note, in the dilemma of which to use, that they can never be used interchangeably.
A.) Past as a NOUN: A period of time that happened before. (Ex: “My snail racing days are in the past.”)
B.) Past as an ADJECTIVE: Done, over, finished. (Ex: “In past years, I raced snails.”)
C.) Past as an ADVERB: To go by or pass by. (Ex: “The snails race past.”)
D.) Past as a PREPOSITION: Further than a place, age, or time. (Ex: “The snail race will begin at half past eleven.”)
Using “Passed” vs. “Past” Correctly
Ready for the real test? Let’s use BOTH “passed” AND “past” TOGETHER in sentences, to see the different ways they function!
2. I’m past caring about whether the veggies have passed their expiration dates. I will eat droopy carrots gladly, as long as they don’t go to waste.
3. When I passed through town, it became clear the era of apologizing to someone was in the past, as everyone who bumped into me didn’t bother to say “Sorry!”
Passed vs. Past VIDEO:
Other English Lessons for Learning:
Homophones Word List:
- “Aww” vs. “Awe”
- Everyday vs. Every Day
- Apart vs. A Part
- “It’s vs. its,” “your vs. you’re,” and “they’re, there, their”
- Weather vs. Whether
- Flare vs. Flair
- Whose vs. Who’s
Literary Terms and ELA Vocabulary:
- What is Context?
- Tone vs. Mood
- Juxtaposition Examples
- Liminal Space
- Foreshadowing Definition and Examples
Can You Tell the “Passed” vs. “Past” Difference Now?
I hope this “Passed” vs. “Past” lesson has been useful to you to tell the difference between these tricky homophones. Do you have a request for another English lesson for me to illustrate? Do share your request!
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The author and artist, Lillie Marshall, is a National Board Certified Teacher of English who has been a public school educator since 2003, and an experienced Reiki practitioner since 2018. All art on this site is original and hand-drawn by Lillie. She launched DrawingsOf.com Educational Cartoons in 2020, building upon the success of her other two sites, AroundTheWorldL.com (established 2009) and TeachingTraveling.com (founded 2010). Subscribe to Lillie’s monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media to stay connected!