Time to get it right: Past vs. passed

Relatively speaking, if you use past or passed depends on whether you are using a verb or a noun.

If wanting to show that something has occurred, use the verb passedThe motorcycle passed, and everything quieted once more. (What occurred is the motorcycle went by.).

If wanting to show what you’re referring to, use the noun pastIn the past when the road was gravel, motorcycles never went on it. (You’re referring to a specific thing, the past.)

A lot of writers get mixed up with the whole space-time continuum thing, thinking that “past” means something once was in the state of occurring. Leave relativity to Einstein, though, and think noun-verb when deciding which word to use.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.