Past or passed? Personally, I find it easier to learn how to use these words correctly through examples as we tend to use it in English in certain ways. So I hope the following lists will be useful for your creative writing.

Basically, ‘Passed’ is the past tense of ‘to pass’. Everything else is ‘past’.

Try it by substituting ‘went past’ or ‘gone past’ into your sentence. If your sentence still makes sense, then ‘passed’ is correct.

For everything else, use ‘past’. If you are still stuck hire me as a proofreader 😉

Thanks to The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris for the following examples.

Proofreading for creative writers

As a creative writer it can be tricky to get it right when talking about movement rather than the history. I provide some grammar below, but here is a quick table reference to get started.

I found the most logical way to separate these words was in their use of movement or of time.

Past & movement

I walked Anouk X the mosque

she walks X

a group of Japanese tourists came X

Past & Time

these X four years

It’s half X four

over the X year

over the X few months

the X few days

X scandal

into the X

in a X life

it doesn’t have to be the X

without a X

 Passed & time

as months X then years

seconds X

X down over generations

the moment had X

time X

Passed & movement (the confusing one!)

no one ever X

had never quite Xthem by

I had X the only exam that mattered

as I/he X by

may be X around like

I might have X a thousand times

The grammer bit

For those of you wanting a bit more detail. These words are most often confused when used as an adjective. Past is (1) a noun (referring to time) and (2) an adjective (completed, finished,  in the past). Passed is the past tense (past participle) or the verb to pass, so only ever use it as a verb in your sentences.

In contrast, the latter form is never a verb. Hyperflexible it can be: an adjective, an adverb, a noun, and a preposition. This is also confusing, isn’t it? Here are some more detailed resources, from an online dictionary explanation and a test to have a go.

Who is Emma Parfitt?

Emma Parfitt Editing Proofreading

Emma Parfitt is a proofreader with 18 years of writing experience with businesses, academics and creative writers. She obtained a Creative Writing MA (St Andrews University) and a PhD in Storytelling (Warwick University). Then set up her own proofreading business and became a published author of fiction as well as academic literature such as Young People, Learning & Storytelling (Palgrave Macmillan).

Get in touch!

Emma Parfitt

Proofreader for business and academic documents, translations, and English writing.


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