Passed is the past tense of to pass. For everything else, use past.
Past or Passed?There is often confusion over the words passed and past. This confusion occurs most commonly with the following expressions:
- Passed away
- Passed a test
- Past a date
- Past sell by date
- Past caring
- Past few years
- Past midnight
- The past weekend
- Run past
- See past
- It is past the deadline.
- You have passed the deadline.
- You are past the point of no return.
- You have passed the point of no return.
- Move past the finish line.
- They passed the finish line.
- It is past your bedtime
- You have passed your bedtime
PassedThe word passed is the past tense of the verb to pass, e.g., I pass (present tense), I passed and I have passed (both past tense), and I will pass (future tense).
- She passed the exam with distinction. (In this example, to pass = to be successful in a test)
- The operator has already passed the note to the typist. (In this example, to pass = to hand over)
- The lion passed the zebra without so much as a glance. (In this example, to pass = to move past)
(Here, passed is a past passive participle.)
- The lion passed the zebra without so much as a glance.
- The lion wandered past the zebra without so much as a glance.
- The Harrier passed at an altitude of 100 feet.
- The Harrier flew past at an altitude of 100 feet.
PastThe word past has several meanings (usually related to time before the present or to indicate movement from one side of a reference point to the other side.) Past can be used as an adjective, an adverb, a noun or a preposition:
As an Adjective, past denotes time before the present.
- This past year has been difficult for the recruiters.
- She loves to tell us about past dance competitions in the hall.
- That's all in the past.
- Can you dig into his past?
- Don't go past.
- Alan ran past. (Note: The word past is acting as an adverb in each of these examples. However, it could be argued that the word past is a preposition forming part of phrasal verb (like to run away or to jump up). See the similar examples below.)
- Don't go past the gate. (past = beyond)
- Alan ran past the postman. (past = denotes movement from one side to the other)
When referring to movement (i.e., not passing tests or handing stuff over), only use passed when it is the past tense of the verb to pass. To test whether passed is correct, substitute it with went past. If your sentence still makes sense, then passed is the correct version.
- He passed the shop.
- He went past the shop. (Still makes sense – passed is correct)
- He skipped passed the shop.
- He skipped went past the shop. (Not correct – passed is wrong)
SUBSTITUTE WITH GONE PAST
On occasion, it may be necessary to use gone past to test whether passed is correct. This is because passed is also the past passive participle of to pass.
- He has passed the dockyard.
- He has gone past the dockyard. (Still makes sense – passed is correct)