hanged and hung - the difference

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
Hanged and hung can be used interchangeably. However, to reduce the risk of annoying your readers, opt for hung over hanged. However, if you're talking about execution by hanging, then opt for hanged over hung.

Hanged or Hung?

The words hanged and hung can be used interchangeably as the past tense and past participle of the verb to hang. So, the bottom line is that you cannot make a mistake by using one of these words instead of the other.

The verb to hang is one of those with an irregular form and a regular form. Here are the most common ones in that category:
VerbPast SimplePast Participle
burnburned OR burntburned OR burnt
dreamdreamed OR dreamtdreamed OR dreamt
learnlearned OR learntlearned OR learnt
hanghung OR hangedhung OR hanged
smellsmelled OR smeltsmelled OR smelt

Hung Is More Popular Than Hanged

Be aware though that a sizeable proportion of your readers might prefer hung to hanged as there is a common misconception that hanged is an error.

But, Hanged in Preferred for Execution by Hanging

Unfortunately, there is another quirk. When referring to execution by hanging, lots of people think only hanged can be used.

The Final Advice on Hanged and Hung

So, the final advice is this: use hung unless you're talking about execution by hanging. In that case, use hanged. For example:
  • One should forgive one's enemies, but not before they are hanged. (Heinrich Heine, 1797-1856)
  • Anybody caught selling macrame in public should be dyed a natural color and hung out to dry. (Calvin Trillin)
  • The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't. (Douglas Adams, 1952-2001)
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? dived and dove e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose?
What is the past tense? What are past participles? What are verbs? What are regular verbs? What are irregular verbs? List of easily confused words