Difference between “passed” and “past”

Recently, I came across some old critiques other people had written about my work. It was much like walking down memory lane, but for one thing…

I noticed a trend that I don’t think I picked up on at the time. Now, I am worried that I still don’t “get it”. What trend? Well, what is the difference between “passed” and “past”?

I know “passed” relates to movement and “past” relates to time. No issues there. However, when we start talking about adverbs and prepositions, the confusion sets in. Is it?

A lot of ambulances have gone passed, or,

A lot of ambulances have gone past.

Well, “gone” is a movement word and so is “passed”. There are two movement verbs in the one sentence, when you only need one, so the correct one is “past”.

Thanks to Grammar Monster I think I’ve got it straight in my head now. And it’s all because of the following top tip:

Substitute with Went Past

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)