Herman Melville quote: But the past is passed; why moralize upon it?

The past is passed.

I hear this question a lot:

What is the difference between past and passed, and when should I use them?

Past as a preposition, noun, adjective and adverb.

Past as a preposition

to or on the further side; from one side to the other

  • She drove past the church.

later than; beyond in time

  • It is twenty minutes past ten.
  • It was past three o’clock when he arrived.

no longer capable of

  • He is past running so fast.
  • I was past being concerned, and decided to move away.

Past as a noun

the time before now

  • They were great friends in the past.
  • Life was very different in the past.

the history of a person or place

  • I would like to discover the building’s past.

Past as an adjective

gone in time

  • That situation is now past.

belonging in the past

  • They wondered why past visitors had left so quickly.

occurring before and leading up to the present

  • The political landscape has changed over the past ten years.

Past as an adverb

to pass from one side to the other

  • The red car swept past the blue car.

to describe a period of time

  • A week went past and they didn’t see their friend once.


Passed is the simple past or past participle of the verb to pass.

  • He passed the exam.
  • He passed her a love note.


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