“Passed” vs. “Past”

Today a co-worker asked me whether you ran something “past” someone, or ran it “passed” someone. After a google search and a minor debate, we decided that we “ran something by” someone. Avoidance of grammar rules is always the easiest route.

Tonight I thought I’d delve into that question a little. To all of you grammar buffs, forgive my ignorance. There has to be at least one of you out there as confused as me (confused as I?). Help us, Grammar Gurus!

I consulted my friend the Grammar Girl:

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Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, by Mignon Fogarty

Grammar Girl touches on these words very briefly. She says that “past” is a noun meaning long ago, as in that was in the past.  Whereas “passed” is a verb, like when you passed by things.

I remained confused as to our specific use so I tried another internet search and came up with Grammar-Monster.com (www.grammar-monster.com – see link here).  Grammar Monster says: “Passed is the past tense of to pass. For everything else, use past.”

Okay. So is it “ran it passed someone” or “ran it past someone”?

One of the examples Grammar Monster provides is:  The operator has already passed the note to the typist. In this case, to pass means to hand over. Well, in our scenario, we were handing over something to someone, so shouldn’t it too be “ran it passed someone”?  That just looks wrong.

To make matters more confusing, the “Hot Tip” on Grammar Monster suggests substituting passed with went past. If the sentence still makes sense, then passed is the correct version. For example, “He passed the shop” substitutes to “He went past the shop.” Therefore, since the sentence still makes sense, passed is correct.

Back to our fragment:  “ran it went past someone” does not make sense.  So passed is wrong and the phrase should be “ran it past someone.”

Right?

RIGHT?

Luckily Yahoo Answers to the rescue! It says that both are right; however, in “run something _____ you,” the p-word chosen will have the function of an adverb modifying “how the run is performed.” Past is properly used as an adverb.

I’m so confused! In the end, I think “ran something past someone” simply looks better, but I’ll be running things “by” someone for now.

Have a nice night.

10 Comments

  1. As soon as I saw the first line of this my brain was screaming “past, past, past!!!” I almost wanted to say I wish I could have been there at work to settle this dispute, but then I realized there’s no way I’d rather be there than where I am currently, even to be a part of a lively grammar dispute.

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  2. Oh my goodness! Had exaactly the same conversation with a colleague the other week. I was stumped, and annoyed that something I used to find so easy to resolve was suddenly foreign to me – I sat there for ages trying to work out the correct spelling in context. When I did find out, it all seemed obvious.

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  3. A sentence needs a verb, and one verb is sufficient for a simple sentence.
    Passed is a verb form. Past is an adjective or an adverb.
    so:
    I passed by this discussion.. (Passed is the verb)
    I quickly ran past it. (Ran is the verb; the word “past” describes where I ran.)

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  4. Pingback: Myself, Myself and I | It's Hard To Be Ladylike

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