Thursday 14 January 2016

Confusing Words - Part 2

The words in purple saying The Purple Pen about editing writing
In this post I am focusing on three words that I have repeated trouble with and I know others do too. With all of these words I find myself checking just to be sure, and each time I understand the reasons behind their usage a bit more.

Passed and Past

The word past locates something in time, and sometimes in space.

The word pass means to proceed, move forward or travel by, whether forwards in time, in space, or in life.

But the confusion begins when we need to use the past tense form of ‘pass’ – should it be passed or past?

Let’s look at some examples:

Correct usage would be:

The men passed through the village

Incorrect would be:

The men past through the village

Correct would be:

The men walked past the village

Incorrect would be:

The men walked passed the village

Passed is the past tense of the verb ‘to pass’. So when you already have a verb, like ‘walked’ in this sentence, you don’t need a second one. Thus ‘past’ becomes an adverb (adds more information to the verb, i.e. to what is happening.)

An easy way to tell which one you need, rewrite the sentence in the present tense:

The men walk past the village

The men pass through the village

As you can see ‘past’ remains the same.

And another way to understand this is:

Past is never a verb, so if you know that the word you want is a verb (the action word – usually the second word in the sentence after the subject), passed is always the right choice, anything else should be past.

I hope this has helped and that you’re not past caring about the whole subject. (sorry couldn’t help myself!)

Who and Whom

These two words substitute a pronoun (he, her, she, him, them, they), but the difference between them is whether it is a direct or non-direct pronoun:

If it is he, she, or they – it’s ‘who’ (they are the subject)

If it is him, her or them – it’s ‘whom’ (an object relating to a person)

‘The person on the phone was Mrs. Hadley, who was calling about the radiator’
– (she was calling about the radiator)

‘To whom does this belong?’ – (It belongs to them, or him, or her)

So to reiterate:

Whom replaces him/her/them.

Who replaces he/she/they.

Another trick to find out is to try writing the sentence with the pronoun, this will tell you which one you need.

Laid vs Lay

This is the one I often look up.

When using these words both the meaning and tense it is written in will effect which one it should be. Rather than try and explain this one. I have put in this simple visual which I use to help me.  

I hope this provides a better understanding of these words.

If you have any tricks you use when working out which one to use, please share in the comments. 

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1 comment :

  1. Very interesting, I've never used the word 'whom' in my writing. I thought it was merely a professional way to begin a letter to persons unknown in a company.