The homophones ‘passed’ and ‘past’ are commonly confused.
‘Passed‘ is the past tense of the verb ‘pass’ meaning to go forward, proceed or depart and it can refer to movement in time, space or in action.
Time: He passed the time by reading.
Space: Mark passed the ball to me.
Action: Sue passed her spelling test.
‘Past’ can be a noun, adjective, adverb or a preposition.
Noun: In the past, there were no cars.
Adjective: It’s now past time to start the game.
Adverb: We hurried past the haunted house.
Preposition: He drove on past the school.
How do you choose the correct word?
The best way to decide if you should be using the verb ‘passed’ is to substituted it for a word you know is a verb and see if the sentence makes sense: He spent the time reading. Mark threw me the ball. Sue missed her spelling test. These all make sense, so you need to use the verb ‘passed’.
The best way to decide if you should be using ‘past’ is to substitute the word for either ‘pass’ or ‘passes’ and see if the sentence makes sense: In the pass/passes, there were not cars. It’s now pass/passes time to start the game. We hurried pass/passes the haunted house. He drove on pass/passes the school. None of these sentences make sense, so you need to use ‘past’.