PASSED is the past tense and past participle of the verb “to pass.” It means to move on or ahead; proceed. It can function as both a transitive and intransitive verb. For example,
“The car passed me in the left lane.”
“I unknowingly passed by her in the crowd.”
PAST is (1) a noun meaning the time before the present, and (2) an adjective meaning “completed,” “finished,” and “no longer in existence;” It can also function as an adverb and preposition, but NOT A VERB.
The verb TO PASS usually implies movement of some sort and can sometimes cause confusion because it often means to move past. For example, “The hunter passed by the deer without even seeing it.”
Some people will mistakenly write a sentence like this as, “The hunter past by the deer without even seeing it.”
In doing so, people confuse PASSED (verb) with PAST (not a verb). If you take a look at the second sentence, you will notice that there is no verb for the subject hunter because past is not a verb; thus the sentence is incorrect.
A good way to tell which word to use in a sentence like this is to rewrite it using the present tense and see if it makes sense. For example, you would rewrite the above sentence as follows, “The hunter passes by the deer without even seeing it.” See how it makes sense? Thus, the word “passed” is correct.
Another rule to keep track of troublesome sentences like this is that if *a verb indicating motion* is *already* in your sentence, you will always couple it with PAST, not passed. For example,
“He passed us by.” BUT” He sailed past us/He flew past us/He ran past us.
TIP: The best way to keep track of the differences between these two words is by remembering that PASSED generally deals with movement and PAST generally deals with time. If you can remember the phrase “PAST TIME” (like pastime), you should be good to go!