I recently received an email about edits and then the same topic came up with a student I am tutoring. I realized this is a common issue and wanted to share. Here is an excerpt:
I've been working on edits from my publisher…It's hard for me to argue word usage, when they've changed a word to something else, because I'm not always sure about it. But I'm pretty sure I've been using the word PASSED correctly, and they've been changing it to the word PAST.
Here's an example: ...she couldn't come passed a certain point to my house…So, is the word PASSED, or PAST?
This is actually a common problem and I'll do my best to explain the difference.
Passed - refers to a physical location or object in the past tense. ex. "The weeks passed quickly", "I passed my exams" or " "I just passed Elm St."
Past - refers to a location in time or space. ex. "My house is the one just past the church", "The ball sped past me" or "In the past, standards were higher".
So, ... ”she couldn't come passed a certain point to my house” should be PAST. However, you might consider switching the sentence around to make it more active.... "I would not allow her to pass..." or some such. Of course since I'm seeing this out of context, you will know best what works for your text. I hope this helps
For more examples, try: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/passed-vs-past/
Have you found yourself facing this problem? What other words or usage gives you pause when writing?