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Past Year vs Last Year vs Passed Year: Which One is Correct?

3 years ago 18366 11 Comments

While talking about past events, many people can be found confused between past and last. Contrary to what many believe, past and last cannot be used interchangeably. They are used to describe different conditions of an event with regards to a particular period or phase of time.

Let’s take a look at the following examples.

I’ve been waiting for you for the last two hours. (incorrect)

I’ve been waiting for you for the past two hours. (correct)

But look at the following examples.

Although he started off really slow, he managed to catch up with the goal in the last three sessions. (not past three sessions)

Although he bowled quite badly at the beginning of the innings, he managed to pick up five wickets in the last two overs. (not past two overs)

The Explanation

Last: We use last when we want to talk about a period of time which is the final phase of a certain activity or event.

Past: We use past when we want to talk about a period of time which has just gone by recently.

So, if you’re talking about waiting for someone (as shown in the examples above), it’s correct to use past two hours since you mean the period (two hours) that has just gone by.

You cannot use last two hours since it’s not a phase of any event. In fact, the only event here is waiting for two hours. In other words, those two hours are the period of time which has just gone by waiting for your friend.

Some more examples…

In his last three years, he wrote two biographies. (described to talk about a person who has passed)

Last Year vs Past Year

Last year means the last calendar year, for example, 2015 (if you’re in 2016).

Past year means the 365 days preceding today. For example, if it was 14 th Feb, 2016 today, then the past year would mean the time between 15 th Feb, 2015 and 14 th Feb, 2016.

For example:

He completed his MBA last year (for example 2015) but he’s been looking for a job for the past one year. (for example, from 4 th of July, 2015 until 3 rd of July, 2016)

This Passed Year vs This Past Year

One of the most incorrectly used phrases in English is “this passed year”. Many users who commit this error believe “passed” has the same meaning as “past”, but that’s incorrect.

Here are some examples of incorrect usages:

You’re passed your bedtime.

Correct Usage: You’re past your bedtime.

The popular actor past away.

Correct Usage: The popular actor passed away.

He bought these shoes this passed weekend.

Correct Usage: I bought these shoes this past weekend.

He walked passed the danger line.

Correct Usage: He walked past the danger line.

The Uber drove passed its destination.

Correct Usage: The Uber drove past its destination.

Sam got passed the finish line in record time.

Correct Usage: Same got past the finish line in record time.


As you can see “Passed” and “Past” are both share the same sound and this is probably why “passed” is often incorrectly used.

Grammatically speaking, ‘pass’ is a verb which has a range of means depending on the context. Let’s take a look at a few examples below:

  • Sandra passed the exam with distinction. (succeed in a test, past tense)
  • I’ve passed your notes to your friend. (hand over, present perfect)
  • My boss passed by me without giving me a glance. (go past something)
  • Sometimes I feel life is passing me by. (leave someone behind)

As you can see in the third example mentioned above, ‘passed’ often can mean to “move past” and indicates motion of a person or an object.

Similarly, the word “past” has a wide range of meanings including ‘time before present’.

For example:

  • She has achieved a lot in the past two years. (adjective)
  • There’s no point in looking at your past. (noun)

However, ‘past’ can also be used as an adverb or a preposition as well.

For example:

  • He ran past. (beyond, adverb)
  • Mike walked past the door. (beyond, preposition)

This is exactly where many get confused and end up saying “passed” when they actually mean “past”.

To many, it can be confusing because, in some cases, both variations are possible.

Look at the following examples:

You have passed the bedtime = You are past the bedtime.

However, natural speech or writing, it sounds awkward to say, “you have passed the bedtime”.

What did we learn?

Whenever you’re confused whether “he walked past or passed the door”, remember “walk past” as a phrasal verb.

Similarly, don’t say “this passed weekend” when you mean to say “this past weekend”.

Confused whether she will “get past or passed the finish line”? Apply the same logic as advised in the first example.

Hope this post clarifies your doubts. If you find this post useful, share it with your friends.