Friday, March 11, 2011

Past or Passed? Titled or Entitled?

Past is not, not, not a verb. It can be a noun, referring to some earlier or historical event or feature: In the past, we went visiting in a horse and buggy. Her past will be held against her in court.

Paul Newman, The Verdict

An adverb (Past as an adverb explains where): We drove past the theater.
An adjective:  It’s past history. In past cases, the lawyer performed admirably. The verb ran is past tense.

Here’s the difference. If it’s a verb, the word is passed. Ask if it shows movement. Substitute another verb and see if it still makes sense.
We passed (substitute moved by) the courthouse.
He passed (substitute threw) the ball.
Time passed (substitute lapsed) slowly.
She passed (substitute served) the potatoes.
She passed away (substitute died) in the night.

A few others—
entitled       involves a right: You are entitled to a hearing.
titled           named: The book is titled Moby Dick.

few               consisting of a small number: a few good women
less              not as great in amount or quantity: less rain this year
                     Wrong: Less people went to the fair this year
                      Right: Fewer people went this year than last.
 majority     greater number or part; something countable The majority live in apartments. The majority voted for it.
                     Wrong: The majority of the rain fell in November. The majority of the water spilled.
                     Right: Most of the rain fell in November. More of the wine spilled than stayed in the glass.

compose     to make up: the parts compose the whole. Nine planes composed the team.

Frecce tricolori, Italian military squadron team
© Leon Viti
comprise    to include, encompass; to consist of: the whole comprises the parts, The team comprised nine planes.
 You should be able to substitute include for comprise.
 Wrong: is comprised of. You cannot say The
team is included of ten players.


Ellis Vidler said...

Something I learned tonight--don't try any odd spacing on blogger. What a mess. But I'm not redoing it. Once was bad enough, thanks.

Patricia Winton said...

Ellis, I love these posts. And how wonderful that you showed the tri-colored arrows (as the Italians call those planes). Before they appear in parades, they circle around my neighborhood which is just north of their base. I watch them from my balcony. After they make their pass by the Colosseum during parades, they come right over my apartment on their back to base. Sometimes there's even a bit of the vapor trail left. The first time I saw them, I was on a bus and the vapor fell on us. There's a big holiday next Thursday and they're sure to be out.

E. B. Davis said...

I love your grammar posts, too, Ellis. I've had problems with passed and past, in the past :) and reading this post pinpointed my confusion to its use as an adverb. In your examples, it still seems a verb, not an adverb. But I will be more careful using "past" in those instances. Thanks!

Sandy Cody said...

Ellis, this is great. I'm going to start printing out your grammar posts and put them in a notebook. I'll put you on the shelf right next to my Strunk and White.

Polly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Polly said...

I know where you got the compose/comprise example. Thank me. You are a writer's gem, and every writer should tune in to your posts every Saturday for their grammar lesson. As Patricia would say, "complimenti."

Ellis Vidler said...

Thank you all! Amazing that anyone likes these posts. The mention of grammar usually triggers eye rolling. Elaine, the adverb "past" should tell you where the action took place. Drove where? Past. The action is drive. I think it's really a preposition in that use. We drove past. It works, but "past the theater" is a prepositional phrase. You could leave off everything after drove and still have a sentence. We drove. I could get tangled up doing this without thinking it over. :-)

Ellis Vidler said...

Patricia, How I'd love to see the tri-colored arrows from a balcony in Rome. Wow. I did get to see the Blue Angels from my sister's dock in Pensacola, but they only have white jet streams. I bet the colors are fun.

Ellis Vidler said...

Gee, I'm chatty today, probably because I'm supposed to be editing.
Polly, you make me laugh. Yes, you brought it to mind--thanks. You catch me in so many things.

By the way, I'm far, far from perfect. If you all spot anything I've done incorrectly, please speak up. It happens, and I need to know.

Tammy Kaehler said...

This is about homonyms more then grammar, but I had a fit this week about peek/peak/pique being misused. I even saw the wrong one used in an MSNBC headline.

Ellis Vidler said...

Tammy, those are always fun. Phase and faze and bare and bear are some I often see.

Lynn said...

Well -- one that I never knew until I read Diana Gabaldon's book "Fiery Cross"(???) -- the difference between venomous and poisonous; once it is explained it makes wonderful sense but unless you never heard it they are sort of interchangable. Does it bite you or do you bite it? If it bites you it is venomous -- if you bite it, it is poisonous. My 9 and 10 year olds are probably the only kids in their class who know the difference...

Donnell said...

I love these posts. Thank you, Ellis. Keep 'em coming!

Leslie Budewitz said...

"Comprised" rather than "comprised of" surprised me. Another instance of the common usage being the wrong one -- and I'm sure I've contributed my fair share of bad examples, or more!

Thanks, Ellis