Coins… always awkward to carry around.

What is the past form of pay?

This often causes problems for students. The verb‏‎ pay means to give money to someone and it is usually an irregular verb.

I pay $15 each month for my internet connection.
Last month I paid $15 for my internet connection.
I have paid $15 every month for the past year.

However, some people will assume that pay is a regular verb and write:

I pay $15 each month for my internet connection.
* Last month I payed $15 for my internet connection.
* I have payed $15 every month for the past year.

* an asterisk at the beginning of a sentence shows that it is ungrammatical and wrong.

This is regarded as wrong by most people. However, it can is still be found in all types of writing. For example, this comes from an article in The Guardian newspaper in 2004:

* …Saatchi only payed £600 for it…

And a concordance search brings up more examples so it is not just The Guardian who makes this mistake!

When is PAYED Correct?

There is one case when it is correct to use payed and when the verb pay is formed as a regular verb. This is when the word is used in a nautical sense and means, to feed out rope or to cover a boat in tar (pitch).

We payed out the rope and the boat slipped further behind us.

The men payed the boat while they had time in dry dock.


Pay comes from the Latin pacare which means to pacify, (the word peace is a linguistic cousin of pay); by paying someone for something everything is fine and peaceful. (Try not paying in a shop and see how unpeaceful it gets!)

However, when we use pay in the nautical sense (see above) it comes from the Latin word picare which means tar or pitch. This has become a regular English verb.

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