Pass time vs Past time vs Pastime

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What’s the difference between them?

Pass time


a verb phrase that means to spend time doing something, often something to keep oneself occupied or entertained.


1. 'During the long flight, he watched movies to pass time.'

2. 'While waiting for her appointment, she decided to pass time by reading a magazine.'

3. 'The children found various games to play in order to pass time during the rainy day.'

Past time


refers to a time that has already occurred


1. 'It is past time for us to address the environmental issues affecting our community.'

2. 'She felt it was past time to have a serious conversation with her partner about their future.'

3. 'The manager said it was past time for the team to update their working methods to be more efficient.'



activity that one enjoys doing during leisure time.


1. 'Gardening has become a favorite pastime of hers since she moved to the countryside.'

2. 'In the 19th century, attending the opera was a popular pastime among the upper class.'

3. 'Many people find that cooking is not just a necessary task, but a delightful pastime as well.'

Learn similar and opposite words to spot the difference



Pass time

Kill time

While away the time

Occupy oneself

Spend time



Be busy

Be active

Past time




Behind schedule



Ahead of schedule


On time



Leisure activity









Tricks for mastery

Useful tips to understand the difference between confusing words "Pass time", "Past time", "Pastime".

1. Pastime is a noun, referring to a leisure activity.

2. Pass time is a verb phrase, describing the action of spending time.

3. Past time is not a standard phrase but can be thought of as an adjective-noun combination, indicating something overdue.

4. Pastime: Think of 'pastime' as a 'pleasant activity in spare time.'

5. Pass time: Imagine a clock and think of things you do to 'pass' the moving 'time' hands.

6. Past time: Envision a calendar and something that should have been done in the 'past' and is now overdue.

7. Pay attention to the surrounding words and overall message of the sentence to determine which term fits best.

a. If discussing leisure activities, 'pastime' is likely correct.

b. If talking about spending time, 'pass time' is probably intended.

c. If referring to something overdue, 'past time' might be applicable.

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Frequently asked questions

When to use ‘past time’?

'Past time' is not a commonly used phrase, but it can be utilized when referring to something that should have happened or been addressed previously but wasn't. It implies that an action or event is overdue. For example, if a decision should have been made earlier, you might say, 'It is past time for us to decide.' It's crucial to note that this phrase is less standard in English compared to the other two.

When to use 'pass time'?

'Pass time' is a verb phrase used when describing the action of spending time in a particular way, especially to engage in an activity while waiting. It's applicable when you're discussing what you or someone else is doing to occupy oneself. For instance, if you read a book while waiting for a friend, you might say, 'I read a book to pass time.' It implies an activity is being used to make the time go by.

When to use 'pastime'?

'Pastime' is a noun and refers to an activity that one engages in for enjoyment and leisure, rather than a serious or practical purpose. It's used when discussing hobbies or activities that people do for fun. For example, if you enjoy bird-watching, you might say, 'Bird-watching is my favorite pastime.' It implies that the activity is something you do regularly for enjoyment during your free time.

Do the words have the same pronunciation?

'Pastime' and 'pass time' have similar pronunciations, which can cause confusion, but they are used differently in sentences. 'Pastime' is pronounced as a single word /pas-tahym/, while 'pass time' is two separate words and is pronounced as it appears /pas taim/. 'Past time' is also pronounced as two separate words /past taim/ but is used less commonly and in different contexts compared to the other two expressions.

What are common mistakes associated with words?

Common mistakes include confusing 'pastime' with 'pass time' due to their similar pronunciation and different spellings. People might write 'pass time' when they mean the noun 'pastime,' and vice versAnother mistake involves using 'past time' inappropriately, as it's not a standard phrase and might be considered incorrect in formal writing or communication. Ensuring clarity of meaning and understanding the context is crucial to avoid these common errors.

Fill in the gaps to check yourself

1. Playing chess is a popular _______ in many countries.

2. It is _______ we took action to address the issue.

3. She likes to knit to _______ while watching TV.

4. Is reading a common _______ in your country?

5. It is surely _______ for him to apologize to her.

6. People often play video games to _______.

7. Fishing is not only a means to procure food but also a relaxing _______.

8. It is _______ for us to update our software systems.

9. Many consider reading a beneficial way to _______.

1. Playing chess is a popular pastime in many countries.

Explanation: The sentence is talking about a popular leisure activity, which fits the definition of pastime.

2. It is past time we took action to address the issue.

Explanation: The phrase it is past time indicates that something should have been done earlier, making past time the correct choice.

3. She likes to knit to pass time while watching TV.

Explanation: The sentence describes an activity (knitting) being used to occupy oneself (while watching TV), so the verb phrase pass time is appropriate.

4. Is reading a common pastime in your country?

Explanation: The sentence is inquiring about a common leisure activity, making pastime the correct noun to use.

5. It is surely past time for him to apologize to her.

Explanation: The phrase it is surely past time implies that the action (him apologizing to her) is overdue, fitting past time.

6. People often play video games to pass time.

Explanation: The sentence talks about an activity (playing video games) being done to occupy oneself, so pass time is the correct verb phrase.

7. Fishing is not only a means to procure food but also a relaxing pastime.

Explanation: The sentence refers to fishing as a leisure activity, which aligns with the definition of pastime.

8. It is past time for us to update our software systems.

Explanation: The phrase it is past time indicates that updating the software systems is overdue, making past time the correct choice.

9. Many consider reading a beneficial way to pass time.

Explanation: The sentence discusses reading as a way to occupy oneself, fitting the verb phrase pass time.

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List of Commonly Confused Words

Finding your way around the English language can be hard, especially since there are so many confusing words and rules. So, a list of the most confusing words in English is an extremely useful tool for improving language accuracy and sharing the ideas clearly.