“Payed” Or “Paid”: What’s The Difference?

If you paid attention during your English classes, you know that the past tense and past participle of the verb pay is paid. Right? Actually, it turns out that payed is, in fact, the correct past tense and past participle form of pay in a few rare cases.

In this article, we’ll cover why and when the verb pay takes different forms, explain how the words paid and payed are typically used, and provide some example sentences that show how paid and payed appear in sentences.

Quick summary

For most of the multiple meanings of the verb pay—including those involving literal and figurative payment—the past tense and participle form is paid (making it an irregular verb when used in these ways). However, the form payed is used as the past tense and past participle form of pay in rare nautical senses, and sometimes in the past tense form of the phrase pay out when referring to releasing rope (though paid out is also used).

When to use payed or paid 

The verb pay has multiple meanings. Its most common meanings relate to giving something as part of a financial transaction or obligation. You can pay when buying something, but you can also pay attention, pay a compliment, pay respects, pay a visit, and the list goes on.

In almost all cases, the past tense and past participle of pay is paid. When used in this way, pay is considered an irregular verb because it doesn’t use the ending -ed like regular verbs do.

However, the word payed is used as the past tense and past participle of pay in two very specific nautical senses.

The first means “to cover parts of a ship with pitch, tar, or similar coating.” The second means “to move a ship toward the direction of the blowing wind.”

In addition to these rarely used nautical senses, the form payed is also sometimes used to form the past tense of the phrasal verb pay out, which means “to gradually let out a rope.”

It should be noted paid out is also often used in this case (and considered acceptable by most grammar sources).

Want to learn about another verb whose past tense form varies? Check out our guide to dived vs. dove.

Verbs similar to pay 

There are two irregular verbs that follow the same pattern as pay. The verb lay uses laid as its past tense and past participle forms (at one time, the form layed was used, but this is now considered obsolete). The verb say becomes said (never “sayed”) in both the past tense and past participle forms. At one time, the verb stay used the form staid as its past tense and past participle, but in modern usage it is a regular verb that uses stayed for both forms.

In contrast, other verbs that end in -lay are regular verbs, meaning their past tense and past participle forms end in -ed and not -aid. For example, the verbs play, stray, allay, and relay become played, strayed, allayed, and relayed (and never “plaid,” “straid,” “allaid,” or “relaid”).

Examples of payed and paid used in a sentence

Have you paid close attention? Here are some examples of how paid and payed can be used in sentences.

  • Gary paid Nina $50 for her old chairs.
  • The builders paid the price for their negligence when the bridge collapsed during construction.
  • The sailor paid out the anchor chain while other crew members payed the mast with tar.
  • The crews of the fleet payed their boats to the east in a desperate attempt to avoid the incoming storms.

See how much you have learned with our quiz

Are you ready to test yourself on everything you have reviewed about these past tense forms? If so, show off your skills by taking our quiz on these forms of the verb pay. You may surprise yourself with what you’ve learned!

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