Blog Grammar Rules Payed vs Paid: Which is the correct one to use and when?

Payed vs Paid: Which is the correct one to use and when?

Ashley Shaw

Ashley Shaw

Editor, teacher, PhD candidate

Published Jul 23, 2021

Payed vs Paid

There is often a lot of confusion around the difference between paid and payed. This is understandable as they are both pronounced the same. The good news is that, unless you are a pirate, you actually don’t have to worry much about remembering payed. Just go with paid. However, just in case you are a pirate (or a sailor or just someone talking about the sea), let’s go into more depth about the differences.

  1. Payed vs. Paid
  2. Pay as an Irregular Verb
  3. Pay as an Adjective
  4. Pay as a Regular Verb
  5. Payed vs. Paid: One Possible, Confusing Exception

Payed vs. Paid

Before we get too far into this, let’s start with a basic definition of both of these words:

  • Payed: either to have sealed the deck of a ship to prevent leaks or to straighten out a rope gradually
  • Paid: either to have given someone money or to have received a loss or misfortune (as in “You paid for not studying last week. Didn’t you?”)

Definitions of payed and paid

One of the reasons that payed versus paid can be so confusing is that both are past tenses of the verb pay. However, pay has multiple meanings.

Pay as an Irregular Verb

Anytime that pay involves money, revenge, or loss, it is part of an irregular verb, which means it doesn’t follow typical conjugation patterns. Sounds complicated, but it basically just means this:

Instead of

1) pay 2) payed 3) has payed,

it goes like this:

1) pay 2) paid 3) has paid

As this is the most typical way you will use the verb pay, the best thing to do is to memorize this, or you could use ProWritingAid to check your spelling for you. Always use paid when you aren’t talking about fixing boats.

ProWritingAid's Grammar Check Screenshot

Let’s look at some of the different things pay can mean.

Pay as in Payment

One of the most common definitions of pay is to give money or other forms of barter. With this definition, you use the irregular verb, paid.

TIP 1: If it helps, remember that you often need ID when paying a debt, so always say paid.

Pay as in Payment Tip

Pay as in Revenge or Misfortune

Another way you might use the irregular verb of pay is when you are talking about making someone pay for their actions. In this case, you also go with paid.

TIP 2: Once again think about ID. If you are going to make someone pay for what they did to you, you better make sure you get the right person. Make sure they paid for their actions.

Pay as In Revenge Tip

Pay as in Attention

A really common question that gets asked is this: “Is it paid attention or payed attention?”

Once again, the answer is simple. Always go with paid when you aren’t using nautical terms.

TIP 3: Here is how to remember this one. In this case, you are still talking about a form of payment. However, instead of money, you are paying with attention. Thus, just like with money, you use the irregular verb and say paid.

Pay as In Attention Tip

Examples of Pay, Paid, Paying

To help make this stick, let’s go through some examples of pay in all of its many tenses and forms.

  1. I will pay you later.
  2. You paid him with cookies.
  3. He was paying the valet when I saw him last.
  4. They will pay for what they did to me!
  5. If you had paid early, we’d already be out of the parking garage.
  6. If you ever paid attention to me, you’d know why I am mad!
  7. Pay extra attention to this part.
  8. They paid with a credit card.
  9. We have paid for our mistakes three-fold!
  10. We were paid for our services.

Pay as an Adjective

Just to make this a little more complicated, let’s look at some more money examples where pay isn’t a verb at all, but an adjective.

As a reminder, an adjective is a word that describes a noun. Paid can be an adjective in certain situations.

Here are some examples:

  1. The company is offering paid sick leave. (In this sentence, paid is describing sick leave.)
  2. She is a paid contributor to that newspaper. (In this sentence, paid is describing a type of contributor.)
  3. That is a paid-for house. (A weird way of saying someone already purchased the house, where paid-for describes the house.)

If discussing money use _paid_

Even here, it is easy to keep things straightforward—if you are talking about a payment in any form, you’ll always go with paid over payed. It’s really that simple!

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Pay as a Regular Verb

Now that we’ve covered pay as an irregular verb, let’s look at it in its rarer form—as a regular verb.

There are two potential definitions for the word payed, and both of them shouldn’t affect you much unless you are at sea.

Nautical Payed 1: Payed the Deck

The first seafaring definition of payed occurs when you seal the deck of a wooden ship in an attempt to avoid leaks. I don’t know about you, but I have never once had to do this before, so it isn’t a word that I have to think about too much.

Of course, if you do work on a ship, then this is the kind of task that you might actually have to do one day. In that case, you’ll need this definition. Just remember that you have a rare job, and it needs a rare word to represent it.

Let’s look at some examples:

  1. The sailor payed the deck to make it seaworthy.
  2. The seaman payed the hull as a punishment for disobeying an order.
  3. The captain paid us overtime because we payed the deck.

Basically, if you can say “the deck” after it, then you may be able to use payed.

Nautical Payed 2: Payed the Rope

Another time you might be able to use the term payed is if you are talking about rope.

This is also used mostly on ships. You’ve probably seen a rope being slowly straightened before. If so, then you know what this is referring to.

That process is called paying the rope, and in its past-tense form, it becomes payed.

Here are a few examples:

  1. They payed out the rope so the sailors could climb down.
  2. We payed out the rope to lower the anchor.
  3. You payed out the rope to raise the sail.

Once again, if you can say “out the rope” after it, then you may be able to use the word payed.

TIP 4: To remember this, think of a pirate’s favorite word: Aye. Thus, they like to say payed.

Pay as in the deck tip

Payed vs. Paid: One Possible, Confusing Exception

Hopefully, by now, you’ve figured out that payed vs. paid isn’t that complicated. Away from the sea, just go with paid and you are likely good. However, I do want to talk about one possible exception that could pop up at some point.

Every once in a while you’ll see someone say something like “we payed out the money over time.” In this sense, they are technically using pay as in its nautical term. It is a reference to paying out a rope, where you are saying you are paying money over time like you would pay out a rope.

This is rare, though, and you can still use paid in the more traditional sense in this setting. (We paid out the money over time.) So your best bet is still to go with paid when in doubt.

I hope you paid attention

To sum all of this up for you, remember that if it has to do with any type of payment, whether that is money, attention, or revenge, you always want to ID the person paying. Thus, say paid.

On the other hand, if you are talking in nautical terms, just say Aye, Aye, Captain, and payed will cover all your hard work.

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Ashley Shaw

Ashley Shaw

Editor, teacher, PhD candidate

Ashley Shaw is a former editor and marketer/current PhD student and teacher. When she isn't studying con artists for her dissertation, she's thinking of new ways to help college students better understand and love the writing process. You can follow her on Twitter, or, if you prefer animal accounts, follow her rabbits, Audrey Hopbun and Fredra StaHare, on Instagram.

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