Hanged vs. hung

Hang in the present tense is not too difficult to use (except when it comes to idioms). To put simply, hang means “to suspend.” We hang mistletoe and stockings at Christmas. We hang pictures on the wall. We hang (our bodies) on jungle gyms for fun. And, sometimes, we hang people on crosses and other capital punishment devices.

Regardless of the reason for hanging and whether the subject of the hanging is living or inanimate, in the present tense we hang all of them. However, these qualities make a difference in the past tense to help use determine whether to use hanged or hung.

Hanged is used:

  • with people
  • when there is the intention of killing

He made a noose and hanged himself from the ceiling fan.
The Wild West outlaw stole cattle, so he was hanged for the crime.

Hung is used:

  • with inanimate objects
  • when there is no intention of killing

It was her favorite piece of artwork that hung in the museum.
The boy was giggling as he hung by his feet from a big tree branch.

Now that we’ve had a good dose of morbidity, how about a quiz? Fill in the blanks with either hanged or hung. The answers are at the bottom.

1. Molly _______ the herbs to dry.
2. Molly _______ the clothes on the clothesline.
3. Molly hated her brother, so she _______ him in the garage with an electrical cord.
4. When Molly was little, she _______ from the monkey bars with her friends.
5. Despondent that she killed her little brother, Molly _______ herself to commit suicide.

1. hung 2. hung 3. hanged  4. hung 5. hanged