Pass time, pastime, and past time: What’s the difference?

hand scratching cat's chin

Petting cats is a good pastime. Photo by Yerlin Matu on Unsplash

In this post, I’ll be teaching the difference between the words pass timepastime, and past time and how to tell the difference between the three.

A pastime (Note the spelling with one s.) is a hobby, or, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, “a diversion or recreation which serves to pass the time agreeably; an activity done for pleasure rather than work; a hobby; a sport, a game. Also: a practice commonly indulged in.”

To pass time means to spend time doing something.

Past time means, essentially, you should have done something before now.

To remember the difference, think of these sentences:

You pass time with your pastime.
It is past time for you to do your pastime.

Here are more examples:

The nerd’s pastime is reading comic books.
The nerd passes time reading comic books.
It is past time that the nerd read his comic books.

The jock passed time beating up nerds.
Beating up nerds was the jock’s pastime.
It is past time that the jock stops beating up nerds.

Here’s a quiz to test your understanding. The answers are below.

1.     Freddy liked to  _______ by sewing stuffed animals.
2.     Freddy’s other _______ was mountain climbing.
3.     Freddy thought it was _______ that he found a new hobby.
4.     Marsha enjoyed the _______ of playing poker.
5.     Marsha looked at her bank account and realized it was _______ she win a poker game.
6.     Marsha tried to _______ by watching television, but it didn’t stop her from worrying about the Martian attack.
7.     The Martians had an interesting _______, which was teaching humans to do tricks.

1. pass time 2. pastime 3. past time 4. pastime 5. past time 6. pass time 7. pastime

Erin Servais is a book editor and author coach at Dot and Dash LLC, a publishing services company focusing on independent and self-publishing authors. Learn more about hiring her for your next project: