'Passersby' or 'Passerbys': What's the Difference Between the Two?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on January 6, 2023

Should you spell the word as ‘passersby’ or ‘passerbys’? And what’s the difference between the two spellings? We’ll clear that up below, plus teach you how to use the correct spelling of the word in a sentence.

Don’t wanna wait around for the answer? Here’s the quick one.

‘Passersby’ is the correct way to spell the word. ‘Passerbys’ is incorrect and should not be used in your writing. This spelling is ungrammatical.

‘Passersby’ or ‘Passerbys’ – Which is Correct?

We’ve already covered that ‘passersby’ is the only correct way to spell the word. Any other spelling of the word would be ungrammatical and incorrect.

It’s correct to say ‘passerby’ when referring to a single person passing by.

But when talking about more than one person passing by, you’d use ‘passersby.’

This is similar to words and phrases such as:

  • Commanders-in-chief
  • Sisters-in-law/Brothers-in-law
  • Attorneys general
  • Sticks-in-the-mud

The opposite is true for words like:

  • Check-ins
  • Higher-ups
  • Grown-ups
  • Sit-ins

You'll notice that this word doesn't follow the standard rules for pluralization, which usually means adding an 's' or 'es' to the end of a word.

‘Passerbyers’ or ‘Passersby’ or ‘Passerby’? – Which is Correct? 

You’ve already learned that ‘passersby’ is correct. ‘Passerby’ is the singular form of the word ‘passersby.’

Now, what about ‘passerbyers’? Is that a real word?

In short, no. This is not a recognized word in the English language and should not be used.

Let’s quickly define the word, so we know how to use it in a sentence later.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Passerby’

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘passerby’ is: “one who passes by.”

A Brief History

The first known use of the word was in 1567, and it meant the same thing it means today.

The first known use of the word was in 1567, and it meant the same thing it means today. It comes from the late 13th-century word passen, a transitive verb that meant ‘to go by (something)’ and ‘to cross over.’ It’s also from the Old French verb passer, which means ‘to pass.’ That comes from the 11th century.

It has roots in Vulgar Latin with the verb passare, which means ‘to step, walk, pass.’ The Latin word passus also has influenced the word, and it means ‘step, pace.’

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Passersby'

'Passersby' should be pronounced PA SRZ BAI.

The first syllable should have a short 'a' sound, similar to words like:

  • cat
  • bad
  • lab
  • sad
  • mad
  • dad
  • lad
  • sat

The second syllable sounds like 'SIRS.'

The final syllable sounds like 'BYE' or 'BY.'

How to Use ‘Passersby’ in a Sentence

Now, let’s look at how to use the word in a sentence correctly. Here are some examples.

  • While traveling through France, I asked a few passersby for directions to the nearest train.
  • A few passersby helped me figure out where I was staying.
  • The body was found by a few passersby on the subway platform.
  • Nowadays, all passersby do is record the situation instead of helping.
  • There was a fire down the block from my house. Thankfully, a few passersby called 911.
  • All together, the passersby were able to lift the vehicle off the man.

Remember, these words cannot be used interchangeably because only one is actually considered a word. And when you want to refer to a single person passing by, you’d simply use ‘passerby.’

Final Thoughts on ‘Passersby’ and ‘Passerbys’

Now that you know the difference between the two (that one is correct and one is incorrect), as well as how to use the correct spelling of the word in a sentence, you can use the above examples as a guide when crafting your own sentences.

English can be a tough language to learn. That’s why we have a whole library of content dedicated to explaining confusing words and phrases that commonly cause confusion among non-native (and even some native) English speakers.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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