‘Payed' vs 'Paid': What's the Difference Between the Two?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on November 28, 2022

'Payed' vs. 'paid,' which is the past tense of the verb 'to pay.' In this article, we'll explain each word and when it's appropriate to use them.

In short, if you're trying to use the verb 'pay' in the sense of using money to buy something, you should use 'paid.' 'Payed' is only appropriate in nautical contexts.

So what's the difference between 'paid' vs. 'payed'? Before we talk about the differences, let's talk about their commonalities. They are both verbs, and they are both in the past indefinite tense. So what's the difference? You're about to find out.

How to Use 'Paid'

The word 'paid,' as in the past tense of 'pay,' is the one you'll most commonly see, and it's probably the one you're looking for today.

What Does 'Paid' Mean?

'Pay' can have a few different meanings. The first represents the idea of being compensated for a service, a product, or a behavior. Often the compensation will be money, but sometimes it can be a benefit or reward. For example:

It pays to be patient.

You need to pay for that soda!

Has he finished paying off his debt?

'Pay' can also refer to suffering the consequences of your actions. For example:

She'll pay for what she did.

When Can I Use 'Paid'?

When using the verb in the senses described above, use the spelling 'paid' if it's a past event. See how this applies in real-life scenarios:

We have been paid a generous sum to do this.

You paid a high price for your mistake.

I paid ninety bucks for this massage.

Top tip: 'Pay' and 'paid' can also be adjectives. They carry the same meaning as the verb but have a different function in the sentence. Like in the following examples:

My phone's out of battery; I need a pay phone.

You've accrued some paid time off despite your repeated absences.

She's not a paid worker.

Why Is 'Payed' Vs. 'Paid' Confusing?

Many think the verb 'to pay' should be 'payed' in the past tense because that's what the regular verb rules for past indefinite would dictate.

However, 'pay' in this sense is an irregular verb, so the usual rules don't apply.

How to Use 'Payed'

While not very common, the verb 'payed' still exists. It's the past indefinite tense of the verb 'pay,' but not in the same sense as described so far.

What Does 'Payed' Mean?

'To pay' also means to cover a ship with a waterproof coating or to let out a rope. For example:

The sailors will pay the ship with pride.

Pay the rope; I need some slack!

When Can I Use 'Payed'?

You can use 'payed' whenever you want to talk about the verb 'pay' in the sense described above but in the past tense. For instance, if the above examples were in the past indefinite tense, you'd get:

The sailors payed the ship with pride.

He needed some slack, so I payed the rope.

Common Phrases that Use' Pay'

You'll rarely hear the word 'pay' in the second sense we described. It will almost always be in the sense of a price to be paid or offering something to someone. Take the following idioms, for example, which all describe this concept in one form or another:

  • Pay a visit
  • Pay your respects
  • Pay attention
  • Pay your dues
  • Pay through the nose
  • Pay for itself

These are just a few. Many idioms and figures of speech in English use the verb' pay.' See if you can think of any more!

Concluding Thoughts on 'Payed' Vs. 'Paid'

Hopefully, you'll agree that it's pretty straightforward. 99% of the time, you'll be using 'paid' because 'payed' only applies to a few very specific nautical contexts.

Remember that 'pay' in the first sense is an irregular verb, which is why it is 'paid' and not 'payed.'

And if you'd like to figure out even more confusing words, then you're in luck because we've created an entire blog section on the topic. Head over and see what else you can learn today.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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