In this edition of Grammar Corner, we discuss some of the most widely used grammar errors in the English language. We don’t just correct you, though; we pinpoint exactly why a particular word/phrase/idiom is used incorrectly, while providing the context for each mistake, and then providing the right word/phrase/idiom.
Most of the time, a grammar error occurs because of homophones. Homophones are two words that sound exactly the same, but mean vastly different things. But it’s not just their meaning that’s different; homophones can also function as vastly different parts of speech.
In this edition, we discuss a common grammar error: paid vs. payed. Although both words are pronounced exactly the same, with their spelling differing by just one letter, and with both words coming from the same root Latin word, paid and payed differ completely in meaning.
Both words come from the word ‘pay’, which itself is derived from the Latin pacare, which means ‘to pacify’. At its root, pay has multiple meanings, which we’ll explore below. Here, we’ll explain why each word is different.
When to Use Paid
In most cases, the word ‘paid’ is the word that people want to use. Paid is the past tense of the word ‘pay’, which, in this context, means to give or transfer something to something or someone. The word ‘paid’ usually has a financial or transactional meaning, and as such, is the word that most people mean when they’re trying to decide between paid vs. payed. For example:
Our company provides employees with 24 days of paid leave: 12 days of vacation leave, 10 days of sick leave, and 2 days of Netflix Marathon leaves.
Investigations confirmed that high-ranking prison officials were paid in gold bullions to give influential inmates reduced sentences. The majority of the public, upon learning this, reported feeling severely disappointed, but not at all surprised.
Wait, you paid for my dinner AND you’ll be paying for the hotel? Wow, this is the best first date ever!
The services you paid for do NOT include cleaning up after your pet, Mrs. Weisman, especially considering that your pet is a wild Bengal tiger. Pretty sure that’s illegal.
I’m pretty sure I paid my mortgage on time, so you can imagine my surprise when I found an entire family of bankers squatting in my living room. I was very confused. –Paid as giving or transferring financial recompense.
I feel like I paid enough attention to my plants, considering my English Ivy now has tendrils penetrating the inner walls of my house.
When the Leaf Orcs came to liberate us from the Imperial Elves, they paid with their lives.
Excuse me, but I paid you a visit at the hospital when you were sick, I feel like that’s more than enough of a reason for you to lend me your car and money to buy a giraffe without asking any questions! –Paid as bestowing or transferring something to someone other than financial recompense.
When to Use Payed
It might look wrong, but the word Payed is actually correct, albeit in a very limited and very niche sense of the word. While we discussed how the word ‘pay’ can mean giving something to someone, it also has a slightly different meaning in nautical terms.
In a nautical aspect, the word ‘pay’ means to give slack to something, usually ropes on a ship. It can also mean to seal the hull seams of a ship with tar or pitch. For example:
Our only hope to survive this storm is if we payed the ropes and hope that the sails have enough slack to carry us to safety!
“Where’s all me treasure?!” the Captain screamed. “Ahoy, Cap’n, I paid the pope just like you asked!” Skippy beamed with pride. “You foolish land-lubber!” the Captain bellowed, “I said: “make sure the rope is payed”!” –Payed as in to give slack to something, usually ropes.
“I payed the deck before I left, I swear!” Lying Larry cried, as they dragged him off the boat. The First Mate however, wasn’t having it; he had stepped on a puddle of water on the deck and now his sock is wet. –Payed as in to seal the deck with pitch or tar.
Which One to Use: Paid or Payed?
In most instances, writers usually mean to say Paid rather than payed, considering that the latter has a very specific meaning related to a very particular context.
Remember: when in doubt, use paid.