Payed vs. Paid | Definition, Difference & Examples

Payed and paid are pronounced similarly but have different meanings.

  • Payed is a rare word that’s only used in nautical/maritime contexts. It can be used to refer to the act of coating parts of a boat with waterproof material or to the act of letting out a rope or chain by slackening it.
  • Paid is the much more common word, used as the past tense of the verb “pay” in all other senses.
Examples: Payed in a sentence Examples: Paid in a sentence
The sailors payed the front of the boat with tar to seal the gaps. We paid more for the meal than we had expected.
Liam untied the knot and payed out the rope to Bill. Sophia gets paid at the beginning of each month.
Note
People sometimes mistakenly write payed because it seems like the more logical past tense spelling of “pay,” but paid is the correct choice in the vast majority of cases.

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Paid is the past tense form of “pay.” It’s used to refer to the act of exchanging money for goods or services. As an irregular verb, “pay” does not receive the regular “-ed” suffix.

Examples: Paid referring to money
I’ve paid for a ticket, but the plane is overbooked.

If you don’t finish the job, you won’t get paid.

Paid can also be used to refer to something you give in atonement or for recompense.

Examples: Paid to refer to atonement
Leah paid her dues and is now a successful businesswoman.

He was a pirate and paid with his life.

Paid can also be used as an adjective to describe something for which money has already been given. In some instances, it can be used to refer to something for which money is expected to be given.

Examples: Paid as an adjective
No money is due; the bill is paid.

It is not a volunteer position. It’s a paid position.

Uses of payed

Payed is the past tense of a much rarer sense of “pay,” which refers to the act of coating the different parts of a boat with waterproof material (e.g., tar, paint, and grease).

Example: Payed to refer to the act of coating
The sailors payed the spar of the boat with grease.

It’s also used in combination with “out” as the past tense of the phrasal verb “pay out,” meaning to let out a rope or chain by slackening it.

Example: Payed out to refer to a rope or chain
They payed out the rope, but it just wasn’t long enough.

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Paid attention is the past tense of “pay attention,” a common expression that means to focus on (or take notice of) someone or something. “Payed attention” is never correct.

Example: Paid attention in a sentence
When the teacher talked, the children paid attention to her.

Paid off is the past tense of “pay off,” a common expression that can refer to paying a debt in full. It can also be used to describe something as being worth the effort because it has yielded good results. “Payed off” is not correct in either sense.

Examples: Paid off in a sentence
Last week, Cooper finally paid off his student debt.

Sophie’s hard work paid off when she won the race.

Worksheet: Payed vs. paid

Test your knowledge of the difference between “payed” and “paid” by using our practice worksheet below. Fill in either “payed” or “paid” in each sentence.

  1. You can use the ______ parking in the parking garage, or you can park your car on the street for free.
  2. Malcolm accidentally ______ for someone else’s meal.
  3. The captain ordered that the bottom of the boat be ______ with tar before the next journey.
  4. The passengers ______ attention to the flight attendant during the safety demonstration.
  5. Karl’s hard work ______ off when he was promoted to manager.
  1. You can use the paid parking in the parking garage, or you can park your car on the street for free.
    • Here, “paid” is used as an adjective to describe something for which money is expected to be given.
  1. Malcolm accidentally paid for someone else’s meal.
    • Here, “paid” is used as a verb to refer to the act of exchanging money for goods or services.
  1. The captain ordered that the bottom of the boat be payed with tar before the next journey.
    • Though it is a rare term, “payed” is correct when you’re referring to the act of coating parts of a boat with waterproof material (e.g., tar, paint, and grease).
  1. The passengers paid attention to the flight attendant during the safety demonstration.
    • Here, “paid” is used to complete the expression “paid attention,” meaning “focused.”
  1. Karl’s hard work paid off when he was promoted to manager.
    • Here, “paid” is used to complete the expression “paid off.” In this instance, it is used to describe something as yielding good results.

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    Eoghan Ryan

    Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.