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Passed Out vs Passed Away vs Passed Over vs Passed Up | Grammar Differences

2 min read
18 January 2021

These four verb phrases often sound very similar to learners of English. This isn’t good, because their meanings are very different! Getting them confused could lead to some embarrassing results - let’s take a closer look at what they mean...


Passed out                                                   

When someone “passes out” it means that they become unconscious for a short time. This could be from illness, tiredness, heat, emotion or alcohol. Another verb for this is "to faint".

“Oh no! Robert just passed out on the stairs!”


Passed away

‘Passed away’ has a very somber meaning. It is frequently used as a polite way of saying ‘dead’, and is used when the speaker wishes to save the feelings of the person they are addressing (see example E). The phrase has a mild religious meaning and implies “to pass away into the next world”.

“I’m sorry to inform you Margery passed away at three o’clock this morning.”


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Passed up

To ‘pass up’ has a very different meaning to ‘pass out’. When we ‘pass up’ something, we are choosing not to participate in an opportunity that is presented to us. This opportunity is usually some sort of involvement in an activity or event.

“How can you pass up the chance to see Black Sabbath in concert?”


Passed over

To ‘pass over’ is often confused with 'pass up' and has a similar meaning. It most commonly means to ‘skip’ something in line or to miss out on what should come next (see example 1). You may also sometimes hear it used to mean the same as simply ‘pass’ (see example 2).

  1. “Jeremy has been passed over for promotion again!”
  2. “Could you pass over the salt?” (the same as “Could you pass the salt?”)


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