Past Tense of Hang

In choosing the past tense of hang, should you use hanged or hung?

Meaning of Hang

Hang has several meanings, of which these are some examples:

To fasten something at the top:

  • Hang your coat up over there
  • Several pictures are hanging on the wall
  • The restaurant hangs their ducks in the window

Drooping or bending down:

  • Feeling ashamed, he hangs his head in shame
  • The branches of the tree hang down with the weight of the snow

To cling tightly to something:

  • Hang on the rope to stop yourself falling
  • They were hanging on to the edge of the boat for dear life

To spend time:

  • The girls hang around with each other every weekend 
  • Sometimes they just hang in town

To kill:

  • They will hang him for committing murder 
  • Not many countries still hang people

Past Tense of Hang

Of all the above examples of the verb hang, the only one where the word hanged is used is when we refer to killing someone by suspending them by their neck. So this is how we use the past tense of hang in this context:

  • They hanged two people last year
  • The sad news is that he hanged himself

But note that hanged is also used as the past participle to form tenses in the passive that may or may not be the past simple:

  • Three people were hanged for murder last year (past simple passive)
  • He will be hanged next month (future simple passive)
  • Twenty-five people have been hanged since 1973 (present perfect passive)

The last person hanged in the UK was in 1955

When to use Hung

Hung is the regular past tense form of hang and is used for all other cases:

  • They hung their coats behind the door before going in
  • The ducks were hung in the window this morning
  • He hung his head in shame after losing the match
  • The people survived as they hung onto the edge of the boat
  • The girls hung around with each other in town yesterday

The girls hung around in town for the afternoon

Now test yourself in this hanged or hung quiz

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