Should I say
he passed me by
he passed by me?
I think it's passed me by, but I'm not sure.
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
You passed (me) by ~ you left me out of something.
You passed by me ~ you went past me.
Edit : The literal sense of something physically moving past you is more likely to be expressed using the "standard" word order - It passed by me. (@ FumbleFingers)
As other answerers have pointed out, "pass by me" simply describes the movement of a thing or things past the speaker, as in
I stand in the doorway of the notary's office, and watch the stream of pedestrians pass by me.
The sense of the phrase is straightforward and doesn't possess a significant idiomatic component. Pass means "move, proceed, go"—its original meaning according to Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003).
In contrast, "pass me by" has the idiomatic sense not merely of going past me, but of leaving me behind, which can have the further sense, depending on context of either leaving me in peace (or unscathed) or leaving me unaided (or uncomforted).
An example of the (relatively simple) "leave me behind" sense of "pass me by" is
I like computers, but touchscreen technology has passed me by.
A classic country-western song built around the "leave me in peace" sense of "pass me by" is Johnny Rodriguez's "Pass Me By (If You're Only Passing Through)" (1972):
I'm not going to be a steppin' stone
Among the other hearts that you walk on
Lord help me if I fall in love with you
Hey, pass me by if you're only passing through
And a gospel song that uses the "leave me uncomforted" sense of "pass me by" is "Pass Me Not, Oh Gentle Savior by the Martins (circa 1996):
Pass me not, oh gentle Saviour
Hear my humble cry
While on others thou art calling
Do not pass me by
Side note: Just by the by, if you're at all interested in how Al Green came up with his distinctive vocal style, check out the Swan Silvertones' radically different version of "Pass Me Not, Oh Gentle Savior," which they call "Saviour Pass Me Not" (circa 1960).