2

Should I say

he passed me by

or

he passed by me?

I think it's passed me by, but I'm not sure.

  • 1
    You should capitalize your 'i's :) – Lynn Crumbling May 28 '15 at 14:11
  • 8
    It depends on what you're trying to convey. They can mean different things. If someone passes you by, it's like they're not choosing you for something. If someone passes by you, it's a literal, physical passing of one person past another. – Kristina Lopez May 28 '15 at 14:13
  • 1
    Idiomatically, I think the relatively uncommon (reversed) form It passed me by is usually used figuratively to mean I didn't notice / understand it (where "it" is often something like a joke, or a subtle point someone made, that you didn't grasp). 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 May 28 '15 at 14:24
  • See youtube.com/watch?v=djV11Xbc914 for commentary on the related issue of take on me versus take me on. – Greg Lee May 28 '15 at 18:37
14

pass someone by

You passed (me) by ~ you left me out of something.

  • Happen without being noticed or fully experienced by someone
  • sometimes I feel that life is passing me by

pass by someone

You passed by me ~ you went past me.

  • something to go past.
  • A car slowly passed by the front of the house.

(macmillandictionary.com)

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)

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4

Each statement is correct but has different meaning or connotation. Passed by me means they simply moved past you. Passed me by can mean that you were ignored or disregarded.

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2

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).

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