A certain book by a famous author has been released in a new second edition. Unfortunately, it appears some changes have been made for the worse.

For instance, in the first edition you read the following sentence.

[..] a message for you about the next age, and the one just past.

This has been changed in the second edition to the following sentence.

[..] a message for you about the next age, and the one just passed.

I'm inclined to think the first version was right because it can be read as involving the following omissions:

[..] a message for you about the next age, and the one [that has] just [gone] past.

  • possible duplicate of "Passed" vs "past": Usage in an error message – kiamlaluno May 13 '11 at 17:33
  • Either could be correct. We can't guess without knowing the text - this is more a question for literary scholars than linguistic scholars. – Marcin May 13 '11 at 17:35
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    It's a linguistic question about a literary document. My question is simply about grammar, not about the documents themselves. – Heinrich Moltke May 13 '11 at 18:14

Past is an adjective in this case, not a noun.

Past, adj: Gone by in time and no longer existing. "The danger is now past."

Compare this to "The age is just past." Past is used the same way in the text; as such, the original version is a correct usage.

The new version isn't technically incorrect either, however, though it would be less awkward as "the one that just passed". But certainly, the author did not make an error in the original version. If it wasn't corrected by the author, then it was a mistake to change it.

As per this answer to a related question, past refers to a state. The state of the older age is over, bygone, or past; not passed. The state of the new age is next or upcoming, so the use of "past" sets up a contrast. "Just passed" doesn't do it quite as well.

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    This answer is in line with my first impression. Thanks. – Heinrich Moltke May 13 '11 at 18:15
  • @Heinrich Moltke So, You disagree with my answer simply because if it IS correct, it would make your first impression incorrect? – MikeVaughan May 13 '11 at 18:39
  • @MikeVaughan You said "past is a noun ... So the newer version is correct." That doesn't make sense. Past isn't being used as a noun. – Matthew Read May 13 '11 at 18:42
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    @MikeVaughan I wouldn't get too uptight about it. My first impression was that while "passed" wasn't technically incorrect/totally wrong, it wasn't right. That's what I'm mainly agreeing with. As far as your answer goes, I don't think "past" is operating as a noun in the line I quoted. – Heinrich Moltke May 13 '11 at 19:59

past is a noun.

Noun: The time or a period of time before the moment of speaking or writing.

passed is a verb

Verb: Move in a specified direction: "he passed through towns".

So the newer version is correct.

"[..] a message for you about the next age, and the one just passed."

The sentence is saying that the message is about the next age, and about the age of time that just passed (moved) as the present.

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