Word Choice: Hung vs. Hanged
  • 2-minute read
  • 25th January 2020

Word Choice: Hung vs. Hanged

Mixing up “hung” and “hanged” is quite a common error. Both words can be the past tense of the verb “hang.” But “hanged” has a very specific meaning, so it isn’t a term you’ll hear every day (we hope). Check out our guide to how these terms should be used so you can avoid mistakes.

Hung (Past Tense of “Hang”)

In most cases, the simple past tense and past participle form of “hang” is “hung.”  So if something has been suspended, we can say it was “hung”:

She hung the painting on the living room wall.

We also use “hung” with the slang senses of “hang” (e.g., “hang out” or “hangover”). So we might say:

We hung out at a bar last night, so now I’m hungover.

You shouldn’t use these slang senses of “hang” in formal writing, though!

Hanged (Executed by Hanging)

We only use “hanged” when someone has been put to death by hanging.

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This was a very common method of execution and is still permitted for use in some U.S. states. You might find it used in a sentence like this:

The accused was hanged by the neck until he died.

Importantly, “hanged” is only used when the intention is to kill someone. If you suspended someone by the ankles instead, they’d have been “hung upside down” (not “hanged”). Keep this difference in mind!

Summary: Hung or Hanged?

Given the specific meaning of “hanged,” it pays to be careful with these words. If nothing else, it could sound strange if you tell a visitor you’ve “hanged” their coat somewhere! Remember:

  • Hung usually means “dangled” or “suspended.”
  • Hanged means “killed by hanging.”

The key is that “hanged” is specific to hanging with a noose or rope. In all other cases, the correct past tense term is “hung,” so this is the word you’ll need most of the time. And if you need any help with the word choice in your writing, don’t forget we have editors available 24/7.

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