Payed or Paid: What’s the Difference?

If you can’t quite remember from your last English class the difference between these two words, don’t worry; you’re not alone.

I’ve received a number of emails from readers asking for an explanation between payed vs. paid, so today I want to talk about those differences. So which is it? Payed or paid? Well, that depends.

In this post, I will cover the definitions of these words, illustrate their functions in a sentence, and give you a few examples and when and how to use them. After reading this, you shouldn’t have any more trouble keeping these words apart.

When to Use Payed

is it payed attentionPayed is the past tense and past participle of the verb pay but is used in a very limited sense. Payed has a common and historical use as a nautical term having to do with ropes and ship hulls.

To pay out a rope or cable is to let out by slacking.

  • The captain payed out additional rope for the sails.
  • The construction works payed out the cable as he strung the line.
  • Laying down telephone lines, he payed out the cable as he went.

Payed can also refer to the sealing of a deck or hull of a wooden ship with pitch or tar to prevent leakage.

  • Have you payed the deck?
  • This ship looks fine but has yet to be payed.

These are the only uses in which you should be finding yourself using payed, when dealing with cable, rope, or chain being let out by slacking or the sealing of a wooden ship.

When to Use Paid

when to use paid vs paid attentionPaid is also the past tense and past participle of pay and is used in every other sense of the word besides the nautical meaning. Paid generally has something to do with giving or transferring money but has other meanings such as to visit or to call.

  • He paid the amount that was due. (Financial)
  • He paid the price for his actions. (Metaphorical Cost)
  • I paid her a visit while she wasn’t feeling well. (Nonfinancial)
  • If you paid attention in class, you would have heard about the quiz. (Nonfinancial)

Paid is the variation that you will find yourself using most often. It’s an irregular verb, but it’s not the only verb ending in “ay” to change the “y” to an “i” in the past tense. Say and lay are two other examples,

  • Say, Said, Have Said
  • Lay, Laid, Have Laid

Common Phrases that Use Pay

To pay attention is a common phrase that uses the verb pay. It means to give or bestow your attention and is used in many educational and learning environments.

  • He paid attention in class.


  • He payed attention in class.

The correct expression is paid attention, not payed attention.

Remember the Difference

A good memory trick to use with these words in that paid has to do with finances. Both of these words have an “I” in them.

Similarly, payed has to do with the sea. Both of these words have an “E” in them.

If you can remember these two tricks, you won’t ever be able to confuse the two.


You should be careful when using these two words in your sentences because they have very different meanings. Confusing paid or payed is an embarrassing mistake that is easy to avoid.

Payed has a meaning that is used only in a nautical sense.

Paid has a few meanings, mostly dealing with finances.

To see more commonly confused English words, check out our fill list of over 300 confusing words.