Hanged and Hung

Commonly Confused Words

Laundry hanging outside on a wash line
We hung our laundry out to dry. rolfo / Getty Images

The verb hang has two past tenseshanged and hung. Unless you're talking about a person who has been executed ("Lord Haw-Haw was hanged for treason"), you probably want to use hung. But see the usage notes below.

Definitions

The verb hang means to fasten or suspend from above--to place something (a poster, for instance) so that it's held up without support from underneath. In a related sense, hang can mean to kill someone by putting a rope around the person's neck, attaching it to something overhead, and then causing the body to drop suddenly.

For centuries, hanged and hung were used interchangeably as the past participle of hang. However, most contemporary usage guides insist that hanged, not hung, should be used when referring to executions: convicted killers are hanged; paintings are hung

Examples

  • Don't mention a rope in the house of someone whose father was hanged.
    (English proverb)
  • "A room hung with pictures is a room hung with thoughts."
    (Joshua Reynolds)
  • William Heath was hanged in January 1733 for stealing four shirts, part of somebody's washing that had been hung out to dry,
  • "The sheriff's deputies, who hanged the horse thief at night, are expected to hang around until they are sober, after which they could well end up with hanged or hung looks on their faces--and hangovers for sure."
    (Robert Oliver Shipman, A Pun My Word: A Humorously Enlightened Path to English Usage. Rowman & Littlefield, 1991)

Practice

  1. "One should forgive one's enemies, but not before they are _____." (Heinrich Heine)
  1. We _____ our swimsuits out to dry.

Answer Key

  1. "One should forgive one's enemies, but not before they are hanged." (Heinrich Heine)
  2. We hung our swimsuits out to dry.
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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Hanged and Hung." ThoughtCo, Jun. 5, 2017, thoughtco.com/hanged-and-hung-1689567. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, June 5). Hanged and Hung. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/hanged-and-hung-1689567 Nordquist, Richard. "Hanged and Hung." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/hanged-and-hung-1689567 (accessed January 19, 2018).