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Is paid attention or payed attention as confusing to you as it is to us? Well then, join us as we endeavor to sort this confusion out for good in this article.

You see, English is an enriched language but also a mighty confusing one. So we don’t blame you if homophones often confuse you and you can’t seem to decide the correct one.

Take paid attention or payed attention for example they both sound the same but do they also mean the same?

No, the two homophones do not mean the same and there’s a vast difference between their meanings. If you have trouble perfecting your vocabulary, try our workbooks or printable worksheets for help. They’re a splendid practice resource for children and will help polish their language skills too.

But for now, let’s turn out attention to the dilemma at hand: paid attention or payed attention? Let’s learn about the difference.

Many people say that payed is a correct one but we must explain that isn’t really. The past tense of the very “Pay” is essentially “paid”.

The only times we can consider “payed” somewhat acceptable is when someone uses it in a nautical sense.

So the next time someone asks you if payed is a real word, you can tell them it’s not. This also rules out the fact that “payed attention” is incorrect in comparison to “paid attention”.

The correct past tense of the verb “pay” is paid and whenever we have to use it in conjunction with attention, we will write it as “paid attention.”

The phrase paid attention means that you listened to the entire message of a speaker. It refers to the fact that you heard them throughout their speech without losing focus. This phrase originated back in the 1730s.

The language experts of Great Britain at that time devised this phrase but it wasn’t till the 1750s when people truly adopted it. Once published writing became more popular, people began picking up phrases and their correct usage.

Payed Attention – Correct or Incorrect?

Now we come to the part that has been quizzing most of us. Some say that payed is not a real English Language word while others say it is appropriate to use payed in certain instances.

The truth behind those rooting for the correct of payed is that it is actually acceptable in metaphorical language but still not correct.

Metaphorical means in theory and when someone does use payed attention theoretically, they refer to the act of sealing attention from others.

Let us explain this a little more clearly to you.  Let’s assume that one of us is writing an article or a story and we use metaphorical language in it.

Only in that instance, we may write something like, “She stood on the stage, the eyes of the students were already on her, but she payed attention across the school with her captivating speech.”

Usually, we never encounter anybody using payed even metaphorically but in extremely rare cases, writers tend to use metaphors to bend rules.

The good news for you is that you really don’t need to worry about payed. In fact, you don’t need to make an effort to remember it if you don’t belong to the sea life.

You will simply stick to “paid attention” in all your writing pieces. But if you are a pirate or someone who works or intends to work on a ship, then you may have to remember payed.

Remember we mentioned the nautical usage of this irregular word? Let’s dive a little more into the depths of it.

Payed: The sealing of a deck of a ship for preventing leaks or straightening out a rope gradually.

While our regular paid means:

Paid: To either give money to someone for a service or commodity or to receive a misfortune or loss.

To make it easier for yourself, you must remember that ‘pay’ is merely an irregular verb if you use it in relation to money, revenge or loss, etc.

An irregular verb means that it is not following a conjugation pattern. Does this sound complicated to you? Well, then let’s sort it out below.

Instead of pay, payed or has payed, you will merely write pay, paid, or has paid. This is the crux of what it’s all about.

Oh, and another simple trick is to remember to use “paid” always when there is no involvement of a boat.

Pay and its Multiple Meanings

Perhaps the confusion behind paid attention or payed attention is largely due to the fact that the verb “pay” has multiple meanings.

Originally a Latin word, pay refers to a variety of things to do. However, the most primary meaning of this word is a transaction, when one pays another for something. It could be a payment in cash, in commodities, in intangible emotions etc.

Let’s explain this in detail below:

1. Pay in Payment

We all recognize pay primarily as a form of payment, usually in cash. But in unique situations, payment can also be in the form of barter. If we stick to this definition, we would use “paid” as its past tense always.

For example:

I paid a hundred dollars for these sneakers but they’re extremely comfortable.

2. Pay- Misfortune or Revenge

You may also use “pay” when referring to misfortune or revenge. The irregular verb in such an instance could refer to the act of making someone pay for their wrong actions.

Hence, even for the past tense of pay in this context, you will use “paid“.

For example:

The victim made sure the perpetrator paid for his actions.

3. Pay-In Attention

This point brings us back to our original question: is it paid attention or payed attention? Once again we will emphasize that “paid attention” is always the correct form except for the very rare nautical usage.

For example:

I paid attention in all the Math classes, which is why I have passed with flying colors.

As we said, the only time we may consider using “payed” is if it is in a nautical sense.

For example, we could use it to refer to waterproofing joints by painting them with resin and tar. We can also use “payed” when describing a ship falling off leeward.

The third nautical meaning of “payed” refers to letting out a chain or rope by slackening it.

Samples of Nautical ‘Payed’

1. Payed the Deck

The primary definition of payed refers to the sealing process of the deck of a ship to prevent leaks. It’s an important seafaring process that seamen have to carry out to secure their wooden decks.

This is not the kind of task that individuals attempt on a regular basis unless they work on a ship permanently. Only if you have this rare job, you may consider using the verb.

For example:

  1. We payed the deck for the captain and he paid us a hefty fee.
  2. The seaman on board payed the hull yesterday as punishment for disobeying the captain’s orders.
  3. The captain had the deck payed to make it more seaworthy.

2. Payed the Rope

The other nautical definition for payed is straightening the rope. If you are familiar with ships, then you probably are aware that seamen have to slowly straighten a rope. They usually refer to this process as ‘paying the rope’.

When they have to describe the same thing in the past tense, they used “payed the rope“.

Let’s take a look at some sample sentences:

  1. To raise the sail, the sailor first payed out the rope.
  2. We wanted to lower the anchor so we first payed out the rope.
  3. Our sailors wanted to climb down so we payed out the rope first.

These examples are a great help, aren’t they? Surely we have sorted out the confusion for you by now.

But if there’s still a wee bit of confusion remaining, all you need to remember is that as long as you’re away from the sea, use “paid“.

Payed vs. Paid

One fact remains clear: the correct past tense of “pay” is paid. With the exception of nautical usage, we cannot use “payed” in any other sentences.

So if you say, “I payed my debts in full”, you’d be writing the incorrect form of the verb. The correct form will always be, “I paid my debt in full”.

Final Thoughts

Paid attention is always the correct phrase to use, except for the times we are expressing a nautical situation. The verb pay means a transaction of a sort, and can be in several forms. These include debts, respect, attention, gratitude, and money etc.

While the nautical “payed” means the act of sealing a wooden deck for protection against leaks or straightening the rope of a ship.

What do you think about this article? Share your opinion with us

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