When to Use Hanged or Hung

Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
Using hanged and hung incorrectly can lead to embarrassing misuses of these confused words. Used incorrectly, the words can change the meaning of a sentence dramatically. In this lesson, you will learn the correct usage of both words.

One Word, Different Meaning

A teacher in an English class tells the story of murdered clothes:

A mother kept asking her daughter to clean her room. The room had not been cleaned in months. Dust bunnies under the bed had now formed into a small zoo. Unclean dishes began to look like science projects. The worst were the clothes! Small hills had formed, and you needed a map to reach the closet.

After days of nagging, the daughter finally cleaned her room. The mother asked, 'Did you hang all your clothes?' The daughter, frustrated at being asked so many times, said, 'I hanged them! I hanged the pants. I hanged the shirts. I hanged the dresses. Mom, quit bothering me! I hanged them all!'

The mother replied, 'That's fantastic, but it probably wasn't necessary to murder them as well.'

Hang (sometimes also said as hang up) means to put something on something so that it dangles freely. The problem is in the past tense of the verb. A verb is an action. The past tense of hang, as in to hang your clothes, is hung. The past tense of putting someone in a rope and, sadly, taking a life is hanged.

If you hanged your clothes, in a way, this sounds like you murdered them.

These are for clothes, not people.

The easiest way to remember the difference between the words is to think of them as two different verbs. Even though they have similar meanings, they mean something very different when they are in the past tense and past participle. The past participle is for times when you use 'have' or 'to be,' as in 'I had hung my clothes when the phone rang,' or 'When the shirt was hung, it looked much better.'

  • I hung the dresses on hangers. (placed them on hangers)
  • She hung up the pictures on the wall. (put pictures on the wall)
  • In old times, they hanged many people. (put ropes around their necks and took their lives)
  • Before DNA testing, some people might have been accidentally hanged. (Before DNA testing, some people might have been wrongly executed.)

Hanged and Hung Chart

Let's take a moment to review:

hang = to place something so that it dangles freely

hang = to kill someone by the way of a piece of rope

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