If you’re not sure how to choose between the words hanged or hung, let’s clear up the difference between these two past-tense forms of hang.
What comes to mind when you think of the past tense of the verb hang? Well, you have two options to choose from: hanged or hung.
Both are valid words. But one of them is only the right choice in one specific application. So it’s important to know the difference.
Hanged or hung?
The one you’re most likely to encounter — and use — is the second one. Our friends at Merriam-Webster explain the rule about choosing between the two quite clearly:
…In almost all situations, you should use the word hung.
Well, that explains it fairly well…except for that one instance that you would use hanged instead. I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, consider these examples of hung used correctly:
- A hung jury has been declared in the Dana Chandler double-murder retrial in Shawnee County District Court. – WIBW-TV
- Jurors stayed late Thursday evening to deliberate, but ultimately the trial ended in a hung jury. – WAVY-TV
- According to BFM TV, things got so heated between the brothers that Harry violently hung up on his brother to end their call. – CafeMom
- “[Corporations are] benefiting so much from our hard work,” Gannon added, “and it really feels like we’re being hung out to dry.” – Pennsylvania Capital-Star
Most of the times you’d need to choose between hanged and hung, you select hung.
Now let’s talk about the exception. You may have guessed it from the image at the top of this post. Imagine an execution involving a hanging, the classic “necktie party” of the Old West. In that case, the criminal is hanged.
Merriam-Webster points out one curious exception to the exception. Use hanged only when you refer to a person who was suspended at the end of the rope until their death. If you’re speaking about a figure of a person suspended in effigy, that figure is still hung.
Only a real person can be said to be hanged.
Fortunately, if you mix them up, you probably won’t face a necktie party. But you may wish you had read this post a little sooner.