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Know Your Vocabulary: Paid Attention

by samik ghoshal

Want to know if you must use the term ‘payed attention’ or ‘paid attention’? Well then, this article is for you. We will go to the very basics of the language and will see what are the things you have to consider in order to know the correct usage. Let us go!

Paid Attention Or Payed Attention? The Differences

Okay, so understanding the nuances of the English language is definitely an easy task. We have already discussed that in most of our languages. Especially, if the confusion involves homophones. What are homophones? Homophones are words or sets of words that sound identical. While speaking, these differences are negated, and we only rely on the overall context of the words. But when it comes to writing. Things can get challenging. 

Paid Attention vs Payed Attention

The phrases ‘Paid attention’ and ‘Payed attention’ are perfect examples of those homophones class of words. While some people would like you to believe that there is practically no difference between the two phrases, we are here to tell you that they are absolutely wrong. In fact, the only time using the word ‘payed’ instead of ‘paid’ makes sense is when it is used in nautical sense. 

So next time somebody tries to gaslight you and tell you that the correct usage is ‘payed attention,’ just answer them that it is not the correct usage. In fact, also try and explain that the past tense of the term ‘pay’ is actually paid. This will stop them from being in error. 

Paid Attention- What It Means.

You are sitting in the class, you are looking out the window, and your teacher calls you and asks you if you ‘paid attention’ or not. What is she trying to say? She is asking if you looked, listened, or were attentive to whatever she was teaching or explaining. So, in a general sense, the phrase ‘paid attention’ actually means you were attentive but is phrased in a way that your attention is a currency. Therefore the term ‘paid attention’.

Paid Attention

Not confirmed, but several language experts across the world believe that the phrase ‘paid attention’ originated back in the year 1730. Linguistics experts in London at that time coined the phrase. However, it was not until 1750 that the phrase became popular. The phrase was popularized by widespread usage in novels at the time. The term stuck with the mercantile crowd of London, and pretty soon, everyone was using it. 

Payed Attention- Is It Correct?

Even though the term payed has a very limited scope of usage, it is not absolutely wrong. I mean, if you put things into retrospect. The term is not widely used but is certainly not wrong in nature. Then why is it frowned upon? Well, this section will deal with that issue. 

The term is used more in the metaphorical context than in the actual literal sense. This means the word is theoretically correct. But when you try using the term in a literal sense, things become rocky and confusing. 

The reason why this word is metaphorically correct but has no place in real life is because it refers to the act of stealing attention from others. It is used more in novels and literary pieces because the term is technically not wrong but is not right as well. So if you use this term in a metaphorical sense where you say something like, ‘She payed everyone’s attention using her mesmerizing voice,’ it will be correct for metaphorical usage. But when it is used in a literal sense, the term will not fit properly. 

So, if you are doing something literary and creative, you are free to use the word ‘payed’, but when you are using the language for real-time usage, this is the wrong word to use.  

Paid Vs Payed

The best part about this article is that by the end of the whole thing, you do not need to worry if it is ‘paid attention’ or is it ‘payed attention’. In fact, if you take my words for it, you can completely ignore the term ‘payed attention’ altogether, as there is no real usage of it unless you are a Victorian novelist or a seaman. Simply stick to the term ‘paid attention’ as it is more practical and flexible. 

In a nautical sense, the term ‘payed’ actually means the sealing of decks in order to stop leakages. Therefore, if you are a maritime sailor, you are still cleared to use the term. Meanwhile, the very term paid is a more dynamic and organic word to use. It can be used in several contexts like finances, revenge, loss, etc. Some of the most popular usage of the term pay or paid include:

  • Pay the man his due and be done with it. I have paid him the money that I owed him. (Finances)
  • The cops made the perpetrator pay for his crime. I have paid in blood for the follies of my younger self. (Revenge or Misfortune)
  • I paid attention to what she had to say. Please, pay attention here. (attention)

Final Thoughts

There you go, I hope this article of our ‘Know Your Vocabulary: Paid Attention’ has proven to be helpful in understanding how the term functions and what the key characteristics you need in order to know how and when the term needs to be used. If you have any queries, do let us know.  


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