Submitted by steve  •  September 27, 2005

hanged vs. hung

In primary school we learned that prisoners were hanged by the neck until dead, and not hung by the neck until dead. Paintings, coats, and Christmas stockings are “hung”, not people. They are “hanged”. Is this correct? I hear news reporters say “hung” all the time. Never “hanged”.

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When hang means, as it generally does, "to suspend," then hung is the correct past-tense and past participial form of the verb: "Yesterday, I hung a picture on the wall"; "I have hung many pictures on many walls." When hang means "to put to death by hanging," however, hanged is the correct past-tense and past participial form: "We hanged the horse-thieving varmint yesterday"; "We've hanged nigh unto forty horse thieves this year." Given that hanging has become a fairly infrequent means to a fairly infrequent end, you might think that this is an unimportant distinction. But, because of a colloquial use of hung that we blush bright yellowish green to mention here, you can end up embarrassing yourself if you use hung as an adjective to describe a male historical figure executed by hanging. History records that John Billington was hanged at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1630; whether Mr. Billington was hung, history does not record.

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im hung like a horse

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I'm not exactly a prescriptivist. After all, we haven't spoken Old or even Middle English for centuries now. But I do find it sad that we have come to accept virtually any ignorant, sloppy, lazy mangling of our language. I guess political correctness has made even the stupid a protected class that we can't possibly offend.

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Actually, that's not exactly what Merriam-Webster says. DBP's posting from M-W is more complete and precise. Oh, and for what it's worth, The dictionary's quoting of Ronald Reagan is hardly an endorsement for proper grammar. If anything, it proves the opposite point.

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Tony, your entry, which is correct, is taken whole from Perfessor (that's how he spells it) Cumber's list of pet peeves about English usage. I commend the brief list to anyone interested in usage questions; it's an entertaining, commonsense guide (www.acebo.com/cumber.htm). I agree with all the writers who wonder about reporters' use of "hung" where "hanged" would be correct. Don't get me started on the other common grammatical errors in journalism. I have concluded that either that there are no editors anymore, or the editors are just as ignorant as the reporters.

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the reason reporters use the word "hung" instead of "hanged" is that reporters are peoud to be counted amongst the semi-educated yet feeble-minded masses. writing a story in a grammatically correct fashion would be as silly as writing a story that was factually correct! as recent years have shown us, many reporters just resort to stealing other people's work and don't write articles at all!

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You're correct. The news reporters are not. It's a shame that people on television news shows do not always use proper grammar. I think part of it is due to wanting to sound like you're 'of the people' as opposed to what really happens: they become role models of a sort. "That can't be right! Tom Brokaw didn't say it that way, and he should know, right?"

So sad.

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I think it's amusing and ironic that that particular Reagan quote has made it into the dictionary. He has been publicly and frequently lambasted for that very quote, as one of many malapropisms for which he was famous. He was constantly ridiculed for his misuse of the English language.

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Were do you think 'hung drawn and quartered' came from?
Because they 'hung' people.
It has multiple meanings.

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My 6th grade English teacher told us one day, "MEAT is hung. PEOPLE are hanged." I got an immediate and lasting visual on that, and have never forgotten the rule. Thank you Mrs. Anderson!

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"hung" is used to refer to death by hanging and it has always been used to refer to death by hanging. Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage says this is not a mistake, and if you use it you will be stigmatized for doing something that is not wrong.

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Of course, he wasn't nearly as inarticulate as our current commander-in-chief

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I agree with caes ---
"caes says:
October 14, 2009 at 3:03 pm
hanged is used when talking about people being hanged (killed by hanging). in other cases, you use hung."

As I understand it, you have been hung if you are taken down still alive. If you die by hanging, then you have been hanged.

So "hung, drawn and quartered" meant being taken down alive so you could suffer the additional punishment of being gutted and chopped into pieces.

Objects cannot undergo death by hanging, so are alway hung and not hanged.

So, "He was hanged" means he is now dead, but "He was hung" leaves the question open.

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I think John was essentially correct in his initial response. "Grammar Girl" gives this explanation of hanged and hung:

"It seemed a little curious to me that there would be two past-tense forms of the word hang that differ depending on their meaning, so I did a little research and found out that in Old English there were two different words for hang (hon and hangen), and the entanglement of these words (plus an Old Norse word hengjan) is responsible for there being two past-tense forms of the word hang today."

She also says that "hanged" is the proper term for a past execution. I concur. Not that using "hung" in that sense would be a punishable offense, but the distinction is still a useful one.

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It's a hanging, not a hunging.

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Alla, it doesn't matter if the hanging is self-inflicted. "He hanged himself" would still be correct.

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What about an animal? Suppose a cat gets caught up in some cord, hangs by his neck, and dies. Was he hanged or hung? He's not a person, but he's not inanimate either.

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I thnk I can answer two of your questions Mary.

Q: You said "I think there is a time to use hung and there is a time to use hanged but I just don’t know when to use either one."
A: As I understand it, you have been hung if you are taken down still alive. If you die by hanging, then you have been hanged. Also, objects cannot undergo death by hanging, so are alway hung and not hanged. Btw, Reagan was correct to use "hung" when he said "I'll be hung in effigy" -- since an effigy is not alive, it can be hung but not hanged.

Q: You asked "But what about sung instead of singed?"
A: Sung is the past tense of sing -- "A song was sung" or "I sung a song". But singed is not the past tense of sing -- "When he got too close to the fire, he singed his eyebrows." or "Her hair was singed by the curling iron."

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I'm hanged like a horse

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I order that the previous commentator be hanged for being crass. Dick.Napoleon complex, anyone?

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@Julian Freeman and Sara Malam - I don't know about the US, but in the UK it's exactly the opposite - if you want to sound educated, you follow UKAnon and say somebody hanged themselves, as any (British) dictionary will tell you:

http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/englis...
http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/b...

If you want to sound not quite so educated or couldn't give a damn either way, you say people are hung (and people like me will wince - silently). But for everyone, things, of course, are hung.

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You can forget the vast majority of grammar "rules" that you learned in all your schooling. They were, for the most part, nonsense.

So too with these two words.

M-W:
usage For both transitive and intransitive senses 1b the past and past participle hung, as well as hanged, is standard. Hanged is most appropriate for official executions <he was to be hanged, cut down whilst still alive ... and his bowels torn out -- Louis Allen> but hung is also used <gave orders that she should be hung -- Peter Quennell>. Hung is more appropriate for less formal hangings <by morning I'll be hung in effigy -- Ronald Reagan>.

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Next time I wear a tux to a neck-tie party, I'll say the "guest of honor" would be hanged. If I wear khaki pants and a polo shirt, I'll say he'd be hung.

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I believe they use "hanged" to make capital punishment seem dated and backward. i.e. not modern. both terms can be understood that is why there is a debate about it.

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What happened to America, where was it proper to speak in a question. So many people, except Newscasters, speak with an upward tone at the end of a sentence. It sounds so stupid, when I am listening to a person speak and at the end of every sentence their voice goes in a upward direction as if they were speaking in questions all the time until they come to the end of their story, then they end on a downward tone. I hate it....

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I think there is a time to use hung and there is a time to use hanged but I just don't know when to use either one. But what about sung instead of singed? Is hanged breaking an E.L.A. rule? That is what I think. I just read the Hunchback of Notre Dame and it used both words - which supports my answer - at different times. Whereas me being a writer I must know the importance of English language. I still do not know.

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Hanged may be correct but it sounds like an 1850's prospector, Dag nab it.

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Dear Porsche

Of course, i won the bet. In addition, I think our great language has evolved (or maybe "devolved" is a better term) to the point where if enough people are using the incorrect form -then is becomes the norm.

P.S. is devolved a real word? lol
thanks for your help

Alla

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what is the proper way to say:
1) he hung himself or 2) he hanged himself

I understand that the word "hanged" is a proper verb for capital punishment, what about if it is self-inflicted?
Thanks for your answer, you will be settling a bet between me and my overeducated husband (who can't spell or write properly).

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Plz, look below and correct if you feel any mistake...

hi all i am wodering now that my english has improved a lot , i can speak well, when people listening my speech says i am really better than before,All the credits must go to online tutors those who have helped me of learinig quick english .I never forget the rules that they thought to me. Which always helps me a lot .


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But now things have changed i have got a good result aftter i practised hard, i went through many trainings which has hepled me a lot and offcourse this time i can rock in english.............................

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"hung" has used to refer to death by hanging since the 1600s. Many usage commentators recognize that this is a standard use, but some commentators, who apparently haven't done their research, persist in saying it's wrong.

In Old English they were 2 verbs:
h&#333;n, past tense heng, past particle hangen "to hang"
hangian, past tense hangode "to be suspended"

"hangian" derives from the causative of "h&#333;n" - that is, "to cause to be hanged". Other pairs like this include lie - lay and sit -set.

By the 14th century, the 2 verbs had collapsed into 1.

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Will someone "hang" me after reading all this? It was so addicting.

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I welcome the gradual disappearance of "hanged". I came to this page because I heard reporters saying it on television, and the usage just sounded wrong to me.

For me there is no important distinction in the word. If someone is hung on a coat hook as a joke versus being hanged for murder, I would lose no meaning if the terms were switched. Context means everything.

The -ang verbs are pretty irregular already. Why have two forms when one will serve just fine?

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I was referring to Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage. DBP's quote is from Merriam-Webster's dictionary. 2 different publications.

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although hung is more comment now a days hanged is still the correct way to say it when you are talkine about people however things are hung not hanged

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@dracula - could you perhaps enlighten us disgraceful, naive and uneducated but ever eager to learn masses as to how you came across this strange theory that there is a verb - "hang, hanged, hung", when every (at least British) dictionary tells us there are two variants - "hang, hanged, hanged" and "hang, hung, hung". Is there something you know that they don't? I think we should be told!

http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/englis...

Being an English teacher, I'm now off to play with the rest of my troop of unqualified baboons.

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I do believe it may be used either way (now due to my arguements with somone who may not wish their name let out). Anyway as I read this I may see that everyones findings are from old uses. I believe the correct usage of hanged has changed into hung. Thusly because the value of human life is mostly viewed lower than it should these days. Hung is correct in my belief but if I were correcting a paper I would not count hanged as wrong(anymore).

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@Mature Lady -the answer is simple - don't! Why should any of us presume to 'correct' the way other people talk? In any case, as we can see in these pages, people's ideas of what constitutes correct varies quite a bit. And just because I differentiate between hanged and hung doesn't mean that someone else who doesn't is wrong. There are quite a few newer usages I don't like, so I don't use them. But correct another native speaker's grammar? Never. (Unless they're laying down the law in these pages, in which they're fair game!)

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@Avi,

"I will be hanged" is correct as it is a future participle, but people, in their preference, tend to use "hung" as past tense and most people use "hung" because it doesn't come off as awkward as "hanged" when referring to past events.

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thanks Jon!

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We were talking about this in English IV. My teacher said that "Only one thing is Hung, Everything else is Hanged...." You guess what is hung

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I've always understood the difference between hanged & hung when it comes to people vs. inanimate objects, but what is the rule when talking about an animal that died by hanging? I always thought the rule was "hanged" for people, and "hung" for animals, but I feel like I may have been in error all these years.

Anyone have an answer?

Thanks!
Rara

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hanged is used when talking about people being hanged (killed by hanging). in other cases, you use hung.

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jman: Hilarious comment! I can't beleive no one else saw the humour....

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I have now agreed on several different opinions and the one I, as a writer believe is the true usage of the word is Jon's past and future theory. My sibling, Joy says her teacher mastered English language in college and believes the hanged theory. Joy agrees with her teacher.

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Send me ideas for new stories at soccermln@yahoo.com

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I tend to agree with John's "lay" vs "lie" analogy (transitive vs intransitive - "hanged" being the past participle when something/someone is "hanged" and "hung" referring to the past tense state of something/someone, um, dangling, if you will).

In German, for example, "haengen"- to hang something (on a wall, etc.) has the regular/weak past participle "gehaengt" (akin to "hanged"). "Haengen", however, describing the state of dangling or at least being pinned to a verticle surface, features the irregular/strong past participle "gehangen"- "hung".

If this pattern were followed in common usage, we would say such statements in English as "I hanged a poster up yesterday" & "The poster hung there for a day until it fell down." But alas, in a language culture where laziness prevails, in which people "lay out in the sun" and someone has "set in a chair for three hours" and a person is asked to "leave the book lay there on the table", such a distinction hardly seems reasonable/realistic.

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Personally, I think he should be hung.

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Pictures and paintings are hung, people are hanged.

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thanks for the wonderful discussion, i love it and it helped me to prove myself that i have gone to my primary school and paying attention while teacher was teaching me ...

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this is all too confusing. ill just ask my teacher.

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Hung may not be "incorrect" (as a substitute for hanged), but it is certainly ambiguous.

A hanged person is one who was killed by hanging. But a hung person may still be alive after merely having been been suspended for a while.

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I think that saying hanged is just an old English thing.
To say "Bill hanged himself" sounds country.
But to say "Bill hung himself" sounds more educated rather than what I picture of a dumb school boy saying "Bill hanged himself"

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by the way, who won the bet?

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I appreciate the distinction between the two forms. They've been talked about as different verbs, but really I think they're basically the same thing (suspension of some kind). So I think it's neat that we have a way of using this verb for this specific context of capital punishment. On the other hand, the fortunate rarity of hangings these days naturally pushes the distinction into some obscurity. I have no problem with this either, but it's probably why news reporters may not always make it.

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hm... for h&#333;n read "hon".

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John, when you say "...but some commentators, who apparently haven't done their research, persist in saying it's wrong...", who exactly are you referring to? Since your last two posts, in well over a year, no one has asserted that "hung" is wrong. Actually, in all of the above posts, only two commentators, the second and third, back in 2005, made such an assertion, and only once each. How exactly does that qualify as "persistence"?

Are you referring to my reply to alla arcuri? I never said that "hung" was wrong. I merely said that if a hanging is self-inflicted instead of capital punishment, then "hanged" is still appropriate. Just how much "research" is required? A simple check of one or a few dictionaries confirms what I said.

You have stated several times (I assume you're the same John as before) that "hung" is correct, but you have never claimed that "hanged" is incorrect, did you? Can I assume you don't have a problem with the word "hanged"? You're not saying "hanged" is wrong, are you?

Every source I have checked says that "hanged" is especially appropriate to describe death by hanging (and no, I did not just say that "hanged" is right and "hung" is wrong). I don't think you disagree with this either, do you? So, um, what's the problem?

Most people don't say they "hanged a picture", right?. And, I guess some newsreporters notwithstanding, most people still say "hanged by the neck until dead", right? And if both these statements are true, that still doesn't mean that "hung" is wrong in the same context, right?

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Some news agencies abide by a specific "style" (such as AP Style, or Chicago Press Style) whereby certain matters are addressed in grammar to distinguish one meaning from another. The reporters may simply be using a particular style, and quite actually saying it correctly according to the style. There is not a universally correct grammar, especially in regard to news reporting grammar style.

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Porsche,
Sorry... by commentators I meant usage commentators. People who write books about English usage. Some of them tell us that "hung" is wrong when referring to death by hanging. But if they looked at the actual usage, they would see that both "hung" and "hanged" have been used in this context.

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which one's correct?
"i will be hanged" or " i will be hung"

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I've often seen that "hung" is for the personal, as in "I will be hung," or, if you're writing a short story with a ghost, "I was hung last night." "Hanged" is for the impersonal, as in "She will be hanged," or "He was hanged," but I'm not completely sure. =D Love thinking about it, though.

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@Hairy Scot - "chuffed" is in one of Merriam-Webster's lists of "Top ten British words". Your phrase "chuffed to the knickers" reminds me that playwright Harold Pinter was rather fond of the expression "chuffed to the bollocks", bollocks being another of M-W's favourites. The rest of this particular list were: wonky · cheese (as in "hard cheese, mate") · dogsbody · shirty · peckish · dodgy · shambolic · stroppy

http://www.merriam-webster.com/top-ten-lists/to...

http://www.merriam-webster.com/top-ten-lists/to...

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Hanged

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You use "hung" when have, has, or had precedes it. In all cases, the past tense for hang is hanged. Most people are incorrect. Just because it has been accepted by the masses, who are extremely uneducated, it does not make it correct.

People got nervous using hanged because it reminded them of executions. That is why hung was used. It is not correct. It's such a shame that so many unqualified baboons are teaching naive people the incorrect word, acting as if they know something, when in reality they do not know anything. Please refrain from telling people "hung" is the past tense of hang. You are a disgrace.

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Why make personal comments? I don't see the necessity.

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This little tale illustrates one of the few times when hung can be used when referring to a person:-

Tam the local drunk is draped over the bar in his local when the door opens and this figure wearing a black frock coat and a black homburg comes in, glides over to a table and sits down.
The barman pours a glass of milk and takes it over to that guy at the table.
When he gets back behing the bar Tam says, "Milk! Wassataboot?"
The barman says, "He's a mormon."
Tam says, "Zatrite?"
"Aye, he has 5 wives and fifteen weans."
"Izatatfact?"
Tam spends five minutes squinting at the guy, then slithers off his stool and staggers across to the table and say.
"ZYou a mormon?"
"I am."
"Zyou the guy wi five wives and fifteen kids?"
"I am"
"Zyou should be f*@#in' well hung!"
"I AM!"

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@Hairy Scot - You've got a thing about this, haven't you? Nice story. But table service in a Scottish bar? :)

@dracula - from Online Etymology Dictionary:

Hung emerged as pp. in the 16c. in northern England dialect, and hanged endured only in legal language (which tends to be conservative) and metaphors extended from it (I'll be hanged).

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@WW
Not so much a thing about hung, more about illustrating the differences between hung and hanged.
I remember during the 60s a Scottish folk singer, as part of his intro to a song about Timothy Evans who had just recently been posthumously pardoned, making the comment "He must have been chuffed to his knickers, coz they hung him eleven years ago".
As for the table service: just a little bit of "poetic licence". :-))

I

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I agree with Warsaw Will. We are too ready to accept bad grammar although it is very difficult to correct someone. Some of my in-laws talk about having rang someone rather than rung and also say someone is more friendlier. How to correct them in a manner which will not cause offence?

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I fall in with the "objects are hung", "people are hanged" lobby.
There is, however, one notable instance when hung can be used in referring to a person.
I'm sure we all know what that one is. :-))

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@Hairy Scot - I hope you're not boasting! :)

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I was corrected by my nephew when I said,"He will be happy to know you've hung his pictures." "hanged." was his curt reply. So I have an oldfashioned nephew? So far I have read only opions here. I guess it's the same as the word "gay" not meaning happy anymore. Things change.

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FWIW, the OED on my laptop says:

usage: In modern English, hang has two past tense and past participle forms: hanged and hung. Hung is the normal form in most general uses ( they hung out the wash; she hung around for a few minutes; he had hung the picture over the fireplace), but hanged is the form normally used in reference to execution by hanging ( she was hanged as a witch in April 1621).

M-W is a little looser: Hanged is most appropriate for official executions <he was to be hanged, cut down whilst still alive … and his bowels torn out — Louis Allen> but hung is also used <gave orders that she should be hung — Peter Quennell>. Hung is more appropriate for less formal hangings <by morning I'll be hung in effigy — Ronald Reagan>.

The verb hang, like the verb dive, has a twisted history. In both cases there were two forms ... one strong and one weak. In both cases, the two verbs merged ... and left us with two past tenses ... one strong (stem change) meaning to hang: to suspend; and one weak (-ed) meaning to be hanged, to be suspended ... thus a person is hanged.

As always, in ME, they're jumbled together.

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I agree with everyone who says that inanimate objects are never hanged. Instead, you'd say, "I'm going to hang the picture or the picture was hung." Human beings are hanged. Though I understand it is correct to say, "After he was hanged, he hung from the tree limb for days.

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The question is not one of grammar, but of usage. Hanged is the traditional usage but hung is not incorrect.

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I wholly agree with Julians comment, whenever I hear someone use the word "hanged" I cringe, as an educated society, ( Well an assumption that most of us are educated to some point. ) That word sound very country and hackish. Hung is more appropriate and rolls of the tongue with more ease, it sounds proper. Hanged, does not. I don't claim to be a well educated woman but the usage of the word hanged irks me to no end.

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