‘Hung’ and ‘hanged’ are both related to the word ‘hang’, but there is a distinct difference between ‘hung’ and ‘hanged’. Both are past tense forms, as well as past participle forms, of the verb ‘hang’, which means ‘to suspend something by fastening or fixing it to a support (a nail, a hook, or whatever) at its upper end, with the lower end left free to dangle’ – as you would do for placing framed pictures or paintings on a wall, for drying clothes on a clothesline, or for fixing curtains.
‘Hang’ has another meaning too – ‘to execute someone (or kill oneself) by suspending the person (or oneself) from a support using a noose tied around the neck, with the support under the feet removed’. It is in this, and only in this, exclusive context that the verb ‘hang’ takes a regular form, with principal parts (i.e., infinitive, past tense, past participle) as ‘hang, hanged, hanged’. In all other general cases, involving inanimate objects, the verb ‘hang’ always takes an irregular form, with principal parts as ‘hang, hung, hung’.
Hence, the difference between ‘hung’ and ‘hanged’ is this: ‘hung’ is simply the past tense and past participle of the verb ‘hang’, whereas ‘hanged’ is the same but exclusively for use in cases referring to execution or suicide by hanging. In other words, ‘hung’ refers to objects, while ‘hanged’ refers to people executed or self-killed, as in the case of suicide, by hanging. However, when ‘hang’ is used in a figurative sense to mean ‘to cling onto or hold on tightly’, ‘to droop’, or ‘to pay attention to’, then only ‘hung’ is used irrespective of whether the subject is inanimate or a person.
Here are some illustrative examples to elucidate the difference between ‘hung’ and ‘hanged’:
- Yesterday I bought a beautiful Picasso painting and hung it in my living room.
- The players hung their caps on the hooks before sitting down for coffee.
- I have hung my coat and umbrella near the entrance; I hope you don’t mind.
- The washed clothes hung on the garden clothesline dried in no time due to the bright sunshine and breeze.
- When he was caught red-handed cheating in the exam, he hung his head in shame.
- When my daughter was small, she always hung onto my dress when we went out.
- Though capital punishment is very disgusting, honestly speaking, I wouldn’t mind if serial rapists and murderers are hanged.
- Saddam Hussein was hanged in the year 2006.
That is all about the difference between ‘hung’ and hanged’.
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