Hanged or Hung?


Thanks Joyful Molly http://joyfulmolly.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/garrows-law-faq-servants-and-beards-and-wigs-oh-my/ for raising this:

” “Hangedhangedhanged! WTF scriptwriter! Men are HANGED, not HUNG!”

As far as grammar is concerned, you are correct.”

I always wondered about that too.  The answer, from my perspective, is that it’s both.  No!  Outrage!  I hear you cry!  However, have a look at these cases.  These two say ‘hung’ and the last one ‘hanged’.  You can’t argue with the proceedings!

Case 1: Garrow for the defence:

I was not married to him, he certainly would prosecute the prisoner as far as he could, and for my sake he would not wish to see him  hung,


Case 2: Garrow for the defence:


Have you never said to Smith, that you had Notely under your thumb, and that you would do his business for him? – No Sir, never in my life; I told Smith that Notely  hung a man here some time back; that was all that ever I said to him; I never said I would be a witness against him.

Case 3: Garrow v Sylvester:  The classic formulation:

each of you, be taken from hence to the place from whence you came, and from thence to the place of execution, there to be hanged by the necks until you are dead, and the Lord have mercy on your souls!


8 Responses to Hanged or Hung?

  1. joyfulmolly says:

    Brilliant! Thanks for digging it out, I’ll edit my reply to the grammar authority immediately. And dare anybody say TV is not educational… 😉

  2. joyfulmolly says:

    PS: just for clarification – I just replied to somebody else’s question, I wasn’t the one who brought it up. 🙂

  3. garrowslaw says:

    I’m sure that in 1785, they were having the same arguments on which was right! Plus ca change …

  4. […] Edited to add: looks like I was only half-right with my reply (well, as far as the grammar part is concerned). Mark Pallis gives a more thorough answer to the “hanged or hung” debate here. […]

  5. CPKS says:

    Notably in your examples, it is unlearned witnesses who use the word “hung”.

  6. Susan Peckham says:

    There are several verbs in English which have the same spelling in the present tense. One of these is “to hang”. One of these verbs means to hang something up and suspend it according to gravity and the other, DIFFERENT verb, means to execute a man by means of a rope around his neck. The easy way to remember the past tenses of these two verbs is, “Pictures are hung; men are hanged.”

  7. I learned this rule at school: Pictures are hung, people are hanged.

  8. Jen says:

    The OED online only says
    ‘In this sense, hanged is now the specific form of the pa. tense and pa. pple.; though hung is used by some, esp. in the south of England.’

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