Hanged or Hung-- How would you answer this query?

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Hanged or Hung-- How would you answer this query?

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Set 16, 2008, 9:25 pm

"He hung from the branch by one hand." My native speaker's intuition tells me that is correct.

Set 16, 2008, 9:48 pm

I'd agree with >2 muumi: -- I don't have a rule for it, but "hanged", to me, is a special case reserved for actually executing people.

Set 16, 2008, 11:55 pm

I am a native speaker of English, but the distinction to me is artificial in that it was taught to me in elementary school, and I have to work to use hanged; I use it nevertheless. That said, I would say, "They hanged him by the ankle 'til dead." So to me it has nothing to do with the neck, but may have to do with execution.


Set 17, 2008, 12:17 am

My 1969 American Heritage Dictionary (1st ed) has a usage note on hanged, stating it is preferred about 2/3 of its usage panel when referring to capital punishment, otherwise hung is preferred. For me, these words are used as they sound to the speaker, and without a strong prescription.

This reminds me of lighted vs lit. I use the former much more often then the people around me.

And then I also pronounce either as ee-ther, not eye-ther. (I live on Long Island)

Set 17, 2008, 8:40 am

'Hanged' will refer to the action that suspended the person or picture, and 'hung' will refer to the continuous state of hanging. So, 'He hanged himself from a tree by his ankle' and 'He had been hung from the tree for a while'.

Set 17, 2008, 10:01 am

>6 Noisy:

So you'd say "I hanged the picture on the wall"? That doesn't sound right to me . . .

Set 17, 2008, 10:02 am

I agree with the emerging consensus: use "hanged" when it involves a noose, and "hung" the rest of the time.

Set 17, 2008, 10:09 am

There's a Terry Pratchett discworld quote about using hanged and hung ... am trying to remember it....

Set 17, 2008, 11:45 am

# 9

Going Postal has the following quote in Chapter 1 (2nd paragraph)
"The man going to be hanged had been named Moist von Lipwig by doting if unwise parents, but he was not going to embarrass the name, insofar as that was possible, by being hung under it."

This I found by a Google Book Search, but may not be what you are remembering.

Set 18, 2008, 9:34 pm

>10 vpfluke:
Good spotting!
I think I'm thinking of another one, in Terry Pratchett's MaskeradeI think...
... I recall a dialogue between the opera house manager and Salzella about the use of the hung and hanged in the same sentence.

Will have to check my shelves this weekend....

Set 19, 2008, 7:52 am

Found it, in Maskerade (spoiler sensitive people shut your eyes)

"Salzella shrugged. "We've got to do this properly. Did you know Dr Undershaft was strangled before he was hung?"
"Hanged", said Bucket, without thinking. "Men are hanged. It's dead meat that's hung".
"Indeed?" said Salzella. "I appreciate the information. Well, poor old Undershaft was strangled, apparently. And then he was hung."

Set 29, 2008, 12:09 am

Both the past participle and the general past for me are both "hung". Hanged doesn't sound wrong, but rather like a different dialect. Similar problems arise for 'dive/dove?/dived?'

Set 29, 2008, 2:53 pm

I'd say in the case of "dove" we might postulate a different dialect. Howver in the case of hung /hanged we have two different verbs, one relating to suspension of an object and one relating to capital punishment. The confusion surrounding their usage is probably related to the increasing rarity of execution by hanging -- at least in the English-speaking countries.

Set 29, 2008, 10:55 pm

i go with the majority here: hanged is for death (somewhat particularly for the neck), hung is for anything else.

can you elaborate on this lexical problem? i don't see what the person is going for at all!

Nov 23, 2008, 9:40 am

I agree with #14. They are two different verbs, one regular and one irregular.

If someone is sentenced to hang at (their hanging) you would say that they were hanged. (regular)

If you hang a picture on your wall, you would say that it was hung. (irregular)

I'm going to say that I learned this from Steven Pinker's "The Language Instinct," but that's only because the mnemonic device I learned in the army is embarrassing.

Dez 8, 2008, 7:35 am

# 16 - You've explained it really nicely. I was discussing this with some 16yo that I teach and I am going to try and remember this explanation from now on. Of course, then I'll have to explain regular and irregular verbs to them. So little grammar explicitly taught in Vic, Australia for too, too long.

I'm still not convinced it's not some left over from more prescriptivist days as in the Maskerade example from above.

# 14 makes an excellent point too.

Dez 8, 2008, 7:49 am

reminds me of lay/layed/lied too.

Jan 14, 2009, 7:32 pm

#6 - sorry, I believe it should be "He had been hanging from the tree for a while" - using the past perfect continuous (or progressive) tense. The verb must have the "ing" ending when "has been" or "have been" are used.

Jan 14, 2009, 7:34 pm

Speaking of hang, I wonder where "to get the hang of it" comes from? Possibly nothing to do with the verb....

Jan 14, 2009, 10:52 pm

According to my American Heritage Dictionary, the basic meaning of hang as a noun "the way in which something hangs"; second, a downward inclination or slope; so get the hang of it may come from trying to get the slope right.

Jan 15, 2010, 6:00 pm

Thanks to numbers 14 and 16.

Some responses here depend upon the notion that something is correct when it "sounds natural" or satisfies an instinct. I am afraid that what sounds good to one person might be mightily at odds with the rules of standard English.

Jan 16, 2010, 3:30 am

In Tarot, the No. 12 card in the Major Arcana is The Hanged Man.

He is usually depicted hanging from a tree by one foot and looking remarkably cheerful.

Jan 16, 2010, 8:34 am

Hey the last two entries:

It has been a year since this question was discussed and it still lives!

I just looked up an internet dictionary and found nearly 60 uses for hanged between verbs and nouns. There must be whole dinner conversations over this.

I do like playing hangman and it is not called hungman.

Jan 16, 2010, 10:28 am

24> it is not called hungman.

But is that not because it is named after the executioner, not the executed?

Jan 16, 2010, 2:06 pm

Sorry, linguist humour, nothing literal. It isn't hangedman either.

Jan 17, 2010, 12:12 pm

He was hanged. = He was executed through the use of hanging by the neck until dead.

He was hung. = He was hung (as in strung up) somehow.

Other examples:

He hung up on me. NOT He hanged up on me.
I've been hung up on this issue for weeks. NOT I've been hanged up on this issue for weeks.
He was hanged at dawn. NOT He was hung at dawn.
He's well hung. NOT He's well hanged. (!!)
He hung that picture over there. NOT He hanged the picture over there.

To be perfectly honest, I can't see or understand the confusion.

Jan 17, 2010, 9:31 pm

Hey, How's it hanging?

I'm so sorry, I couldn't help myself. Do get mad. Just tell me to go away.

#27 I like how your examples. But cough, cough some of those are ...

Jan 18, 2010, 11:11 am

#27 - lmao I'm imagining some chick sitting with friends, gossipping, trying to figure out whether to say her new boyfriend's well hanged or well hung...

Jan 18, 2010, 11:14 am

Then there is always the song by The Carpenters, Rainy Days and Mondays...Hangin' around. Nothin' to do but frown.

Jan 18, 2010, 12:23 pm

>27 omaca: Thank you for the smile.

"He was well (and truly) hanged" could describe a successful execution.

Jan 31, 2010, 3:45 pm

"They told me, Francis Hinsley, they told me you were hung
With red protruding eyeballs and black protruding tongue"
That from the pedant Evelyn Waugh. Poetic licence?

Fev 1, 2010, 8:29 am

Yes. Poetic licence.

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Poetry isn't a good guide to received English usage.

Fev 1, 2010, 11:17 am


(Hail to thee blithe spirit,
Bird thou never wert...

Not much rhymes with "hanged".

Fev 1, 2010, 8:01 pm

Fanged? ...ish.

Fev 5, 2010, 11:25 am


Fev 5, 2010, 11:36 am

Well, I'll be danged - there are some rhymes!

Dez 10, 2010, 10:22 am

24# And it lives on still!

A similar debate just occurred between myself and another, and this discussion well and truly proved me wrong. Great answers though.

When the man who is being hanged in the game hangman is in the process of being drawn is it called hanging-man?

Dez 10, 2010, 3:22 pm

No, it's called drawman. After that comes quarterman.

Dez 13, 2010, 3:25 am

>39 MyopicBookworm: Drawman as in "Here is yet more trouble"?

>24 cakefriend: Shirley Jackson used a variant form, Hangsaman as title of one of her novels.