Paid Attention or Payed Attention?

This page takes a look at a commonly misspelt term and identifies which is correct out of “paid attention” and “payed attention.” Continue reading for examples and definitions of “paid attention” and “payed attention.”

Paid Attention or Payed Attention?

The correct option is “paid attention” because it is the past tense of the verb “to pay”, with the meaning of “placing” or “offering” attention. However, “pay” has another meaning: covering the bottom of a boat with a substance such as tar. The past tense of this is “payed.”

Paid Attention or Payed Attention

Concerning the action of “paying attention”, the correct spelling is “paid attention” because “paid” is the past tense of the verb when it means “giving attention” or paying for something.

However, the word “payed” does exist, and it is the past tense of an alternative meaning of “pay”, which is used in nautical circles.

In this context, “pay” refers to covering or coating the bottom of a boat, often with tar. Although it is quite a specialized use, it is still a verb in use today. However, the spelling “paid” is usually preferred even in this sense.

Here are some examples of “paid attention” in a sentence:

  • I paid attention in class which is why I got good results.
  • I never paid attention in school, which is why I failed.

Paid Attention

The term “paid attention” means you offer your attention to something or someone, usually by listening or watching something. If you “pay attention” to something, you offer it your concentration and focus. The correct spelling for this meaning is always “paid attention.”

Here are some examples:

  • We paid attention to every word he said because his words were so impactful.
  • He paid attention to what you told him and improved his behavior.

Payed Attention

The term “payed attention” is incorrect, and “payed” is not the correct spelling of the word “pay” in this context.

The only context that the word “payed” is used for is as a nautical term referring to covering the bottom of a boat in tar or similar substances. However, even in this context, “paid” is often preferred to “payed.”


When discussing the process of placing or offering “attention” to something, the correct spelling is always “paid attention”, and there is no alternative. The word “payed” does exist but only when referring to coating the bottom of boats, and never for “attention.”