I have been given the following sentence:

He got only passing mark.

I don't understand why it should be "pass marks" in place of "passing mark". I don't want to cram but understand. I read a thread on stackexchange about this, but at that place it was used in different context.

  • 1
    There might be nothing more to it than what sounds natural in a specific dialect. I grew up in the American Midwest. In my dialect, "passing grades" and "failing grades" is exactly what I expect to hear. Nov 21, 2015 at 20:44
  • @GaryBotnovcan - Is it grammatically correct? In my dialect too it seems fine, but may be it is grammatically incorrect. It can be " He got only pass marks." But I don't know how it is so.
    – Vibhu
    Nov 21, 2015 at 20:51
  • 1
    Both options are grammatically correct, although they are two different grammatical structures. Both the noun "pass" and the verb "pass" exist in English. The phrase "a pass mark" has the same structure as "a toy box" -- one noun directly modifying another. The phrase "a passing mark" has the same structure as "a running man" -- a participle form of a verb modifying a noun. Nov 21, 2015 at 21:23
  • @Vibhu What do you mean when you write this? I don't want to cram but understand. Sep 3, 2016 at 21:34
  • You should compare passing marks and pass marks. Or you should compare pass mark and passing mark.
    – user230
    Sep 3, 2016 at 21:51

1 Answer 1


He got only passing mark.

This is not grammatically correct, as there is no article (i.e "a" or "the").

Grammatically correct options would be "He got only a passing mark". A mark which was one that passed the threshold between fail and pass, as opposed to one which easily cleared the hurdle.

More commonly, He got a pass; He got only a bare pass; He passed with distinction.

He got passing grades. (Although use of passing is generally an American dialect usage).

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