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Past Simple Tense

06 Jul 2021

The Past Simple Tense is used to refer to actions that were completed in a time period before the present time. In the Simple Past the process of performing the action is not important. What matters is that the action was completed in the past. The action may have been in the recent past or a long time ago. 

So let’s start learning the Simple Past Tense – one of the most common tenses in spoken English – and the points to pay attention to.

Using the Simple Past Tense

 

  • The Simple Past is used for actions that started and finished at a specific time in the past. It’s also possible to use the simple past in a sentence without specifying a time, but it must have previously been made clear that the speaker is referring to a finished period. 

 

I saw a movie last week.

 

  • The Simple Past is used to describe several actions that were completed in the past.

 

I finished work, walked to the beach and met my friends.

 

  • The Simple Past is used to describe a process that started and finished in the past. In this case, the process of the action is long and is used by specifying time periods such as ‘the whole year’ or ‘all day’.

 

I lived in Italy for five years.

 

  • The Simple Past can also be used in sentences that describe past habits. These sentences have the same purpose as the expression ‘used to’. It should be clear in this kind of sentence that the action referred to is a habit. Time expressions like always, often, usually and never can be used to underline this.

 

I often played football when I was a young man.

 

Forming the Simple Past

Affirmative sentences in the Simple Past

 

In affirmative sentences the word order is subject + verb and the form of the verb in the simple past is the same for all subjects (with the exception of ‘to be’ – was/were).

 

Subject + past simple + object

 

For example:

 

I played football yesterday.

He saw his family last week.

I was in France in June.

 

Negative sentences in the Simple Past

 

To make negative negative sentences in the simple past we use the auxiliary ‘did not’ / ‘didn’t’ and the base form of the verb. 

 

Subject + did not + base form of verb + object

 

For example:

 

I didn’t play football yesterday.

They didn’t go to the theater last month.

She didn’t arrive on time this morning.

 

Questions in the Simple Past

 

To make questions in the simple past we use ‘did’ in front of the subject and base form of the verb.

 

Did + subject + base form of verb + object?

 

For example:

 

Did you play football yesterday?

Did they lose the match?

Did he clean his home last weekend?

 

Regular and Irregular Verbs

 

In order to convert regular verbs from their base form to the simple past form, we add -ed. For irregular verbs, however, the simple past form doesn’t follow this rule and can vary significantly and you simply need to learn them by heart. There are many irregular verbs but below you can find the most common ones that you need to know for daily use.

 

Regular verb examples

 

  • place – placed
  • dance – danced
  • plan – planned
  • stop – stopped
  • fix – fixed
  • snow – snowed
  • rain – rained
  • need – needed
  • help – helped
  • add – added
  • worry – worried
  • play – played

 

As you can see from these examples, with most regular verbs we add -ed. When a verb ends in -e we simply add -d. And when a verb ends in a consonant and -y, we change the -y to -i and add -ed.

 

Irregular verb examples

 

  • be – was/were
  • buy – bought
  • come – came
  • do – did
  • eat – ate
  • find – found
  • go – went
  • have – had
  • leave – left
  • make – made
  • pay – paid
  • see – saw
  • take – took
  • tell – told
  • write – wrote

By learning the simple past you can describe many things about your personal and professional life. So start practicing it now by doing this fun quiz. 

This post has been adapted and translated from the original content by WSE Turkey here: Simple Past Tense

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