Past Simple Passive

Past Simple Passive is normally used to talk about some completed actions in the past.
In the passive voice, emphasis is put on the effect of an action rather than on the doer.

Compare the sentences with active and passive voice:

  • This fortress was built 120 year ago.
  • Two people were taken to hospital after the accident.
  • The railroad was damaged by the storm.

Past Simple Passive structure

Let’s compare active and passive structures in Past Simple. The Past Simple Active is formed like this:

[subject] + verb with -ed ending (or the Past Simple form for irregular verbs)

To make statements with the Past Simple Passive, use:

was/were + the Past Participle form of the verb

Note: We use ‘was‘ for singular nouns and pronouns (I, he, she, it) and ‘were‘ for plural nouns and pronouns (you, we, they).
I was heard
You were heard
He/she/it was heard
We were heard
You were heard
They were heard
  • I was bitten by a dog a few days ago.
  • The mistakes were corrected by the teacher.
  • No apples were eaten by Lauran.

When to use Past Simple Passive

We use Past Simple Passive for actions or events that happened in the past (yesterday, last week (month, year), in 2010). Unlike the Past Perfect Passive, there’s no specific point in the past. In such statements we focus attention on the person or thing affected by the action, when the subject is unknown, unclear or irrelevant.


  • Tom repaired the car. – The car was repaired by Tom.
  • Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. – The light bulb was invented by
    Thomas Edison.

In these examples, the focus is on the effect of the past action, it’s not important who performed the action.

We use Past Simple Passive with the same meaning as Past Simple in the active voice except for the fact that Past Simple Passive makes focus on the effect (or the object) rather than the doer (the subject) of an action. Read more about the uses of Past Simple here.

Negative forms of Past Simple Passive

Making a negative Past Simple Passive form is easy. Just insert ‘not‘ between ‘was’ or ‘were’ and Past Participle (the contracted forms are ‘wasn’t’ and ‘weren’t’).

  • Mary wasn’t invited to the party.
  • The match wasn’t won by our team.
  • You weren’t invited to the party.

Questions in Past Simple Passive

To make a question in Past Simple Passive, swap the subject and ‘was’ or ‘were’. The structure for asking questions in Past Simple Passive is:

was/were + [subject] + Past Participle

  • Were the students taught at home?
  • Was the article written by Nick?

To make a wh-question, insert a question word before ‘was’ or ‘were’:

  • When was the test passed?
  • Where were grapes grown?

In this video, you’ll learn how to use Past Simple Passive:

Read more about:

Present Simple Passive

Future Simple Passive

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