The Past Simple is the basic form of past tense in English. We use Past Simple to say what we did in the past. The time of the action can be in the recent past or the distant past and action duration is not important. We use it for finished actions:
- I lived in Madrid last year.
- She went on holiday last week.
- I studied music at school.
How to form Past Simple
The verb ‘be’
In Past Simple, the verb ‘be’ has two forms — was and were:
- Jack and Tom were late this morning.
- It was cold yesterday.
- She was sad last week.
In Past Simple, we add ‘-ed’ to most verbs. These verbs are called regular:
- To work → I worked in a shop last year.
- To play → I played basketball on Monday.
- To cook →She cooked fish yesterday.
There are some rules to remember when adding ‘-ed’ to certain verbs.
Spelling rules for adding ‘-ed’
a) For regular verbs ending in ‘-e’, add ‘-d’:
- To live → John lived in Brazil.
- To close → She closed the door.
b) For regular verbs ending in one consonant + ‘-y’, change the ‘-y’ to ‘-ied‘ (y + ed = ied):
- To study → They studied German.
- To try → I tried to be kind.
c) For regular verbs that end in one vowel + one consonant, double the consonant and add ‘-ed’:
- To stop → They stopped the car.
- To plan → Nick planned a business trip.
d) We do not double the consonants ‘y’ or ‘w’:
- To play → She played piano.
- To row → He rowed 3km yesterday.
e) We do not double the consonant when the last syllable is not stressed:
- To listen → I listened to the radio.
- To visit → Margaret visited her mother on Tuesday.
3. Some verbs in English are irregular. They have different past forms:
|break → broke||have → had|
|go → went||take → took|
|leave → left||know → knew|
|make → made||send → sent|
|write → wrote||run → ran|
When to use Past Simple
We use the Past Simple tense to talk about:
1) completed actions in the past:
- We saw him last Sunday.
- They got home very late last night.
2) actions that happened again and again in the past (habitual actions):
- I always did my homework on time when I was a student.
- We swam a lot while we were on holiday.
3) something that was true for some time in the past (action as a fact):
- I lived abroad for ten years.
- He enjoyed being a student.
4) series of completed actions in the past:
- I woke up, washed my face, got dressed and left home.
- I visited my grandma, stayed for a couple of hours and then went home.
To say when something happened, we often use certain past time expressions:
1. frequency: often, sometimes, always
- I sometimes walked home at lunchtime.
- I often brought my lunch to school.
2. a definite point in time: last week, when I was a child, yesterday, six weeks ago
- Yesterday, I arrived in Geneva.
- She finished her work at seven o’clock.
3. an indefinite point in time: the other day, ages ago, a long time ago
- People lived in caves a long time ago.
- She played the piano when she was a child.
Watch this video from Crown Academy of English to learn about how to form and when to use Past Simple tense:
Read more about Past Simple: