The past simple Tense in English is the most common way to talk about complete actions that occurred in the past . It is an important verb tense in English that you must learn to master very well.
The formation of the past simple in English depends a lot on the type of verb that is being used. When they are regular verbs, it is very simple. But there is a list of irregular verbs that you must learn by heart in order to conjugate them. In this lesson you will learn how the past simple is formed in English and what are the uses it receives .
How is the past simple formed in English?
When the verb you want to use is regular , then the infinitive form of it is used adding the ending “ed” . It will be the same verb form for all persons or personal pronouns.
- learn> learned
- show> showed
- stay> stayed
- walk> walked
- want> wanted
There are some exceptions that you should take into account:
If the verb ends in “e”, just add the letter “d” at the end:
- believe> believed
- change> changed
When the verb ends in a short vowel and consonant (minus “y” / “w”), the final consonant is doubled and “ed” is added :
- commit> committed
- stop> stopped
If the verb ends in a consonant plus a “y” , then the latter is changed to an “i” and we add “ed” :
- try> tried
- study> studied
Finally, there is no specific rule for conjugating irregular verbs in the past simple. Unfortunately, there are many and it will be necessary for you to memorize them in order to know which is the correct form in each verb tense.
We show you an example of three common irregular verbs that are also used many times as auxiliaries:
- The verb “to be” becomes “was” (for the pronouns I, he, she, it) or “were” (with the pronouns you, we, they) when we conjugate it in the past simple.
- Another example is the verb “to do” which in the past tense is “did” for all people.
- The irregular verb “to have” becomes “had” when spoken in the past simple.
Uses of the past simple in English
# 1 Concrete actions of the past
Used to refer to an action that started and ended in the past . It is usually accompanied by adverbs of time, such as “yesterday”, “last year”, “last night”, and so on.
- Mark worked last Sunday.
- Ana stayed at home last week.
- I didn’t go to the school yesterday.
- Did you walk to work this morning?
# 2 Set of actions
When we want to talk about a series of events that occurred in the past .
- She received the bad news and immediately called her boyfriend.
- I studied for two hours in the morning, worked all afternoon and return home at night.
# 3 Habitual actions of the past
It also serves to talk about habitual or repeated actions that occurred in the past .
- I talked to my sister one hour every morning.
- Occasionally, I have played (Every now and then, he played volleyball.)
# 4 Actions of long periods in the past
When we want to talk about events that took place over a long period of time but in the past.
- She lived for many years in Miami. (She lived for many years in Miami.)
- They didn’t play soccer for months. (They didn’t play soccer for months.)
# 5 Par generalities from the past
You can state facts or generalities that happened in the past .
- The Aztec lived in Mexico.
- He played the piano when he was a child. (He played the piano as a child.)
Negation in the past simple
The negation in this tense is very simple, it does not matter if the verb is regular or irregular. You just have to place “did not” before the main verb , which does not need to be conjugated but is used in the infinitive without the “to”. You can use the collapsed form “didn’t” in place of “did not”.
The grammatical structure is as follows:
Subject + did not + infinitive verb without the “to” + complement.
- He didn´t keep his promise.
- I didn´t finish my homework.
The only exception is the verb “to be”. In this case you must use the conjugated verb “was” or were ”accompanied by“ not ”. The contracted forms of these two words are: “wasn´t” and “weren´t” .
- He wasn’t a lawyer.
- The children weren’t in their room.
Interrogative form of the past simple in English
To ask a question in the past simple , the auxiliary verb “did” is also used , it does not matter if you use a regular or irregular verb. In both cases, the main verb remains the same as its infinitive base form without the “to”.
The grammatical structure is as follows:
Did + subject + infinitive verb without the “to”?
- Did you know her? (Did you know her?).
- Did she give it to him? (Did she give it to him?)
When the question has an interrogative word, then it is structured as follows:
Interrogative Word + did + Subject + Infinitive Verb without the “to”?
- Where did he go ? (
- Why did you stop studying ?
Simple past with irregular verbs
There is no definite form for irregular verbs so you have to learn each of them . Remember that the irregular form will only be used for affirmative sentences. In negations and questions you must use the infinitive form without the “to”, just as in regular verbs.
- Tina spoke to Nick last night.
- Did she speak to Nick last night?
- She didnt speak to Nick last night.
We hope that after reading this article we have understood the Past simple Tense in English.