Forms

With most verbs the past tense is formed by adding -ed:

call >> called; like >> liked; want >> wanted; work >> worked

But there are a lot of irregular past tenses in English. Here are the most common irregular verbs in English, with their past tenses:

infinitive irregular past
be
begin
break
bring
buy
build
choose
come
cost
cut
do
draw
drive
eat
feel
find
get
give
go
have
hear
hold
keep
know
leave
lead
let
lie
lose
make
mean
meet
pay
put
run
say
sell
send
set
sit
speak
spend
stand
take
teach
tell
think
understand
wear
win
write
was/were
began
broke
brought
bought
built
chose
came
cost
cut
did
drew
drove
ate
felt
found
got
gave
went
had
heard
held
kept
knew
left
led
let
lay
lost
made
meant
met
paid
put
ran
said
sold
sent
set
sat
spoke
spent
stood
took
taught
told
thought
understood
wore
won
wrote

 

Use

We use the past tense to talk about:

  • something that happened once in the past:

I met my wife in 1983.
We went to Spain for our holidays.
They got home very late last night.

  • something that happened again and again in the past:

When I was a boy I walked a mile to school every day.
We swam a lot while we were on holiday.
They always enjoyed visiting their friends.

  • something that was true for some time in the past:

I lived abroad for ten years.
He enjoyed being a student.
She played a lot of tennis when she was younger.

  • we often use phrases with ago with the past tense:

I met my wife a long time ago.

Questions and negatives

We use did to make questions with the past tense:

When did you meet your wife?
Where did you go for your holidays?
Did she play tennis when she was younger?
Did you live abroad?

But look at these questions:

Who discovered penicillin?
Who wrote Don Quixote?

For more on these questions see our question forms page

We use didn’t (did not) to make negatives with the past tense:

They didn’t go to Spain this year.
We didn’t get home until very late last night.
I didn’t see you yesterday. 

Exercise

Comments

We use “Did...+infinitive” to form question in the past. In what situations I use “were” to form question?

For example: what was the wealther like yesterday?
Why cannot said like
What did the wealther like yesterday?

Or Were you alone? And Did you alone? What is different between those sentences.

Hello Vivian888999,

When the main verb in the sentence is a form of 'be' then we invert the verb and subject to form a question:

He is a teacher > Is he a teacher?

You are alone > Are you alone?

 

When the main verb is not 'be' we use the auxiliary verb 'do' in the appropriate form before the subject and the base form of the main verb:

She lives in London > Where does she live?

They watched the film at the cinema > Did they watch the film at the cinema?

 

When the verb has two parts, we invert the subject and the first auxiliary verb:

You have lived here for ten years > Have you lived here for ten years?

The class will be going to Paris next week > Will the class be going to Paris next week?

 

You can read more about question forms on this page and this page.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello
is it right to say i have been to spain this year?

Hello Abdel El,

Yes, that is perfectly fine, grammatically speaking. Remember that names of countries should be capitalised (Spain rather than spain).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir
This question is under puntuation; I hope it is all right to ask.
My quesstion: what does 'two o'clock' mean when one writes it without the apostrophe?
Is it 'two on the clock' I am I right or wrong?
Please let me know.
Thank you.
Regards
Andrew int

Hello Andrew international,

 

'o'clock' is an abbreviation of 'of the clock', not 'on the clock'.

I can't think of a situation when I'd say 'two on the clock'. There is the phrase 'on the clock', which people use in a work context to refer to the fact that they are being paid to work at a given time and so, for example, they shouldn't be answering personal phone calls. But it's not used to refer to a specific time of day.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Can I use past for the next case?
> I played football for five years.

I want to say that I played football maybe ten, maybe more years ago. Not the last five years. Somewhere in the past, but totally around five years.

Hello Emaximus,

You can say this sentence but it means something different. 'For' here tells us how long you played football so the sentence tells us that you played football in the past and do not now and that your playing career lasted five years.

I think the best way to express what you want, if I've understood correctly, would be this:

I haven't played football for five years or so.

I used to play football, five years ago or so.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Under the heading 'Questions and Negatives' why is the auxiliary 'did' used in the first four examples, but not in the last two examples? Could you please explain the grammar rules for this difference? Thank you.

Hello JJ53,

This is because those are subject questions. Please see our Question forms and subject/object questions page for an explanation of this. If it's still not clear after you read that page, please don't hesitate to ask us again.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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