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 question forms

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

Section: 

Comments

Hello,
Can you think of any exceptions to the following 'rules'?
The past simple form of the verb is used to describe finished events or states.

Hello lxndra,

Every verb form in English can be used in more than one way, and the past simple certainly can – under the category Use (above) you can see four of these uses and if you browse this English Grammar section more, you'll see other uses as well.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Dananjaya,

That is correct – it just needs a question mark ('?') at the end.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for helping us, Sir. It will help a lot to us. I would like to ask what is difference of these following sentences and also check if it is correct or incorrect:
1. We never do anything wrong
2. We never did anything wrong
3. We will never do anything wrong
4. We haven't done anything wrong
5. We had not done anything wrong
6. We will have done anything wrong
7. We are not doing anything wrong
8. We weren't doing anything wrong
9. We will not be doing anything wrong
10. We haven't been doing anything wrong
11. We hadn't been doing anything wrong
12. We will haven't been doing anything wrong

Hello j.Lux16,

I'm afraid we can't answer questions like this! You're asking for a very long and detailed explanation of multiple points of grammar - essentially an individual lesson here. In the comments section our role is to help with questions relating to material on the page. When time allows, we try to deal with other questions too but we can't provide individual lessons for our users, I'm afraid.

Your questions are all about verb forms - time, tense and aspect. You can use our grammar section on verbs to research these forms and I'm sure that will help. Then, if you have any specific questions about particular examples we'll be happy to try to help.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear admin,
Which is correct use; "simple past" or "past simple"?
Thanks in advanced for you answer.

Hello syahruzzaky,

Both terms are very commonly used and as far as I know both are correct. It's mostly a matter of personal preference whether you use one or the other.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi. I do not understand third form of any tense. please give me some tips about that how i would learn it. For example, Radio Licences are issued here. i know it this a passive voice but how it i know it.

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