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

I want to express what the previous and current government said about corruption. PDP is the previous and apc is the current.
1) PDP said stealing isn't corruption
2) apc said padding isn't corruption. Should the word said be in simple past or present? Thank you

Hello sirmee,

Both 'said' and 'says' are possible here. If you say 'said' then you are talking about a claim in the past which may or may not still be the opinion of the speaker. If you say 'say' then you are talking about a view which the speaker still definitely holds.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, I came across this post on twitter. The user posted a video and wrote the following. "I accidently came across this video clip and I'm leaving this here to watch you." My question is came is in the past form while the action is still present at the moment he posted the tweet. Can you please explain

Hello sirmee,

I'm afraid we can't comment on random internet comments! People write all sorts of things and often they are not perfect users of English. That sentence contains errors so to use it as a model for learning or trying to understand grammatical rules is not a good idea.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
(1) Since my father joined this post , he has not taken bribe.
(2) Since my father joined this post , he did not take bribe.
(3) Since my father has joined this post , he did not take bribe.
(Which one is correct and rule for the correct sentence)

Hello Tapan100,

The first sentence is correct.

'Join' is an action which is immediate and which does not take place over a period of time, so a past tense is appropriate for the first clause. The action in the second clause describes behaviour over a period of time from the past up to the present, and so the present perfect is required.

It would be possible to use the present perfect in the first clause if the action takes place over a period of time to the present, but a different verb from 'join' is needed:

Since my father has been a member of..., he has not taken a bribe.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir/Madam,
Somehow I can't drag the verbs to the gaps. Could someone advise what can be wrong? Mant thanks!
Sincerely yours
Wenjie

Hello tangpd,

To move the items click once on the word (but do not hold the click) and then click where you want to put it. There is no need to hold and drag; just click.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

1. Someone has broken the vase.
2. Someone broke the vase last week.
The first phrase refers to Present perfect tense and the second to past simple, right?
How can i know the different?

Hello Quezia Damaris Vasconcelos,

This is very similar to your question on another page, which I have answered. THe present perfect here tells us something which is still relevant and current. For example, we would say the first sentence when this information is still new - maybe we have just dicovered this, or the vase is still lying on the floor. The second sentence describes a completed event which is no longer current.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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