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

dear sir,

in the case of one example above, can i say ' they always enjoy visiting visiting friends' instead of 'they always enjoyed visiting visiting friends'? the latter has no past time marker

Hello jacader,

You can say 'They always enjoy visiting friends', which uses a present simple instead of a past simple ('enjoyed') form of the verb, i.e. both are correct. Repeating the word 'visiting', however, is not correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team 

ah ok, thank you sir. by the way, i have not able to check twice my question, so the word 'visiting' have been repated. just for further clarification sir, can i really use past simple tense without past time marker? or is the example above has hypothetical time marker through another hypothetical sentence?

thank you for time sir :)

Hello jacader,

The past simple for regular verbs is formed by adding 'd' or 'ed' to the end of the bare infinitie. This 'd'/'ed' is what I thought you meant when you said 'past time marker'. Did you mean something else?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

i mean like, yesterday, last night, etc.

Hello jacader,

Thanks for explaining! Yes, the past simple can be used without any adverbial of time - in fact it's quite common. There are some adverbials of time, however, that are not typically used with the past simple, e.g. 'this year'. In cases in which we refer to a time period that hasn't yet finished (2016 has not yet finished, so the time period of 2016 is still happening), the present perfect is more likely to be used. Our talking about the past page explains the differences between these two (and other) tenses.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

i see... now it's clear to me.
thank you very much sir!

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

Pages