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,
I have a question about sth really stupid..
For example, I'm in a disco club and I hear a song.If I say "I liked this song", does it mean that I liked the song when I heard it but I don't like it anymore or I liked the song and I still like it.
What have I to say?:
"I like this song" or "I liked this song"
When my give me a present what I have to say??
"This is the present I wanted" or "this is the present I want"

Hello tulin,

In the disco you should say 'I like this song' because, presumably, you still like it. If you used to like it but no longer do then you could say 'liked'. For example, you might say 'I liked this song when I was a kid'.

With the present, you should say 'wanted' because once you have it you no longer want it in the same way. You might want to keep it, but you no longer want to get it as you already have it.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

I always found some examples being used the past tense from dictionary or conversational English book. But I don't know why the examples like the following are always in the past tense? Do they really mean the actions are at the past? or something else?

eg. I was suspicious of his motives.
eg. I was wondering if you could water our plants.
eg. I was wondering what the next station is.

Hello hahalulu,

It's not really possible for me to say how the past tense is being used in each sentence without knowing the context, but, for example, in the second and third sentences, it could be indicating a past action or it could be used as a polite form. Sometimes to 'soften' a request, people use the past tense, which is less direct and therefore considered more polite. This is similar to the way you can ask for permission using 'can' (present tense - 'Can I open the window?') or 'could' (past tense - 'Could I open the window?') – the form with 'could' is a little more polite.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Kirk, thank you so much!

Hi Sir,

Since the below sentence is about past tense. Is it correct if i put the new sentence in the bracket?

They didn’t go to Spain this year. (They didn't went to Spain this year). Replace "go" with "went"

We didn’t get home until very late last night. (We didn't got home until very late last night) Replace "get" with "got"

I didn’t see you yesterday. (I didn't saw you yesterday). Replace "see" with "saw".

Please correct me. Thank you.

Hello marcus,

What you suggest is logical, but it is not correct. It might help to think of the auxiliary verb 'did' (in 'didn't') as the word that tells you the tense, and then of course the base forms ('go', 'get' and 'see') tell you the action. But if you find this idea confusing, please ignore it! 

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I think maybe i get it. 'didn't' in the sentence already shows it is past tense, and we don't change the base forms ('go', 'get', and 'see') to ('went', 'got' and 'saw'). Is it correct to say this way? Thank you.

Hello marcus,

Exactly! Well done!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

which is the correct answer?
and why?
I paid her one dollar, When she answered my question.
I was paying her one dollar, When she was answering my question.
I was taking a bath when the telephone was ringing.
I took a bath when the telephone rang.

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