past simple

 

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. Her 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

Comments

hellow!
correct me if i'm wrong, the example "She played a lot of tennis when she was younger" seemed to be in simple past in the form of "something that was true for some time in the past" but i found out it is also in the form of "something that happened again and again in the past" because she used to play tennis several times but in the past.

Hello Oscas Po,

You are correct: the past simple is used here for something which was true in the past but is not longer the case. This may be something which happened once or which was repeated, and it may be something that was true for a long time or a short time. The key point is that it was in the past and is completed.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi teacher,

how about understand?

if a teacher ask do you understand when he taught yesterday, should we answer
I understood, or I understand?

If I said I understood, does it means I understood yesterday, but now I don't understand?

Actually, I am very confused about past tense. The past tense shows something happens in past, how about something happened in past, but still bring forward to now.

For example, She felt shy easily, now she is no longer feel shy.
I understood what you said yesterday. (now, I no longer understand that)

I wish you could help me, thank you so much

Hello stevencch,

The past simple in these examples does not necessarily tell us about the present. If the teacher explained and you say 'I understood' then it tells us only about yesterday; it is possible that you stil understand and and it is possible that you do not. In such cases we rely on the context to help us to decide which is the case.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi teacher,

I'm feel confuse for the following example to use 'had'
e.g. They had a daughter.
For this sentence, did they had a daughter only in the past ? Do they have daughter now ?

Thank you teacher.

Hello Winnie,

The verb have has many different uses and meanings. When speaking about a child, as in the sentence you cite, it could mean that in that family there were parents and a girl who was their child, or it could mean that a woman in that family gave birth to a daughter. If you look up have in our dictionary search box (on the right), you'll see definitions and examples of this.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello thendral,

I'd suggest you look up the word in our dictionary (see the search box on the right). Some people also refer to the infinitive as the "first form" of a verb.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hello teacher peter

I understand what you have said, thanks,

But, sometimes we cannot use " and" with perfect tense and my point is:

I went to school and I had met my friends. ( wrong)

But If I use " and " with past simple:
I went to school and I met my friends ( correct)

Because (and) means another action after it.

Also I think I cannot say:
I finish my work and I had visited my friends. ( wrong)
But , I can say
I finish my work and visited my friends. ( correct)

Also, I try to use "and" with past continuous and I wonder if its correct to use it correctly.

Am I right teacher?

Hello sdgnour2014,

Once again, I have to repeat that the conjunction 'and' does not influence whether or not certain tenses are correct; you are looking at this the wrong way and are looking for a rule in the wrong place.  It is perfectly acceptable to use 'and' with any tense providing the tenses are used logically and grammatically.  The reason the sentence you quote is wrong is not because of the conjunction; it is wrong because you cannot use a past perfect form to express an action which follows a past simple action.  The problem is that the sequence of tenses is illogical, not that the conjunction 'and' is in the sentence.

'And' does not necessarily imply a sequence.  It can join sentences describing simultaneous actions ('I lived in Rome and worked at a bank') and it can join actions in different orders ('I lived in Rome and, before that, I lived in Paris' / 'I lived in Paris and, after that, I lived in Rome').  The conjunction does not determine the verb form; reality and our perspective on that reality determine the verb form we choose.

I hope that clarifies the issue for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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