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

Hi Sir, as for the grammar rule, I am uncertain if I should use remind or reminded in the sentence below.

‪Question: Whenever I saw an ML350, it remind or reminded me of my very favorite uncle.

My uncle is late. He used an Ml350. Someone passed-by with the car and I wanted to express how I feel on twitter.

Hello sirmee,

This depends on whether the sentence is still true or not:

Whenever I saw an ML350, it reminded me of my very favorite uncle.

This sentence refers to the past. You may be talking about your childhood, for example, or your memory may have faded, or you may no longer see ML350s for some reason.

 

Whenever I see an ML350, it reminds me of my very favorite uncle.

This refers to the present; it is still true.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Mr Peter for the clear and concise explanation.
I used the past form instead of the present. Our neighbor bought the car, whenever he pass by, he reminds me of my uncle. So the whole thing is still happening except for my uncle

Good evening sir,
Which sentence is correct as per tense rule?
1) if it is definite time in the past, we should use simple past.
[as per the rule which sentence is correct]
A)The rain was late by four hours.
or
B)The train is late by four hours.

Hello asr09,

If you are describing a particular situation in the past then the first sentence is correct.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

The 2nd sentence denotes the future in simple present .[The train is late by four hours]

Hello asr09,

This sentence describes the present rather than the past. You would say it, for example, if you are waiting for a train due at 15.00 and the time is now 19.00.

To talk about the future we would say 'will be' rather than 'is':

It's almost 7.00 now! Another ten minutes and the train will be late by four hours!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. I don't understand why they use past simple instead of present perfect un this sentence : "who wrote DON QUIXOTE ?". DON QUIXOTE is still written. It is unfinished state , i think

Hello jau20,

I think you are confusing the state of being written (which is true of the book now) with the act of writing the book (which ended in 1605/1615 as far as we know).

The act of writing the book was completed long ago; it is now finished and Cervantes is not still writing it. For completed actions in the past we use the past simple, not the present perfect.

You would use the present perfect for actions which are still unfinished. For example, you might say:

Don Quixote has been loved for generations. [it is still loved today]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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