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Past simple

Level: beginner

With most verbs, the past tense is formed by adding –ed:

called liked wanted worked

But there are a lot of irregular past tense forms in English. Here are the most common irregular verbs in English, with their past tense forms:

Base form Past tense
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

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 several times 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 expressions with ago with the past simple:

I met my wife a long time ago.

Past simple 1
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Past simple 2
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Past simple questions and negatives

We use did to make questions with the past simple:

Did she play tennis when she was younger?
Did you live abroad?
When did you meet your wife?
Where did you go for your holidays?

But questions with who often don't use did:

Who discovered penicillin?
Who wrote Don Quixote?

Past simple questions 1
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Past simple questions 2
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We use didn't (did not) to make negatives with the past simple:

They didn't go to Spain this year.
We didn't get home until very late last night.
I didn't see you yesterday.
 

Past simple negatives 1
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Past simple negatives 2
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Level: intermediate

Past simple and hypotheses

We can also use the past simple to refer to the present or future in hypotheses (when we imagine something). See these pages:

Comments

How can we use Past Simple without a specific time reference in the past?
I am really confused,as i have come across some native speakers using Past simple without time reference in the past,
Please help me to clear this doubt.

Thanks in Advance

Hello Abdul Azeez Ibrahim,

It's very common for the past simple to be used without a specific time reference and it is perfectly correct to do so. 

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

I came across this sentence "The hike was one of the best hikes I've ever done." Correct me if I am wrong, I am guessing "was", was used, because the hike was an event of the past.

Would it be correct to say "The hike IS one of the best hikes I've ever done.", to mean that at present / right now / currently, you find this hike one of the best hikes you have ever done?
And say 5 years down the road, you will have gone for many more fulfilling hikes, and so this current hike will no longer be seen as one of the best. Then you use the sentence "The hike was one of the best hikes I've ever done." to mean that at some point in the past, you did see it as one of the best hikes, but you no longer feel so.

Thank you.

Hi Piglet,

Both present and past can be used here and both mean the same as the present perfect (I've ever done) makes it clear that you are referring to the whole of your life up to the present.

 

If you want to show that the statement is no longer true then you need to use a past perfect: That hike was the best I had ever done.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

What's the difference between 'I have lived here for 20 years' and 'I lived here for 20 years'?

Hello kennyMcCormik300

'I have lived here for 20 years' = You still live in the same place now.
(We use the present perfect for actions that started in the past but continue to the present moment.)

'I lived here for 20 years' = You lived in that place in the past. That time is finished and now you live in a different place.
(We use the past simple for actions that finished in the past.)

Hope that helps.

Best wishes
Jo
LearnEnglish Team

Hello
what tense are these
I had a car- past perfect/ simple past
I have a car
I bought a CD that had a famous singer's songs

Hi Samin,

Here are the tenses of those sentences:

  1. past simple (had)
  2. present simple (have)
  3. past simple (bought / had).

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, Would you give the difference in meaning and its (grammatical) usage of "Before and Ago", please! Thank you.

Hi rajeshvr,

Ago is an adverb. It tells us the distance in time from the present moment to another event. When you use ago you need to include a time reference, which can be a number or a description:

It happened 3 years ago.

He died a long time ago.

I saw her not long ago.

 

Before is a flexible word. It can be a preposition, a conjunction or an adverb. When it describes location rather than time it can also be an adjective. We use before to say that an event happened earlier in time than another. Whereas ago relates an action to the present, before simply relates one action to another.. With before we do not have to specify the length of time we are talking about, though we may:

I saw her before you.

I read the book before I watched the film.

I heard of him a long time before I met him.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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