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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

Hello Anubhav,

Both sentences are grammatically correct. In 2, you could change 'had collected' to 'collected' and it would also be correct. In 1, it's a little strange to say 'the other day', which we usually use to talk about a non-specific day in the past, in combination with 'when she found out ...', which speaks about a specific time, but the sentence is not incorrect.

Both sentences refer to a finished past time that has no connection with the present, so the present perfect ('has been') would not be appropriate.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Is this past simple or present simple ‘the cars are exported’. I’m confused because ‘are’ is a form of be and used in the present but ‘ed’ on exported is a past tense marker. Help

Hello Naomi03

In this sentence, 'are exported' is a passive verb in the present simple tense. You're right that the ending '-ed' is a past tense marker, but it also has other meanings and uses -- in this case, for example, it a past participle.

You can find an explanation of all of this on our Active and passive page. If you have any other questions after reading that, please let us know.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Can we say 'We learn at school' or 'We learn in school'?

Please explain the difference.

Thanks

Hello Sad,

In the UK, at school can mean either of these:

1. being a pupil (She is still at school can mean she is still a pupil)

2. being physically in the place (She is still at school can mean she has not come home yet)

In school generally only has the second meaning.

 

When you want to ask about, for example, what was done during the day, then either can be used:

What did you learn in school today?

What did you learn at school today?

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Does it make sense?
'We write at school'?
Gives a meaning that we write the word 'at school'!

'At school, we learn to write words'

Isn't it a correct structure?

Regards

Hello Sad,

There is nothing grammatically wrong with either sentence. I think the most likely way to phrase it would be 'We learn to write at school', but it really depends on the context and to what question the person is responding, if any.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you.
It doesn't make sense to me if it's written ' We write at school.', I don't know why?

However, the other 2 make sense, but which is stronger, 'At school, we learn to write.' Or

'We learn to write at school.'

I mean, as a strong correct sentence structure!

Regards

Hello Sad,

Both of these are fine:

At school, we learn to write.

We learn to write at school.

There is no difference in meaning or strength.

 

The sentence 'We write at school' is, as I said, grammatically correct. I think it's very unlikely anyone would say it in conversation but it's possible to think of a context in which it would make sense:

The teacher doesn't give us writing homework. Usually, we have lists of words to learn at home. We write at school.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

why i cannot mention a specific time with present perfect tense or why the time is not important

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