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

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
Past simple 2

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
Past simple questions 2

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
Past simple negatives 2

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:

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Submitted by syahruzzaky on Wed, 23/12/2015 - 22:32

Dear admin, Which is correct use; "simple past" or "past simple"? Thanks in advanced for you answer.

Hello syahruzzaky,

Both terms are very commonly used and as far as I know both are correct. It's mostly a matter of personal preference whether you use one or the other.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Malik Shahbaz on Mon, 21/12/2015 - 16:31

Hi. I do not understand third form of any tense. please give me some tips about that how i would learn it. For example, Radio Licences are issued here. i know it this a passive voice but how it i know it.

Hello Malik Shabaz,

You know this is a passive because it is formed with 'be' ['are'] and the third form ['issued']. Most third forms are regular, but there are irregular forms too and these simply have to be memorised. As to when to use it, this is a question of learning not the third form but the whole verb form which includes it. The third form is rarely used on its own.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Shania1011 on Tue, 24/11/2015 - 13:11

Umm... I have something to ask you, sir.. Which one is the right sentence a) We started to practice b) We started to practiced Thanks in advance.. I'm sorry with my terrible English

Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 25/11/2015 - 06:54

In reply to by Shania1011


Hello Shania1011,

We're happy to help users with this kind of question, but we do ask that you to tell us which one you think is correct or incorrect and why – you can learn much more this way!

In this particular case, I'd suggest you refer to our verbs followed by to + infinitive page – it may help you analyse sentence b).

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Osama gasim Mohamed on Sun, 06/12/2015 - 09:51

In reply to by Shania1011

a) We started to practice.... Is correct because the infinitive ( to + base verb)

Submitted by Dagar on Sun, 11/10/2015 - 15:57

Hi, I am not sure what's the difference between a gerund and an infinitive. I love playing football I love to play football Do both the sentences mean the same or is there any difference, So if you could please tell me when to use a gerund and when an infinitive Thank you

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 12/10/2015 - 22:35

In reply to by Dagar


Hi Dagar,

We actually have several pages devoted to this topic. Take a look at this page and this page, and I think you'll find the answer to your question.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Grace_C on Mon, 24/08/2015 - 13:12

Dear sir, "How DID this even happen?" that applied here is it similar with "Where DID you go?" To apply DID for only past tense? And why "HAPPEN" instead of "HAPPENED"? Thank you and hear from you soon.

Hello Grace_C,

In this sentence 'did' is the auxiliary verb used to form a question in the past tense. In questions, the auxiliary carries the tense information; the main verb is in the base form, not a past form, for example. Thus, 'happen' is correct and not 'happened'.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ronaz2015 on Sat, 18/07/2015 - 12:16

Hello teacher, and thank you for replying,.could you please look at this: My friend was supposed to visit me. If am still at the bas stop waiting him(i waited him from 9 to 11 and hi didn't show up what is correct : I have waited him for 2 hours (since 9 o'clock) I have been waiting him for 2 hours. -I come back to home and he didn't come(i am talking with my family) I waited him for 2 hours(or untill 11 o,clock) I have waited him for 2 hours (untill 11 o'clock)

Hello ronaz2015,

In the first situation, where you're still at the bus stop, by far the more likely statement would be 'I've been waiting for him for two hours' (notice you wait for someone or something).

In the latter situation, when you're at home speaking to your family, the version with the past simple is the best – using the present perfect doesn't work, because the period of time you're speaking about already finished.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sistersepti on Mon, 22/06/2015 - 16:14

Hi there, Could you please explain me more about this point: - Something that happened again and again in the past ex: When I was a boy, I walked a mile to school every day. Is that use the same with the use of 'used to'? because Both are telling a habit and both happened in the past. So, I can say, 'When I was a boy, I used to walk a mile to school every day'. Thanks

Hello Sistersepti,

Yes, this sentence with 'used + infinitive' is also correct. As it used to speak about a past habit that is no longer true, 'used + infinitive' is used in a more limited set of circumstances than the simple past. For example, 'used + infinitive' is not used to speak about how long something happened in the past (e.g. 'I used to live in Singapore for five years' is not correct – a normal past simple is needed here).

Any sentence with 'used + infinitive' can be correctly rewritten in the simple past (though it may be less specific), but not all past simple sentences can be rewritten with 'used + infinitive'.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by manthan228 on Fri, 19/06/2015 - 04:39

simple present tense 1) People are prefer to go the cinema Above sentence right for "present tense" If i will remove "were" then sentence will right. But for "simple past tense" below sentence is wrong why below sentence wrong ? 1) People were preferred to go the cinema please help me why above sentence wrong for simple past sentence. Thanks in advance.

Hello manthan228,

'Prefer' is a regular verb which is followed by 'to infinitive', a noun or a gerund. Therefore your sentences should be:


People prefer to go to the cinema.


People preferred to go to the cinema.

There is no need for 'are' or 'were' in these sentences.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Ok But in this sentence 1) Males were more interested in 3G services. 2) People were preffered or interested to go to the cinema. Why we put "were" in sentence 1 even sentence 1 is right. I do not understand that sentence 1 is right Both sentences used "were" so why sentence 2 is wrong and sentence 1 is right ?

Hello manthan228,

'interest' and 'prefer' work in different ways. 'interest' is both a noun and a verb, and 'interested' is the simple past of the verb 'interest', but it can also function as an adjective. When you see it with the verb 'be', as in 'People were interested in 3G services', it is functioning as an adjective.

'prefer' is only a verb, though 'preferred' can be a verb in the simple past and also an adjective. For the idea in 2, you could say, for example, 'People preferred to go to the cinema' ('preferred' is a verb) or 'People were interested in going to the cinema' ('interested' is an adjective).

I'd suggest you look up both words using the dictionary search box on the lower right side of this page. There you can see more examples of how they are used, which I think might help you understand them.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Phan thủy on Fri, 05/06/2015 - 13:57

Hi teacher, I don't know how we can know when to take "always" in the past simple when used "always" in the present simple? I hope you'll help me know clearly about it. Thanks you very much!

Hi Phan thủy,

I'm not sure what exactly confuses you about the use of 'always' and it's not possible for us to provide long explanations of all possible uses of a word. Perhaps you could post an example sentence which is confusing for you and we'll try to help with that.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ayeshasheikh on Wed, 29/04/2015 - 10:33

Hello Sir, I wanted to know if someone asks a question in past tense using "did" do we have to answer using did or had? For example, if someone asks "didn't you tell me that you would come to see me?" So is it OK to answer "no, i didn't" ?

Hello ayeshasheikh,

Asking this question with 'didn't' normally indicates that the speaker expects you to answer 'yes', but it is OK to say 'no, I didn't' if that is what you mean.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by carlos19garciia on Wed, 08/04/2015 - 03:16

Hi teacher I have a dude with this sentence, which one is correct: - I forgot to invite you -I forgot invited you thank you Carlos

Hi carlos,

The first one is correct. Note that you can often figure out which form is correct by checking verbs in the dictionary - see our searchbox on the lower right.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by abdijamo on Thu, 26/02/2015 - 13:47

hi teacher i have been studying English tenses since last week,it's good well summarized i understand the context of English tenses. here i need little bit advise,Dear teachers i want to know the best edition English grammar books,whether in on-line or had-copy best regard

Hello abdijamo,

I'm afraid that we can't recommend specific titles or websites, but what I can recommend is that you take a look at a variety of books before you purchase one. English grammar is a vast topic, and so most books have a particular focus - it could be on verbs, or typical grammar needed at the intermediate level, etc. If you choose a book that has a focus that matches your needs, you're more likely to find it useful.

Good luck!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by kkolina on Sun, 01/02/2015 - 08:06

Could you help me out with this sentence: We met 10 years ago, when we both had already graduated from college, but (to get) a job yet. I’m not sure what tense form to use for ‘to get’

Hello kkolina,

I'm afraid we do not help users with homework or test questions! You need to think about whether this is something which is in the past and finished (then we would use the past simple) or is still true at the moment of speaking (then we would use the present perfect).

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Clerv on Fri, 02/01/2015 - 19:30

In the following text, I wonder about the use of the past simple in " if active contrast extravasation >>was>has been

Hello Clerv,

If I've understood this correctly, the MA is done based on the results of a prior CTMA scan. The past simple, present perfect or even the present simple would communicate this idea in this specific context, i.e. a description of normal procedure. The temporal relationship between the two events is characterised slightly differently with each verb form, e.g. the present simple suggests routine more strongly than the others, but the context makes it clear that the scan precedes the MA.

I hope this helps.

Best regards,
The LearnEnglish Team

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MartaL. on Thu, 11/12/2014 - 17:11

Hello Sir, is this sentence correct? "They didn’t go to Spain this year." I think it's wrong because the time (this year) is not finished yet. In this case I've read that we must use the present perfect. Can you clarify this doubt? Thank you! Marta

Hi Marta,

Yes, while it's true that the present perfect is often used with 'this' + a time period, it is possible to use the past simple. Saying 'They haven't gone to Spain this year' indicates that you are thinking of this year up until now, whereas saying 'They didn't go to Spain this year' indicates that your perspective on this year is that it's finished or nearly finished. For example, on New Year's Eve, the past simple would make more sense, as the year is indeed nearly finished and trips to Spain are no longer possible.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dhruv_r on Tue, 11/11/2014 - 05:36

Hello sir.. Please tell me the correct sentence from the options provided below :- 1) I didn't expect your reply. 2) I was not expecting your reply. 3) I had not expected your reply. Please tell me if i can use all of the above sentences for the situation or not. If not all of them, then which of these i can use. Thank you :)

Hello dhruv_r,

These sentences are all correctly formed, but it's impossible to say which one is correct without knowing the situation they are to be used in.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by xBrandNewGirlx on Sun, 02/11/2014 - 11:21

Hello dearest teachers :) I have several questions.You gave us an example of Past Simple: ,,I lived abroad for ten years''. As I know,we can also say ,,I have lived abroad for ten years" So,how can I guess which one to use in Tests?? I also have a question about Present Continuous. What's the difference between ,,It's always raining in London" and ,,It always rains in London" and how to realize which one to use? In advance,Thank you. Tamara. x

Hello Tamara,

'I lived abroad for ten years' tells us about the past: we do not live abroad any longer.

'I have lived abroad for ten years' tells us about the present as well as the past: we still live abroad.

'It always rains in London' tells us that this is typical weather for London. The present simple is the normal tense for talking about typical or regular events.

'It's always raining in London' tells us that we don't like this fact - we find it irritating. The present continuous with an adverb such as 'always', 'constantly or 'forever' is used to describe a typical or regular event which is annoying.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

For more information on the present perfect look here.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much,Peter.That indeed helped me a lot. x

Submitted by Karzan_Camus on Thu, 30/10/2014 - 07:25

Hi teachers Is it possible to use the pronoun (I) after (did) in interrogative sentences? e.g did i call you last night. is it correct??

Hello Karzan_Camus,

Yes, that is a correctly formed question in the past simple - the only thing missing is a question mark (?) at the end: 'Did I call you last night?'

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jeromedamas on Thu, 16/10/2014 - 19:39

Hi, when is the right time to use shall and will? for instance;- i shall call you later or i will call you later which one is correct?

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 17/10/2014 - 11:30

In reply to by jeromedamas


Hi jeromedamas,

Could you post your question about future forms on a related page, please? This will help to keep the site coherent and ensure that your question (and our answer) will be found by people looking for information on that topic.

Many thanks,



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rajanrichards on Sun, 10/08/2014 - 22:24

past simple back next 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:(This should be :Here not Her)
Hello Rajan, Thanks for telling us about this problem. I've fixed it now. Do let us know if you see any other typos on LearnEnglish! Best wishes, Adam The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by preetam saha on Sun, 27/07/2014 - 07:47

respected sir , i have smome questions to ask related to simple past . simple past is used to describe action which has happened once aswell as repeted actions so how do we make a difference and what correct way to use it.example 1.The women wrote letter to police against some boys who would through garbage in her house 2nd. The woman wrote a letter to police against some boys who threw garbage in her hose. now my question is in the first sentence how many times she wrote the letter to police and in the second sentence how many times the boys threw garbage

Submitted by Oscas Po on Fri, 18/07/2014 - 13:49

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.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 19/07/2014 - 07:18

In reply to by Oscas Po


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,



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by stevencch on Sat, 05/07/2014 - 08:09

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,



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Winnie Huen on Mon, 02/06/2014 - 05:36

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.