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 our question forms page

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,
I would like to quote the first part of a passage as below:
"Up until the 1960s, not many British people had flown abroad for their holidays. Although the idea was attractive, flying was still too expensive for most people. The only choice people HAD WAS to go to British resorts. Instead of ...."
I try to explain words "HAD WAS" in above sentence, but I can't. What is its grammar structure or something like that? Please, help me understand it clearly.
Thank you!
Best,
David

Hi davidnh,

Simplifying the sentence helps to make this clear, I think. We can simplify the sentence as follows:

The only choice was to go to British resorts.

 

You can see that the subject here is 'The only choice'. All we need to do now is to add the qualifying phrase:

The only choice people had was to go to British resorts.

 

The sentence has the same structure as before but now the subject is 'The only choice people had'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teachers, hope you all are good. I have a question in a sentence like "he was saying that we needed to be paid more for our work". Can "that" be ommitted and just say "he was saying we needed to be paid more for our work" thanks

Hello Timmosky,

Yes, you can omit 'that' here. It's quite common to omit it after verbs like 'say' and does not change the meaning.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

And also "said" and "told". "That" may also be ommitted e.g "he told me he was sick" and "he said he needed to think". Thanks

Hello guys it's me again, I know you might have answered me something like this before but I just wanna be sure I'm saying it right. My pastor said "life is what you make it" he only uttered that statement. Now when I'm reporting it at another time can I say: my pastor said life is what you make it, while he was saying this, i was typing on my phone...is this statement right? after using said, I used was saying again being that he just utterd that one statement.
Also, is it write to say something like: I sat while they were talking or Is it I was sitting while they were talking. Thanks again I really need clarifications

Hello Timmosky,

I'm not sure I've understood exactly what you're asking, but yes, you can say 'My pastor said life is what you make of it'. You could also use the past ('...said life was what you make of it') but I think 'is' is better here since it's an observation about life in general this also true for the present and future.

By the way, it would be easier to understand your questions if you put the words you are asking about between 'inverted commas' or in bold or italics.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

My first question is, is there any difference between "I sat there listening to them while they were talking" and "I was sitting there listening to them while they were talking" also I want to be sure if a single line sentence can be referred to as "saying"? I.e my pastor said "life's what you make it". Since that's just a single line sentence, can I report it and then say "while he was saying that, I was texting on my phone" can I use the word saying to describe the process of saying what was said even if it's a single line statement is my second question....thanks

Hello Timmosky,

The difference between the past simple and past continuous is explained on our talking about the past page. What exactly the difference between those two sentences is depends a lot on the context or the speaker's view of the situation, so it would take a bit of explaining to really make it clear. Why don't you tell us what you think the difference could be and then we can confirm or correct it?

Yes, you can use 'saying' in that way -- no problem.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk, I don't think there's much difference between the two sentences I "sat" is past simple "was sitting" is past continuous and it depends on the aspect of the speaker. I've always spoken English quite well but my fears began one day when I spoke to my gf who's American and she said I used some certain sentences wrongly in some contexts. That's why I want to be well grounded. My problem is how people use past simple and continuous in a sentence without interruptions. E.g "I watched as the blood was dripping from his body last week". I say things like this everyday but sometimes I'm unsure If they are right in some contexts. "Watched" past simple "was dripping" past continuous. You watched the action as a whole, was dripping was just part of what you saw....if you can explain this usages to me very well then I'm Good with my English.

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