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.
It is stated in this section that we use simple past to talk about something that happened again and again in the past.
So can we use 'every day' in a simple past sentence? Such as the sentences. below,

Soon, they became friends. Every day, the boy helped Lina to cut wood.
Thank you sir

Hello Omyhong,

Yes, you can use 'every day' like that -- your sentence is correct. Well done!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I have just reread my message and see my possible mistakes,but nevertheless I am waiting for your comments )

Hello LETeam!
Which way of expressing is more correct in the following situation: (prehistory of situation) -
I begin to brush teeth and in one second i realize that i have taken hand cream instead of tooth paste by mistake. Then in two minutes I ,full of emotions,meet my friend and say to him what have happened :
1. Listen, I almost brushed my teeth with hand cream just now!
2. Listen,I have almost brushed my teeth with hand cream now!

Question: Which is better or more correcr here,i mean Past simple(1) or Present perfect(2),if only I have used them correctly? As I see it both Tenses are correct,but it depends on how thе situation looks like "from outside" or is progressing in reality...,i.e. if Present perfect is possible here then under what rule do we use it? And another thing: do "just now"(ex.1) and "now"(ex.2) fit in rightly with the sentences and tenses?
And the last question (sorry for several ones at a time !) :
Is my description of the sisituation
"I begin to brush teeth and in one second i realize that i have taken hand cream instead of tooth paste by mistake. Then in two minutes I ,full of emotions,meet my friend and say to him what have happened "
is correct in terms of
Sequence of tenses, and is it possible to use Present simple and Present perfect tenses the way I have done it, i.e can a storyteller use Perfect tenses when meaning past events?
If my "description" is not correct,could you please put it right?

If you answer I will be indebted to you forever ))

Hello Slava B,

The correct form here is past simple because the action is complete/finished. You stopped yourself and so the brushing is entirely in the past, with no present result. You might use the present perfect if you use a verb which has a clear present result:

I have just stopped brushing... / I have just stopped myself brushing...

 

I hope that's helpful. I'm afraid we don't provide corrections of writing. It is possible to use a range of tenses, including perfect tenses, in stories such as this. The key is whether the action is finished (takes place in a finished time frame) or not and has a present result or not.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello team,
I've just encountered this sentence this morning: "I didn't know you smoked". The situation here is the speaker realises her friend smoke. Because her friend still smokes at the present time so I think it must be "I didn't know you smoke". And is it different with "I don't know you smoke"?
Can you explain it for me?
Thanks in advance.

Hello Quynh Nhu,

Both 'smokes' and 'smoked' are fine here. If you say 'smokes' then it must be true that the person still smokes. If you say 'smoked' then you could be talking about something which was true when you found out but is no longer true now (they stopped smoking at some point) or something which is still true. The difference is perhaps clearer with a different example:

 

I didn't know you were a teacher. [you were a teacher at that time and may or may not be still a teacher]

I didn't know you are a teacher. [you were a teacher at that time and you still are a teacher now]

 

You can read more about the use of various verb forms on these pages:

reporting and summarising

reporting verbs and different clauses

reported speech 1

reported speech 2

reporting questions

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir,
It would be better to keep listening system for corrections.

Hello Ilma Hasan,

Do you mean that you would prefer to listen to the answers rather than see them? That's a great idea! I'm afraid, however, that our exercises aren't designed in a way that we can do that. I'll make a note of it for the future, though. Thanks for your feedback.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Please advice how can I use questions in the past:
-She asked me about am I want to join the membership.
or
-She asked me about I am want to join the membership
I tried to meant, if the sentences is in the past, still have to take the question or not?
thanks

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