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

Hello Timmosky,

I'm not sure I'd use those terms (generalise and breakdown) but the uses of the forms in your examples are fine. The continuous forms represent actions in progress and the simple describes actions taken as a whole.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sorry for my bothering questions on past simple and past continuous but I really wanna put all doubts in my mind to rest. I've read about it several times and the way people use them I think is dependent on choice. E.g
1 I was telling her the other day not to provoke her aunt but she wouldnt listen.
2. I told her the other day not to provoke her aunt but she wouldn't listen. These two sentences mean the same thing or is there a particular way of using past continuous because to me it seems you can substitute past simple in many past continuous usages.

Hello Timmosky,

As I said in a previous answer, aspect reflects the prespective of the speaker regarding the action, not the fact of the action itself. In many cases there is a choice and the speaker may choose, for example, to emphasise the repeated nature of an action because it is in some way notable (such as being irritating or impressive that the person is so persistent).

There are uses where only one form makes sense, or where the meaning changes. For example:

I was talking to her when he arrived.

I talked to her when he arrived.

In the first example he arrived during my conversation with her. In the second sentence I begin talking to her only when he arrives.

In your example both forms are possible and there is little difference between them. The continuous form emphasises that it was not merely one comment to her but a process which the speaker may see as ongoing - the speaker's efforts to convince her continued (in his mind) up to the point at which they failed. This may be through multiple conversations or it may be simply that the speaker viewed the issue as incomplete because he intended to return to the topic. The simple form suggests that the speaker sees it as complete: he spoke to her and after that the issue was left to her to decide what to do next. As I said, it is a question of the speaker's perspective on the situation.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir
I have studied mass communication or I studied mass communication

Hi aseel aftab,

This is the same issue (present perfect or past simple) that has already been explained in answers to several previous questions. Please take a look at those answers.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I have a question as regards reporting speeches. A girl told me: "cats are better than dogs because they are cuter". Now I don't believe this but i still want to report what she said. Can I say what she said I.e "cats are better than dogs because they are cuter" and then say I don't believe this or am I meant to report it using the indirect speech i.e you said cats were better than dogs because they were cuter automatically every time I don't believe an idea or expression?

Hello Timmosky,

As I mentioned in my other response to your similar question on another page, I'd say indirect speech is more common, though really you can choose whether to use direct or indirect speech.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir!
Why we say that floods have resulted in loss of valuable lives. Rather we can say floods resulted in loss of valuable human lives because the action has finished

Hello aseel aftab,

We use the present perfect when there is a result in the present of a past action. If the floods happened very recently and the results are still being felt then 'have resulted' is appropriate. If, however, the floods happened a long time ago and are more historical then 'resulted' would be better.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir! Why we say that he passes away at 98 is it correct to use present tense in a past situation or we should say that he passed away at 98

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