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 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

Hi
You enquiry is related to speech. Here, you're using the reported speech. The proper form of your sentence would be, "She asked me if I wanted to join the membership". Since it is not a direct question, a question mark (?) is not used.

Hello kz45277,

I'm afraid that neither of these sentences is grammatically correct. These are what are called reported questions. As you can see on the page I linked to, reported yes/no questions use the words 'if' or 'whether' before the question clause. For example, for your sentence, this would be:

She asked me if I wanted to join (or 'if I wanted to become a member' or 'if I wanted to purchase a membership')

You'll notice that I also rephrased your question clause, since we don't say 'join a membership'. I'm not sure which is more appropriate since I don't know the context of this question.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hi Sir
Could you please explain this sentence for me?
'You haven’t changed at all'
Why do we you present perfect here?

Hello kidasn,

This sentence could be used when you see an old friend after a long time. You remember the way your friend was in the past and find that she is still the same kind of person. Since you are talking about a time period that includes both the past and the present, the present perfect is the most appropriate form.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir,
How can we distinguish the meanings of this two sentences?
1. I lived aboard for ten years.
2. I've lived aboard for ten years.
So what is their difference? Is it ok if we use both?

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