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 Marie Scarl,

Actually, I must admit that I misread your question and did not notice that it was 'How IS your meal?' I assumed that it was 'How WAS your meal?'

The question 'How is your meal?' would be asked while the person is still eating, and the answer would be 'It is fine'.

The question 'How was your meal?' would be asked after the meal is finished, and the answer would be 'It was fine'.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Suppose, someone eats something for the first time and he was asked, "how is the meal?" In reply, can he ans like this," I liked it" Even if he never ever dislike in the future as well. Or is there any other way to reply?

Hello Marie Scarl,

To the question How is the meal? it is perfectly fine to say I liked it. You could also say It was great or It was very tasty, thank you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir,
just registered a few minutes ago.. and english is my second language. So, l m just a beginner and need your all support and guidance to improve my english.
And if you get any mistakes, even in my texts, do reform me.

Hello Marie Scari,

Welcome to LearnEnglish! I hope we'll be able to help you with your English and I hope you'll soon see good progress. To start you off, I recommend you visit our Getting Started section, which describes the site and the material we have, and gives you many suggestions as to how to use the site most effectively.

After that, please take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions page. This has many tips on how to improve your English, including how to improve specific aspects such as speaking, listening, vocabulary and so on.

We try to answer as many questions as we can in the comments sections of our pages. I'm afraid we can't correct the comments, however, as we are a small team here and have many thousands of users. We do reply to comments where appropriate, of course.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi.
In this sentence:
Did she play tennis when she was younger?
Can i wrote this way:
Did she played tennis when she was younger?
Thanks in advance.

Hello Ricardo,

No, I'm afraid that's not correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi I'm raising a quick question in between past simple and past continuous tenses, and looking for advice.

Two expressions for same case, which one has been used the most? Is the second one inappropriate?

1. I jogged for 30 minutes every day before, but now I don't.
2. I was jogging for 30 minutes every day before, but now I don't.

thank you to help me out

Sophie

Hi 1004sufei,

As you suggest, both of these forms are grammatically possible. I would say that the first (jogged) is the more common. The continuous form (was jogging) cna be used to emphasise the repeated nature of an activity, but here that is already made clear by the time reference (every day) and so is superfluous.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter and further from that, as I saw 3 sentences have been quoted as examples of past continuous- for something that was happening again and again:
I was practising every day, three times a day.
They were meeting secretly after school.
They were always quarrelling.
all with time references.
do you think they are all superfluous because of existing time references? then these 3 sentences would have no existing value while simple past would be just fine.
I was thinking the continuous tense is used when you like to emphasize the time lasting about some types of verb, like jogging for 30 minutes, quarrelling, meeting and practising.

thank you for further advice

Sophie

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