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Past simple

Level: beginner

With most verbs, the past tense is formed by adding –ed:

called liked wanted worked

But there are a lot of irregular past tense forms in English. Here are the most common irregular verbs in English, with their past tense forms:

Base form Past tense
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

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 several times 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 expressions with ago with the past simple:

I met my wife a long time ago.

Past simple 1
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Past simple 2
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Past simple questions and negatives

We use did to make questions with the past simple:

Did she play tennis when she was younger?
Did you live abroad?
When did you meet your wife?
Where did you go for your holidays?

But questions with who often don't use did:

Who discovered penicillin?
Who wrote Don Quixote?

Past simple questions 1
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Past simple questions 2
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We use didn't (did not) to make negatives with the past simple:

They didn't go to Spain this year.
We didn't get home until very late last night.
I didn't see you yesterday.
 

Past simple negatives 1
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Past simple negatives 2
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Level: intermediate

Past simple and hypotheses

We can also use the past simple to refer to the present or future in hypotheses (when we imagine something). See these pages:

Comments

Hi!

Firstly, this article talks about the Simple Past Tense, correct?

Secondly, the title of this article says "Past Simple", however, the article then goes on to say "We use the past tense to talk about..". Does this mean that the "Past Simple Tense" can also be referred to simply as the "Past Tense" (i.e. we can drop the term "simple") and it still means the same thing?

I really.......my cat.I was so sad when he died

1-love

2-loved

Pablo Picasso........an Italian painter who died in 1929

1-is

2-was

And can you explain why?

Hello Turki123456,

Both of your sentences are about the past. We know this because there are past tense verbs in each (died). Thus, the correct form is the past simple in each case: loved and was.

Of course, sometimes people still feel love after someone dies, but the convention is to place it in the past.

You can also sometimes hear people use a present form when defining something from history, using it with the sense 'Pablo Picasso is the name of a painter who died in...' In other words, the present is really referring to the name or title rather than the person.

By the way, Picasso was Spanish, not Italian.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Can anybody help me to write a story about Feeling under the weather – (I am sick ) must have to use past simple and past continuous tense.
Thanks

It must have been COVID-19 depression... thought I. It took away my freedom putting me in an isolation, which had a depressing influence on me. But when I looked at two sides of a coin, it was not necessarily bad. Actually I was fed up with crazy mass tourism and excessive commercialism and wanted someone to stop it! Surprisingly enough, it happened. I think we are heading off in a new direction and in a transition period at the moment. How exciting it is!! That’s why I got out of feeling under the weather... ;)

Hi,

If l list a series of actions in the simple past, for example: "On Sunday my brother and I went to a nice lake. There we met our friends. We swam in the warm water and played volleyball in the afternoon. Too bad that we had to go home in the evening. We didn't want to go to school on Monday."

Does it mean, by default, that the actions described above using the simple past tense all happened one after another?

Regards,
Tim

Hello Timothy555,

Yes, in general, such a list of actions is understood as a narrative, i.e. a sequence of actions. 

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

How can we use Past Simple without a specific time reference in the past?
I am really confused,as i have come across some native speakers using Past simple without time reference in the past,
Please help me to clear this doubt.

Thanks in Advance

Hello Abdul Azeez Ibrahim,

It's very common for the past simple to be used without a specific time reference and it is perfectly correct to do so. 

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

I came across this sentence "The hike was one of the best hikes I've ever done." Correct me if I am wrong, I am guessing "was", was used, because the hike was an event of the past.

Would it be correct to say "The hike IS one of the best hikes I've ever done.", to mean that at present / right now / currently, you find this hike one of the best hikes you have ever done?
And say 5 years down the road, you will have gone for many more fulfilling hikes, and so this current hike will no longer be seen as one of the best. Then you use the sentence "The hike was one of the best hikes I've ever done." to mean that at some point in the past, you did see it as one of the best hikes, but you no longer feel so.

Thank you.

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