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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 teacher,
I don't know how we can know when to take "always" in the past simple when used "always" in the present simple? I hope you'll help me know clearly about it. Thanks you very much!

Hi Phan thủy,

I'm not sure what exactly confuses you about the use of 'always' and it's not possible for us to provide long explanations of all possible uses of a word. Perhaps you could post an example sentence which is confusing for you and we'll try to help with that.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir,
I wanted to know if someone asks a question in past tense using "did" do we have to answer using did or had? For example, if someone asks "didn't you tell me that you would come to see me?" So is it OK to answer "no, i didn't" ?

Hello ayeshasheikh,

Asking this question with 'didn't' normally indicates that the speaker expects you to answer 'yes', but it is OK to say 'no, I didn't' if that is what you mean.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher
I have a dude with this sentence, which one is correct:
- I forgot to invite you
-I forgot invited you
thank you
Carlos

Hi carlos,

The first one is correct. Note that you can often figure out which form is correct by checking verbs in the dictionary - see our searchbox on the lower right.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hi teacher

i have been studying English tenses since last week,it's good well summarized i understand the context of English tenses.

here i need little bit advise,Dear teachers i want to know the best edition English grammar books,whether in on-line or had-copy

best regard

Hello abdijamo,

I'm afraid that we can't recommend specific titles or websites, but what I can recommend is that you take a look at a variety of books before you purchase one. English grammar is a vast topic, and so most books have a particular focus - it could be on verbs, or typical grammar needed at the intermediate level, etc. If you choose a book that has a focus that matches your needs, you're more likely to find it useful.

Good luck!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Could you help me out with this sentence:
We met 10 years ago, when we both had already graduated from college, but (to get) a job yet.
I’m not sure what tense form to use for ‘to get’

Hello kkolina,

I'm afraid we do not help users with homework or test questions! You need to think about whether this is something which is in the past and finished (then we would use the past simple) or is still true at the moment of speaking (then we would use the present perfect).

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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