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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

Hello teacher,

Someone told me that we use continuous tense when we are focusing on the action and we use past tense when we are focusing in the completion of the action, but as I learned here it's different with past perfect.

I went to school yesterday and I had met my friends there.

We can say here the action is completion , but you said it's wrong. I mean that the meeting is done already and the action is completed .

I went to school yesterday and I was meeting my friends there. ( here it's clear the speaker focus on the "meeting" not for the completion of the action. and that why he/she used the past continuous.

I can say
I went to school yesterday and I met Ali. ( in cause I want to tell that I met him already and the meeting was completed without interest or important of the action itself.

many examples.

I was dreaming yesterday. ( here to draw attention about the dream and no interest in completion of the action or not.)
I dreamed yesterday.

He was eating fast in the restaurant. it's shameful, he must have eaten slowly. ( here we draw attention about his way of eating and the action of eating itself).
He ate fast in the restaurant and finish all food, they bring him another dishes. ( here we talk about the completion of the verb eat)

Am I right teacher or wrong?

Hi sdgnour2014,

There are so many different situations that different verb forms are used in that using a general rule like the one you mention is very difficult. Also, I think this person might have meant the perfective aspect (not past tense) is used when there is a focus on completion.

"I went to school yesterday and I was meeting my friends there" sounds strange to me. went is used correctly with yesterday, but then the word and, which normally would imply another action completed after the action went (e.g. "and met my friends there"), is used with the past perfect. This doesn't make sense because the past perfect is used to indicate an action previous to another point in time, and this idea conflicts with the idea of and. You could say, for example, "I went to school because I had already met my friends".

I hope this helps you. If you have a big question like this, I'd recommend you try to break into smaller pieces - not only can we give you better answers, I think it will help you understand the issue better.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hello teacher,

can i use the past simple with past continuous or present perfect or future.

I went to school yesterday and I was meeting my friends there.
I went to school yesterday and I had met my friends there.
I did my homework after I have finished my school-day.
I learned how to depend on myself because I will go outside the country.

Hello sdgnour2014,

The issue is not necessarily whether these tenses can be used together, but more what you wish to say.  For example, we can use the past continuous when an action is interrupted in some way - when another even occurs while the past continuous even is ongoing.  Thus your first sentence is only possible if there is some other event:

I went to school yesterday and I was meeting my friends there (when something happened).

Your second sentence is not possible as the meeting could not happed before you went to school.

Your third sentence is not possible as the finishing of the school day was before you did your homework; you would need to use past perfect here, not present perfect.

Your last sentence is possible but unlikely; presumably your going out of the country is something you have planned, and so 'am going', 'am going to go' or (if it is in the past) 'was going' or 'was going to go' would be more likely.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,

Just tell me the correct sentence with reason..

You haven't told me yet
OR
You haven't tell me yet

What i think is the first sentence is correct but if we apply the rule that we use present tense word with did or didn't then the second sentence should be correct. Does that rule apply with have or haven't also ?

Thank you

Hello dhruv_r,

The first sentence is correct; the second is not.

We use the base form/infinitive (not the present tense) when we use 'didn't' to make a negative sentence in the past simple:

You didn't tell me.

She didn't go.

However, when we make a present perfect negative we use 'haven't' or 'hasn't' and the past participle (third form):

You haven't told me yet.

She hasn't gone.

You can find more information on the present perfect form here.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello sir,
Please tell me the correct sentence ...
 
I have sent you the mail
OR
I have send you the mail
OR
I had send you the mail
 
I want to tell someone that i did this already..
thank you :)

Hello dhruv_r,
The first sentence ('have sent') is the correct form.  To form the present perfect we use 'have' and the third form of the verb (also called the past participle) and the other two sentences have the base form (intfinitive) instead.
You can find more information on perfective forms here.
Best wishes,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

hello sir ,
Is it true that after did or didn't we use only present tense words like :
Which sentence is correct ?
 
She didn't expected that ?
OR
She didn't expect that ?
thank you :)

Hello dhruv_r,
You are almost correct.  When we form a negative in the past simple we use:
did + not + infinitive (base form)
We do not use a past form of the main verb, so 'expect' is correct in your examples and 'expected' is incorrect.  The main verb is an infinitive form (base form), however, not a present tense.
I hope that clarifies it for you.
Best wishes,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

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