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

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
Past simple 2

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
Past simple questions 2

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
Past simple negatives 2

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:

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Hi teachers Is it possible to use the pronoun (I) after (did) in interrogative sentences? e.g did i call you last night. is it correct??

Hello Karzan_Camus,

Yes, that is a correctly formed question in the past simple - the only thing missing is a question mark (?) at the end: 'Did I call you last night?'

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, when is the right time to use shall and will? for instance;- i shall call you later or i will call you later which one is correct?

Hi jeromedamas,

Could you post your question about future forms on a related page, please? This will help to keep the site coherent and ensure that your question (and our answer) will be found by people looking for information on that topic.

Many thanks,



The LearnEnglish Team

past simple back next 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. Her are the most common irregular verbs in English, with their past tenses:(This should be :Here not Her)
Hello Rajan, Thanks for telling us about this problem. I've fixed it now. Do let us know if you see any other typos on LearnEnglish! Best wishes, Adam The LearnEnglish Team
respected sir , i have smome questions to ask related to simple past . simple past is used to describe action which has happened once aswell as repeted actions so how do we make a difference and what correct way to use it.example 1.The women wrote letter to police against some boys who would through garbage in her house 2nd. The woman wrote a letter to police against some boys who threw garbage in her hose. now my question is in the first sentence how many times she wrote the letter to police and in the second sentence how many times the boys threw garbage
hellow! correct me if i'm wrong, the example "She played a lot of tennis when she was younger" seemed to be in simple past in the form of "something that was true for some time in the past" but i found out it is also in the form of "something that happened again and again in the past" because she used to play tennis several times but in the past.

Hello Oscas Po,

You are correct: the past simple is used here for something which was true in the past but is not longer the case. This may be something which happened once or which was repeated, and it may be something that was true for a long time or a short time. The key point is that it was in the past and is completed.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

hi teacher, how about understand? if a teacher ask do you understand when he taught yesterday, should we answer I understood, or I understand? If I said I understood, does it means I understood yesterday, but now I don't understand? Actually, I am very confused about past tense. The past tense shows something happens in past, how about something happened in past, but still bring forward to now. For example, She felt shy easily, now she is no longer feel shy. I understood what you said yesterday. (now, I no longer understand that) I wish you could help me, thank you so much

Hello stevencch,

The past simple in these examples does not necessarily tell us about the present. If the teacher explained and you say 'I understood' then it tells us only about yesterday; it is possible that you stil understand and and it is possible that you do not. In such cases we rely on the context to help us to decide which is the case.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

hi teacher, I'm feel confuse for the following example to use 'had' e.g. They had a daughter. For this sentence, did they had a daughter only in the past ? Do they have daughter now ? Thank you teacher.

Hello Winnie,

The verb have has many different uses and meanings. When speaking about a child, as in the sentence you cite, it could mean that in that family there were parents and a girl who was their child, or it could mean that a woman in that family gave birth to a daughter. If you look up have in our dictionary search box (on the right), you'll see definitions and examples of this.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello thendral,

I'd suggest you look up the word in our dictionary (see the search box on the right). Some people also refer to the infinitive as the "first form" of a verb.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

hello teacher peter I understand what you have said, thanks, But, sometimes we cannot use " and" with perfect tense and my point is: I went to school and I had met my friends. ( wrong) But If I use " and " with past simple: I went to school and I met my friends ( correct) Because (and) means another action after it. Also I think I cannot say: I finish my work and I had visited my friends. ( wrong) But , I can say I finish my work and visited my friends. ( correct) Also, I try to use "and" with past continuous and I wonder if its correct to use it correctly. Am I right teacher?

Hello sdgnour2014,

Once again, I have to repeat that the conjunction 'and' does not influence whether or not certain tenses are correct; you are looking at this the wrong way and are looking for a rule in the wrong place.  It is perfectly acceptable to use 'and' with any tense providing the tenses are used logically and grammatically.  The reason the sentence you quote is wrong is not because of the conjunction; it is wrong because you cannot use a past perfect form to express an action which follows a past simple action.  The problem is that the sequence of tenses is illogical, not that the conjunction 'and' is in the sentence.

'And' does not necessarily imply a sequence.  It can join sentences describing simultaneous actions ('I lived in Rome and worked at a bank') and it can join actions in different orders ('I lived in Rome and, before that, I lived in Paris' / 'I lived in Paris and, after that, I lived in Rome').  The conjunction does not determine the verb form; reality and our perspective on that reality determine the verb form we choose.

I hope that clarifies the issue for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

thanks teachers. and is conjunction and we can use it with all tenses. I mean the past simple here and past continuous , I want to see how to use " and " with them: 1/ I drink juice and after that I drink tea. 2/ I wake up at 6 o'clock and drank tea and prayed and went to work. 3/ I worked at DHL and after that I worked at Pepsi and now I work at Aramco.

Hello sdgnour2014,

I'm afraid I can only repeat my previous answer: there is no connection between 'and' and which tenses are used.  The tenses must be used logically and in an appropriate context; 'and' has not bearing on this, and no connection to it.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks teacher, I understand that , It 's right to say : I went to school yesterday and I met my friends there. I can understand also that with : and , we use past simple. I finished my work and went to home. I sent the message and went to sleep. My question can we use :( and ) also with past continuous tense. I was working and playing football.

Hello sdgnour2014,

The word 'and' is a conjunction and it is not dependent on certain tenses; it can be used to join any verb forms provided they make sense and follow other grammatical rules.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

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,
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,



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,



The LearnEnglish Team

hello sir,

Please tell me the correct sentence ...


I have sent you the mail


I have send you the mail


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,



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 ?


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,



The LearnEnglish Team

One more request Could you tell me where I admit mistakes? especially in grammar)))))))

Hello everyone! I am a new member of British council. I think your website will help me to improve my english. I read about past simple and I have a question Do we have to use time in past simple? Do we have to say time necessarily?

Hi Almaz Kalabaev,

Welcome to LearnEnglish! Many of our members have told us that they've managed to improve their English using our site, so you're in the right place!

I'm not sure whether I understand your question. Do you mean is it necessary to use some kind of time expression (words like yesterday, in 1983, etc.) when using the past simple?

If that's what you mean, the answer is no. If you like at some of the examples above, you'll see sentences in the past simple without a time expression:

  • They always enjoyed visiting their friends.
  • He enjoyed being a student.
  • When did you meet your wife?

If you meant something else, then please ask us again!

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


Hi Guys,

    I was wondering if U.S.A English grammar is as same as British English grammar?

Although I like this site and it's useful ,but i am not sure if it can helps me in American English.


Hello kehama!


In most cases, British English and US grammar are identical. There are a small number of differences, but they do not cause any confusion - an American and a British speaker will not misunderstand each other's grammar. We're also updating our grammar section with some information about the differences, so look out for that - but in the meantime, you'll find our site just as useful as an American site!




Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team 

If I benefit from this site and use with my students why not to express my gratitude???? 

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Hi.Excuse me.Why has not the list of irregular verbs been completed?But this site is very great.thanks

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hi adam how are you.i think there are some wrong clauses above like;Did she play tennis when she was younger?(did she play) it must be (did she played)a is not true. play+ed=past tense of play(played) or what???