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:

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Soumis par Kirk le sam 03/06/2017 - 14:51

En réponse à par Ilma Hasan

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Hello Ilma Hasan,

Do you mean that you would prefer to listen to the answers rather than see them? That's a great idea! I'm afraid, however, that our exercises aren't designed in a way that we can do that. I'll make a note of it for the future, though. Thanks for your feedback.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par kz45277 le ven 02/06/2017 - 20:23

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Please advice how can I use questions in the past: -She asked me about am I want to join the membership. or -She asked me about I am want to join the membership I tried to meant, if the sentences is in the past, still have to take the question or not? thanks

Hello kz45277,

I'm afraid that neither of these sentences is grammatically correct. These are what are called reported questions. As you can see on the page I linked to, reported yes/no questions use the words 'if' or 'whether' before the question clause. For example, for your sentence, this would be:

She asked me if I wanted to join (or 'if I wanted to become a member' or 'if I wanted to purchase a membership')

You'll notice that I also rephrased your question clause, since we don't say 'join a membership'. I'm not sure which is more appropriate since I don't know the context of this question.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hi You enquiry is related to speech. Here, you're using the reported speech. The proper form of your sentence would be, "She asked me if I wanted to join the membership". Since it is not a direct question, a question mark (?) is not used.

Soumis par kidasn le mar 11/04/2017 - 03:44

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Hi Sir Could you please explain this sentence for me? 'You haven’t changed at all' Why do we you present perfect here?

Soumis par Kirk le mar 11/04/2017 - 07:02

En réponse à par kidasn

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Hello kidasn,

This sentence could be used when you see an old friend after a long time. You remember the way your friend was in the past and find that she is still the same kind of person. Since you are talking about a time period that includes both the past and the present, the present perfect is the most appropriate form.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Pusagino le mar 04/04/2017 - 09:29

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Hi Sir, How can we distinguish the meanings of this two sentences? 1. I lived aboard for ten years. 2. I've lived aboard for ten years. So what is their difference? Is it ok if we use both?

Soumis par Kirk le mar 04/04/2017 - 13:27

En réponse à par Pusagino

Permalien

Hello Pusagino,

In 1, we no longer live aboard and in 2 we still do live aboard. There are surely some contexts when you could use both, but in general you'd probably only use one or the other, depending on what you wanted to say.

Did you mean 'abroad'? 'Aboard' is a word, but with a different meaning. It doesn't matter, really -- I just wanted to point it out to you!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Marie Scarl le mer 29/03/2017 - 13:33

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Thanks for the reply. I actually asked that question because in this simple past post, there are only almost 4 uses.. like we use this tense for something that happened once, happened again and again and true for sometime in the past. And the reply to the quest. "I liked it", doesn't fulfill the conditions of the usage of past simple, because the person started liking it from that day, and continued to like in the future. Please clear my doubt or misunderstanding..

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

Soumis par Marie Scarl le mar 28/03/2017 - 19:14

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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

Soumis par Marie Scarl le mar 28/03/2017 - 19:05

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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.

Soumis par Peter M. le mer 29/03/2017 - 07:35

En réponse à par Marie Scarl

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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

Soumis par Ricardo A le mar 28/03/2017 - 00:59

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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.

Soumis par Kirk le mar 28/03/2017 - 07:08

En réponse à par Ricardo A

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Hello Ricardo,

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

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par 1004sufei le mar 14/03/2017 - 16:07

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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

Hello 1004sufei,

The sentences would all be fine in the past simple. However, continuous forms often suggest that the action was temporary or interrupted in some way and this may be important to the speaker.

The decision a speaker makes with regard to verb form is often dependent on the speaker's intention and perspective. Very often multiple choices are possible. Looking at very forms without paying attention to the context and the speaker's intention/perspective means that we are not seeing the whole story, as it were.

I think our section on the continuous aspect might be helpful for you. You can find it here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par sikimiki le lun 06/03/2017 - 10:22

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There is an example for past simple tense: They didn’t go to Spain this year. I think that "this" means that a year is still not finished so present perfect should be used in the sentence. Why past simple was used here ?

Hello sikimiki,

That's very perceptive of you! The sentence is correct because whether we use the present perfect or past simple depends on how we perceive the event. In this case, for example, imagine that the people we are talking about always go to Spain for the Valentine's Day (February 14), but this year they didn't go. Since we are now in early March and the time that we expected them to go has passed, the past simple is the tense that makes the most sense. But we are still in 2017, so we still say 'this year'.

You could also say 'They haven't gone', and that would be fine. It focuses a bit more on the fact that the year is not over. Using the past simple puts more emphasis on the time they could have gone to Spain as a past time.

I hope that helps you make sense of it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ted Barlow le mer 08/02/2017 - 11:54

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Can you give me some help with the well known bible verse John 3:16; I'm pretty sure it's simple past but seems complicated because it holds present and future aspects. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Hello Ted,

'loved' and 'gave' are past simple forms, but 'believeth' (which nowadays is 'believes') and 'have' are present simple forms. 'should not perish' is an older way of saying 'will not die'. In a more modern style, the idea is that God loved the world so much that he sacrificed his only son so that anyone who believed in him would find paradise.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par jacader le sam 01/10/2016 - 12:42

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dear sir, in the case of one example above, can i say ' they always enjoy visiting visiting friends' instead of 'they always enjoyed visiting visiting friends'? the latter has no past time marker

Hello jacader,

You can say 'They always enjoy visiting friends', which uses a present simple instead of a past simple ('enjoyed') form of the verb, i.e. both are correct. Repeating the word 'visiting', however, is not correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team 

Soumis par sirmee le mer 28/09/2016 - 23:59

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I want to express what the previous and current government said about corruption. PDP is the previous and apc is the current. 1) PDP said stealing isn't corruption 2) apc said padding isn't corruption. Should the word said be in simple past or present? Thank you

Hello sirmee,

Both 'said' and 'says' are possible here. If you say 'said' then you are talking about a claim in the past which may or may not still be the opinion of the speaker. If you say 'say' then you are talking about a view which the speaker still definitely holds.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par sirmee le sam 24/09/2016 - 23:34

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Sir, I came across this post on twitter. The user posted a video and wrote the following. "I accidently came across this video clip and I'm leaving this here to watch you." My question is came is in the past form while the action is still present at the moment he posted the tweet. Can you please explain

Hello sirmee,

I'm afraid we can't comment on random internet comments! People write all sorts of things and often they are not perfect users of English. That sentence contains errors so to use it as a model for learning or trying to understand grammatical rules is not a good idea.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Tapan100 le ven 26/08/2016 - 19:22

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Hello, (1) Since my father joined this post , he has not taken bribe. (2) Since my father joined this post , he did not take bribe. (3) Since my father has joined this post , he did not take bribe. (Which one is correct and rule for the correct sentence)

Soumis par Peter M. le sam 27/08/2016 - 06:24

En réponse à par Tapan100

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Hello Tapan100,

The first sentence is correct.

'Join' is an action which is immediate and which does not take place over a period of time, so a past tense is appropriate for the first clause. The action in the second clause describes behaviour over a period of time from the past up to the present, and so the present perfect is required.

It would be possible to use the present perfect in the first clause if the action takes place over a period of time to the present, but a different verb from 'join' is needed:

Since my father has been a member of..., he has not taken a bribe.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par tangpd le mar 23/08/2016 - 04:52

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Dear Sir/Madam, Somehow I can't drag the verbs to the gaps. Could someone advise what can be wrong? Mant thanks! Sincerely yours Wenjie

Hello tangpd,

To move the items click once on the word (but do not hold the click) and then click where you want to put it. There is no need to hold and drag; just click.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Quezia Damaris… le mer 17/08/2016 - 19:42

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1. Someone has broken the vase. 2. Someone broke the vase last week. The first phrase refers to Present perfect tense and the second to past simple, right? How can i know the different?

Hello Quezia Damaris Vasconcelos,

This is very similar to your question on another page, which I have answered. THe present perfect here tells us something which is still relevant and current. For example, we would say the first sentence when this information is still new - maybe we have just dicovered this, or the vase is still lying on the floor. The second sentence describes a completed event which is no longer current.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Quezia Damaris… le mer 17/08/2016 - 18:23

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Please help with these frases: 1. I spent all my childhood in France. 2. I have spent all my childhood in France. Witch one is correct and why? I know is about the Present Perfect tense but it has to do with the past to.

Hello Quezia Damaris Vasconcelos,

Both sentences are grammatically correct. The difference is that in the first sentence the speaker's childhood is finished whereas in the second sentence the speaker is still a child and their childhood will continue.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par pyramid le mar 02/08/2016 - 11:28

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we use past form of the verbs in past simple . does the PAST FORM of the verbs have other uses except- be, have, do i wrote can WROTE be used by another way ?

Hello pyramid,

These kinds of open-ended, general questions can be difficult to answer, as there may be uncommon cases that we don't think of. In general, though, I'd say no, there are no other uses. For future questions like this one, please check the Wikipedia or other sources, as this is not really the kind of issue we work with here on LearnEnglish.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par erjola le mer 27/07/2016 - 19:49

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Hello! why we say: I lived abroad for ten years. When we can say: I have lived abroad for ten years??? Its that correct? Do they have the same meaning? or He enjoyed being a student, Instead of He enjoys being a student?

Soumis par Peter M. le jeu 28/07/2016 - 05:48

En réponse à par erjola

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Hello erjola,

There is a difference in meaning between these two sentences.

I lived abroad for ten years - I do not live abroad any more; it is a finished action.

I have lived abroad for ten years - I still live abroad now; this action started in the past and is not finished.

Similarly, 'enjoyed' means that the action is finished and is in the past, while 'enjoys' means that it is something that is true now.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par SK le mar 19/07/2016 - 21:09

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Hello The LearnEnglish Team, The above examples: Did she play tennis when she was younger? I didn’t see you yesterday. Shouldn't we use the past form of the verbs 'play' and 'see' - played and saw. Kind regards, Sujit

Hello Sujit,

We use the past forms in affirmative sentences:

She played tennis when she was younger.

I saw you yesterday.

 

However, when we form negatives and questions we use the past form of an auxiliary verb ('did') and the base form of the verb. The auxiliary verb carries the past form, not the main verb:

Did she play tennis when she was younger?

Did I see you yesterday?

She didn't play tennis when she was younger.

I didn’t see you yesterday.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Prap le mer 13/07/2016 - 14:00

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Hello Sir, The following text is an extract from Charles Dickens' short story 'The Magic Fish Bone' : "You are right," said the old lady, answering his thoughts, "I am the Good Fairy Grandmarina. Listen. When you return home to dinner, invite the princess Alicia to have some of the salmon you bought just now. " I just wanted to know if we can use the adverb 'now' with the past tense as it's been used in the above ( quoted ) text. To me it looks weird. Thank you in advance.

Hello prapsahu,

The phrase 'just now' means 'just a moment ago' and actually refers to the (very recent past) rather than the present. That is why it is fine to use with 'bought' here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par tulin le sam 16/04/2016 - 17:06

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Hello, I have a question about sth really stupid.. For example, I'm in a disco club and I hear a song.If I say "I liked this song", does it mean that I liked the song when I heard it but I don't like it anymore or I liked the song and I still like it. What have I to say?: "I like this song" or "I liked this song" When my give me a present what I have to say?? "This is the present I wanted" or "this is the present I want"

Soumis par Peter M. le lun 18/04/2016 - 06:07

En réponse à par tulin

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Hello tulin,

In the disco you should say 'I like this song' because, presumably, you still like it. If you used to like it but no longer do then you could say 'liked'. For example, you might say 'I liked this song when I was a kid'.

With the present, you should say 'wanted' because once you have it you no longer want it in the same way. You might want to keep it, but you no longer want to get it as you already have it.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par hahalulu le dim 10/04/2016 - 23:01

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Hello, I always found some examples being used the past tense from dictionary or conversational English book. But I don't know why the examples like the following are always in the past tense? Do they really mean the actions are at the past? or something else? eg. I was suspicious of his motives. eg. I was wondering if you could water our plants. eg. I was wondering what the next station is.