Past Simple Tense | Grammar Rules and Examples

Learn useful grammar rules to use the Past Simple Tense in English with examples.

Forming the Past Simple Tense

In English grammar, the Simple Past (or Past Simple) is the basic form of the past tense. It is used principally to describe events in the past, although it also has some other uses.

Simple Past Tense with “TO BE” (was/were)

Note:

I/She/He/It + was

We/You/They + were

Was not = Wasn’t

Were not = Weren’t

Positive Sentence:

S + was/were + …

Example:

They were friends.

Negative Sentence:

S + was not/were not + …

Example:

They weren’t friends.

Question form:

Was/Were + S + …?

Example:

Were they friends?

Simple Past Tense with Regular Verbs

Regular English verbs form the simple past in ed; however there are a few hundred irregular verbs with different forms.

Positive Sentence:

S + verb-ed + …

Example:

She work yesterday.

Negative Sentence:

S + did not/didn’t + verb (in base form) + …

Example:

She didn’t work yesterday.

Question form:

Did + S + verb (in base form)?

Example:

Did she work yesterday?

Simple Past tense with Irregular Verbs

There are a few hundred irregular verbs with different forms.

Positive Sentence:

S + irregular verb + …

Example:

They went to Spain for their holidays.

Negative Sentence:

S + did not/didn’t + verb (in base form) + …

Example:

They didn’t go to Spain for their holidays?

Question Form:

Did + S + (verb in base form)?

Example:

Did they go to Spain for their holidays?

How to Use the Past Simple Tense

The Simple Past is used:

  • To express completed action in the past

Example:

I saw a ghost last Friday.

  • To describe a series of completed actions in the past

Example:

I finished work, walked to the beach, and found a nice place to swim.

  • To express habits in the past

Example:

When I was young, I watched lots of television every day after school.

  • For stative verbs, which are verbs that do not express an action, but a state of mind or being  E.g. have (own), be, think (believe), know, dislike, need, owe, understand, wish

Example:

He had a small cottage in the woods.

Time Expressions

  • Yesterday
  • Ago
  • Last month
  • Last week
  • Last year
  • In 2003
  • In 2007

The Past Simple Tense | Picture

Past Simple Tense | Grammar Rules and Examples

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