Past Simple Tense in English Grammar
Past simple tense is one of the most exciting and important tenses in English verb tenses. We use it so often to talk about what happened before now.
In English, simple past is the tense of nostalgia; the tense that you can use to reminisce and remember. The simple past is a verb tense that is used to talk about things that happened or existed before now. Since the verb 'to be' is an irregular verb, we first focus on that verb and then we will go through regular verbs.
Past Simple with Verb ‘To Be’
You can also use the simple past to talk about a past state of being, such as the way someone felt about something. This is often expressed with the simple past tense of the verb 'to be' and an adjective, noun, or prepositional phrase.
|Personal Pronoun||Verb ‘to be’|
To make affirmative (positive) sentences with verb ‘to be’, all you need to do is add the verb to the subject of the sentence, followed by an adjective or any piece of information. Take a look at the following examples:
Both of these sentences refer to something that happened and ended in the past.
Past Simple of Verb ‘To Be’: Negation
To make a negative sentence in simple past, you need to add ‘not’ after the verb ‘to be’. This way, you can make sentences indicating that something did not occur or expressing feelings that no longer exist. Here are some examples:
Past Simple of Verb ‘To Be’: Contraction
Contraction means making something smaller in size. The contracted form for this verb in negative form is ‘wasn’t’ and ‘weren’t’ instead of ‘was not’ and ‘were not.’ The contracted form is more informal and therefore it is used mostly in speaking rather than in writing.
Past Simple of Verb ‘To Be’: Questions
Verb ‘to be’ can be used to ask questions about events in the past. You can make yes/no questions or wh- questions about the past with this verb. Making yes/no questions with verb ‘to be’ is rather easy. You have to bring the verb ‘to be’ to the beginning, followed by the subject and the rest of the sentence. Take a look at these examples:
To make wh- questions, you need wh- question words first. These words come at the beginning of the question right before verb ‘to be’ and the subject. Wh- words include: what, when, where, who, how, why. Take a look at the following examples:
Past Simple: Regular and Irregular Verbs
In English we have two types of verbs; regular and irregular verbs. The difference between the two is that regular verbs do not change much in present, past or past participle, but irregular verbs greatly change in spelling. For example, the verb ‘eat’ is irregular but the verb ‘clean’ is regular; their past forms are ‘ate’ and ‘cleaned’ respectively.
Past Simple: adding 'ed' Rules
- if a single syllable verb ends in vowel-consonant, double the consonant and add 'ed'.
- If the final consonant is w, x, or y, don't double it.
- If last syllable of a longer verb is stressed and ends in consonant-vowel-consonant, double the last consonant and add 'ed'.
- If the first syllable of a longer verb is stressed and the verb ends in consonant-vowel-consonant, just add 'ed'.
- If the verb ends 'e', just add 'd'.
- If the verb ends in consonant + 'y', change the 'y' to an 'i' and add 'ed'.
First, let us take a look at affirmative (positive) sentence. In these sentences the word order is the same as affirmative simple present sentences, where the subject came at the beginning followed by the verb; the difference is that in simple past tense, the verb is in past form. Take a look at these examples:
‘We’ and ‘Jamie’ are our subjects and they are both followed by the past tense of two irregular verbs, ‘go’ and ‘buy.’
In past tense, all subjects are followed by the same verb and the verb does not change based on subject.
I / you / he / she / it / we / they drank some water this morning .
‘it’ refers to an animal in this example.
Past Simple: Negation
Just like simple present, the negative form and questions in simple past need an auxiliary verb: ‘did’. It is the past form of ‘do.’
To make negative sentences in past tense, you need to bring the subject at the beginning, followed by ‘did not’ or its contracted form, ‘didn’t’, and the main verb.
Whenever you have ‘did’ as an auxiliary verb in your sentence, your main verb can only be used in simple form. Take a look at the following examples:
As you can see, the verb after ‘didn’t’ is the base form of the verb.
‘Do’ is the main verb and its simple form is used after ‘didn’t.’
Past Simple: Questions
Much like its simple present partners, ‘did’ helps in making questions and negative sentences. Both yes/no and wh- questions in simple past need ‘did’. Making yes/no questions in simple past is simple; you need ‘did’ at the beginning of your question, followed by the subject and the simple form of your main verb. Take a look at these examples:
You can make wh- questions to ask for information about the past, but you need wh- words first, including what, when, where, who, how, why. In order to make wh- questions, you use a wh- word at the beginning, followed by ‘did’ and the subject. The main verb comes after, and you should remember that it is always in simple form. Take a look at the following examples:
Like ‘do’, ‘did’ is both a main verb and an auxiliary verb. Look at this example:
Here, ‘did’ is a main verb indicating that an action was performed.
‘Did’ here is an auxiliary verb and its simple form, ‘do’, is the main verb.
Past Simple: Uses
We use the past tense to talk about:
A Definite Point in Time
- We use past simple to talk about something that happened once in the past and it's finished.
- We use past simple to talk about something that happened several times in the past.
An Indefinite Point in Time
- We often use the past simple with indefinite time adverbs like, the other day, ages ago, a long time ago.
General Facts in the Past
- We use the past simple to talk about something that was true for some time in the past.
- the past simple to talk about finished actions, states or habits in the past when we know from general knowledge that the time period has finished.
the Second Conditional
- We can also use the past simple to refer to the present or future in hypotheses.
- We can also use the past simple after words like 'wish'.
An Action Interrupting Another One
- We use the past simple together with the past progressive to show that the simple past interrupted an action which was in progress in the past.
Story-telling and Narration
- We can use the past simple for stories or lists of events.
- We use the past simple with finished actions, states or habits in the past that we have introduced with the present perfect or another tense.