Making the Past Simple Tense

The past simple tense is used to describe something that was completed in the past (a time before now). Example: when we or others have finished an action, or when we describe a single event that ended in either the recent or the distant past.

“I posted the letter yesterday.”

“I was on time every day last year.”

“The ship landed in 1492.”

The difference between Regular and Irregular Verbs

English has regular and irregular verbs. There are thousands regular verbs in English, and almost 200 irregular verbs.

There is no single formula for forming the simple past tense for regular and irregular verbs, so it is wise to memorize as many verb forms as you can.

Using the Past Simple with Regular Verbs

We can make the past simple tense with regular verbs by adding -d or –ed to the end of the word:

Regular Verb Past Simple Tense
post posted
walk walked
land landed
die died

Using the Past Simple with Irregular Verbs

The 10 most commonly used verbs in the English language are irregular: be, can, do, get, go, have, say, see, take, and will.

Irregular verbs do not behave the same way as regular verbs when we change to the simple past tense, and can not be made past simple by adding -d or –ed. For example, we can not add ed to ‘hurt’; there is no such word as ‘hurted’ in English.

Forms

Like the present simple, there are different rules for the irregular verb ‘be’, which describes the state of being in the simple statement ‘I am’. To make the present simple ‘I am’ into past simple, remember to change ‘am’ to ‘was’ when referring to one person (‘I’, ‘she/he’), and ‘were’ when referring to a group (plural).

Basic Positive Past Simple Form of ‘Be’

Infinitive
Basic Past Simple
I am cold. I was cold.
He is cold. He was cold.
She is cold. She was cold.
It is cold. It was cold.
They are cold. They were cold.

 

Basic Negative Past Simple Form of ‘Be’

Long Form Short Form
I was not there.

She was not there.

He was not there.

It was not there.

They were not there.

I wasn’t there.

She wasn’t there.

He wasn’t there.

It wasn’t there.

They weren’t there.

 

Question Form of Past Simple Form of ‘Be’

Was I included?

Was she at the party?

Was he in the car?

Was it fun?

Were they happy?

‘Wh’ Questions with the Past Simple

Where was I when this happened?

Why was she upset?

Who was he talking to?

When was it started?

What were they supposed to do?

Using the Past Simple with Other Irregular Verbs

Can Will Do Get Go Have Say See Take
could + have would +

have

did got went had said saw took

Examples of the past simple for can

‘I could have been a contender.’

She/he could have chosen more wisely.

It could have been a disaster.

They could have come here instead of going to a hotel.

Examples of the past simple for will

I would have been at the meeting but I was detained.

She/he would have gone by train but they decided to fly instead.

It would have been the perfect spot for the wedding.

They would have been welcome.

Examples of the past simple for do

I did the dishes last night.

She/he did those tasks the other day.

It did the calculations perfectly.

They did the entire marathon in record time.

Examples of the past simple for get

I got this video game for my birthday last week.

She/he got the message.

It got the same treatment as your other car.

They got the flu.

Examples of past simple for go                                     

I went to the movies.

She/he went to the Cannes last year.

It went over there when mum lived here.

They went to the neighbour’s house to watch the match.

Examples of past simple for have

I had a cat when I was younger.

She/he had to leave the venue.

It had its snout inside the jar.

They had to form a union.

 

Examples of past simple for say

I said I wasn’t interested.

She/he said he/she would have to think about it.

It said ‘get out’!

They said that the weather would improve when they gave the report.

 

Examples of past simple for see                                                                    

I saw the new books were here when I arrived this morning.

She/he saw the damage to the car before I did.

It saw some of the worst fighting in decades.

They saw in the new year with a lavish celebration.

 

Examples of past simple for take

I took my medication this morning.

She/he took a moment to say hello.

It took a massive effort to rebuild the city.

They took their time getting to the church.

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