English Tenses - Past Simple

What is the Past Simple and why do we use it?

The Past Simple is the English tense that talks about:

  1. Finished actions in the past
  2. Finished habits in the past.

When we use the Past Simple, we use time phrases to say when the action took place. Time phrases include words and phrases like "yesterday", "last year" and "when I was young".


A common word order is:

Subject + Past Simple form + Object + Time Phrase

For example:

  • I ate pizza yesterday.
  • They went to London last year.
  • He played football when he was a child.

Common verbs and their Past Simple forms


Negative Past Simple phrases.

When use the negative form of the Past Simple, we need to use "didn't".

Common word order for negative Past Simple is:

Subject + didn't + base verb + object + time phrase

For example:

  • She didn't eat pizza yesterday.
  • They didn't go to Paris last year.
  • He didn't play cricket when he was a child.

The "be" verb is special. "didn't" is not used. Instead, wasn't is used for I, he, she & it. Weren't is used for you, we & they.

For example:

  • It wasn't cold last night.
  • They weren't happy about the news.
  • Why weren't you at school yesterday.

Questions.

With Past Simple questions, we need to use "did". We can use "Wh-" question words.

Common word order for Past Simple questions is:

Wh- question word + did + subject + base verb

For example:

  • What sport did you play when you were a child?
  • Did they watch the movie yesterday?
  • What did you eat for lunch yesterday?

Remember, the "be" verb is special. So in questions it does not need "did". But be careful of the word order.

For example:

  • Was the cake delicious?
  • Where were you yesterday?
  • Was the movie exciting?

Now test yourself.

Tell your partner about your childhood. Ask them about their childhood. Can you do it?