Simple Past Tense

The English simple past tense (sometimes also called the past simple) has various different uses. Let’s take a look at the different ways we can use this English verb tense.

How do you form the simple past tense?

For regular verbs, it’s very easy. All we do is add -ed to the end of the verb. However, there are many irregular verbs that you will need to learn.
[note color=”#DBEEF4″]Structure: subject + verb + object

Example: Andy saw John[/note]

Person Affirmative Negative Question
I I visited London I didn't visit London Did I visit London?
You You broke the TV You didn't break the TV Did you break the TV?
He/She/It She walked to work She didn't walk to work Did she walk to work?
We We opened the door We didn't open the door Did we open the door?
They They ate the apple They didn't eat the apple Did they eat the apple?

Uses & Explanations:

1. Completed action/event in the past

Past simple tense: completed action in the past





– I visited London last year
– Lewis went to a posh restaurant last night
– Andy worked very hard last week

Example Text for Completed actions/events in the past
Last year I went to London. It was great because, surprisingly, the weather was fantastic – it was sunny and didn’t rain once. I really enjoyed my time in London, especially the sightseeing. When I was there I saw Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and other interesting sights. I didn’t go shopping on Oxford street though, as I din’t have much money. My friend went shopping a lot, but he had more money than me!


2. Series of completed actions/events in the past

Past simple tense: series of completed actions in the past






– Yesterday morning I woke up, showered, brushed my teeth and got dressed
– Last week Katie bought a house, redecorated it and sold it, all in one week!

Example Text for Series of completed actions in the past
Yesterday morning I woke up, had a shower, brushed my teeth, got dressed, cooked and then had breakfast, left the house and then went to work.


3. When one single action/event in the past interrupts another continuous action/event in the past (used with the past continuous tense)

Past simple tense: one single action interrupts another continuous action in past






– My girlfriend was cooking dinner when you knocked on the door
– Helen fell over while she was walking to work
– Micky created the concept when he was studying at university.

Example Text for One single action in the past that interrups another
Last week I was cooking dinner when my friend called. I took the call and then while I was speaking on the phone to my friend, someone knocked on the door. The funny thing was, while I was talking to the person at the door, someone called on the phone again. It was a busy time!


4. Stating a fact about the past

Past simple tense: known fact about the past





– Christopher Columbus discovered America
– Jenny lived in Oxford for most of her childhood


Click here to conjugate verbs in the past simple tense.

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