Simple Past Tense

The simple past is a verb tense that is used to talk about things that happened or existed before now. Imagine someone asks what your brother did while he was in Viet Nam last weekend.

Example

  • He visited Dalat and saw two beautiful waterfalls.
  • He took some beautiful pictures.

The simple past tense shows that you are talking about something that has already happened. Unlike the past continuous tense, which is used to talk about past events that happened over a period of time, the simple past tense emphasizes that the action is finished.

Example

  • My brother admired the way his photos shined in the.

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.

Example

  • My brother was proud of his photographs.
  • The trip to Dalat was the highlight of his week.

How to Formulate the Simple Past

  1. Regular verbs
  2. Irregular verbs
  3. Other irregular verbs, including the verb to be

1. Regular verbs

Add -ed to the root form of the verb (or just -d if the root form already ends in an e)

 

Verb Verb + ed
Play Played
Type Typed
Listen Listened
Push Pushed
Love Loved
Table shown how to formulate irregular verbs for simple past tense 

 

2. Irregular verbs

Things get more complicated. The simple past tense of some irregular verbs looks exactly like the root form:

 

Verb Past Verb
Put Put
Cut Cut
Set Set
Cost Cost
Hit Hit
Table shown how to formulate other irregular verbs for simple past tense 

3. Other irregular verbs, including the verb to be

The simple past forms are less stable:

Verb Past Verb
See Saw
Build Built
Go Went
Do Did
Rise Rose
Am/Is Was
Are Were
Table shown how to formulate regular verbs for simple past tense 

 

The good news is that verbs in the simple past tense (except for the verb to be) don’t need to agree in number with their subjects.

 

Example

  • My brother framed his pictures.
  • His friends framed their pictures too.

How to Make the Simple Past Negative

Fortunately, there is a formula for making simple past verbs negative, and it’s the same for both regular and irregular verbs (except for the verb to be).

The formula is did not + [root form of verb].

You can also use the contraction didn’t instead of did not.

Example

  • My brother did not brag too much about his picture taking skills.
  • His girlfriend didn’t see the pictures.

For the verb to be, you don’t need the auxiliary did.

  • When the subject of the sentence is singular, use was not or wasn’t.
  • When the subject is plural, use were not or weren’t.

Example

  • My brother’s friends were not as excited as he was.
  • One friend wasn’t happy at all.
  • The other visitors were not ready to leave after the pictures were.
  • The friends weren’t ready to leave either.

How to Ask Question for Simple Past Tense

The formula for asking a question in the simple past tense is

Did + [subject] + [root form of verb].

Example

  • Did my brother take beautiful pictures?
  • Where did he go to relax after his trip?
  • Did all of them have a good time, in your opinion?

Common Regular Verbs in the Past Tense

Simple past regular verbs

Infinitive Past Tense Negative
to ask asked did not ask
to work worked did not worked
to call called did not called
to use used did not used
Table shown how to formulate regular verbs for simple past tense 

 

Common Irregular Verbs in the Past Tense

Infinitive Past Tense Negative
to be was/were was not/were not
to have had did not have
to do did did not do
to say said did not say
to get got did not get
to make made did not make
to go went did not go
to take took did not take
to see saw did not see
to come came did not come
Table shown how to formulate irregular verbs for simple past tense