Past Simple

Basic form

Subject + Verb (past form)

Quick examples

  • I was sleepy.
  • He didn't learn any Italian when he was in Italy two year ago.
  • I went to the cinema, bought popcorn and watched a movie.

We use the Past Simple to talk about actions that happened at a specific time in the past. The actions can be short or long. There can be a few actions happening one ofter another.

Use

  1. Events in the past that are now finished
  2. Situation in the past
  3. A series of actions in the past

Use 1: Past actions that are now finished

The first use of the Past Simple to express actions that happened at a specific time in the past. The actions can be short or long.

  • John cut his finger last week. short
  • I went to college 3 years ago. long
  • He ate the dinner 1 hour ago. short
  • I slept well last night. long

Use 2: Situation in the past

Another use of this tense is talk about situations in the past.

  • I lived in New York for 10 years (I don't live there anymore).

Use 3: A series of actions in the past

The Past Simple can also be used with a few actions in the past happening one after another.

  • He entered a room, lit a cigarette and smiled at the guests.

Form

Forming a sentence in the Past Simple is easy. To form a declarative sentence, all you need is the subject of the sentence (e.g. I, you, he, a dog) and the past form of your verb (e.g. was, talked, swam). Questions and negative sentences are only a little more difficult, because they require an auxiliary verb.

Declarative Sentences

Subject+Verb (past form)
e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.e.g. walked, went, took, etc.
ExamplesUse (click to read)
I lived in New York for 10 years.1
Mike walked in, looked around and smiled to us.3
He married a woman who lived in the same village.2
I ate the cake yesterday.1

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I saw two colorful fishes in the lake yesterday. (Use 1)

Time Expressions
Common time expressions (time adverbials) in the Past Simple are:
  • yesterday
  • the other day
  • just now
  • the day before yesterday

Questions

DID+Subject+Verb (present form)
e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.e.g. go, make, have, etc.
ExamplesUse (click to read)
How long did he work there?1
Didthe telephone ring?1
Did you see that?1

Negative Sentences

Subject+Didn't+Verb (present form)
e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.e.g. go, make, have, etc.
ExamplesUse (click to read)
He didn't learn any Italian when he was in Italy two year ago.1
I wasn't at my grandma's when you came.1
He didn't get any good grades when he attended school.3

Check your understanding!