Past Simple

The Past Simple Tense






We use the simple past tense to describe actions that began in the past and finished in the past.

Use. Both the present perfect and simple past both describe events that began in the past and were completed in the past.

The difference is that:

  1. Only the past simple can be used with a time element (“seven o’clock” or a time word such as yesterday). I studied for my exam yesterday/last week/at seven o’clock.
  2. The present perfect is used when the event has a direct relationship to the present. (uses words such as already, just or yet). I have already studied for my exam so I can come to your party.
  3. In the Past Simple, negative statements “only” negate the positive. In the Present Perfect, negative statements both negate the positive AND show the intention to complete the action sometime in the future.  

Form. We form the simple past by adding “ed” to the bare infinitive of regular verbs. A list of irregular verbs must be memorized.

The following words are often used in this tense: …ago, in 2016, last…, yesterday.

Positive Statement

SubjectMain VerbObjectwherewhenhowwhy
Ijoggedaround the blockthis morning.
Youhit (irregular verb)the ballover the fence.
Tomran (irregular verb)the storeyesterday.
Weplayedhockeyat the rinklast weekend.
Theycheered fortheir team.

When asking a question in the simple past tense we use the verb “to do” in the past tense (did), and the bare infinitive of regular verbs in the present tense.

"W" Question WordAuxiliary Verb (did)SubjectMain Verb (bare infinitive)Objectwherewhenhowwhy
Whatdid youtellyour boss?
WhatdidHarrysay tohis uncleyesterday?
Didwemissthe train?
Whendidtheyarrivein Toronto?

Negative Statement

SubjectAuxiliary Verb"not" + Main VerbObjectwherewhenwhyhow
Ididnot walkin the snow.
Youdidnot speakto herlast week.
Billdidnot eatlunchtoday.
Wedidnot visitJapanlast year.
Theydidnot playbaseballin the parkyesterday.

To English Tenses