Simple Past Tense
The past tense is what you use to indicate a single or isolated action or state of being that was completed at a specific moment in the past.
- I walked to work this morning.
- He felt sad when his mother died.
- Our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
The simple past can also be used if you want to indicate a habit from the past or a generalization that is no longer true. “I played the guitar in elementary school” means that you used to play the guitar but no longer do.
Contrast the statement above with this sentence in the present perfect: “I have played the guitar many times.”
The latter sentence does not rule out the possibility that you still play the guitar. It simply tells the reader that you’ve played it on an indefinite number of occasions.
Forming the Simple Past Tense
You form the simple past tense by adding an -ed to the end of regular verbs.
|I walked.||We walked.|
|You walked.||You walked.|
|He, she, or it walked.||They walked.|
In the English language, however, many verbs are irregular and must be learned. Here are a few common irregular verbs.
|I was.||We were.|
|You were.||You were.|
|He, she, it was.||They were.|
|I went.||We went.|
|You went.||You went.|
|He, she, it went.||They went.|
Making the Simple Past Tense Negative
To make the simple past negative, insert the past tense of the auxilary verb “to do” + not before the root verb.
- I didn’t swim yesterday.
- They didn’t give me the raise they promised.
- She didn’t walk home after all.
Phrasing the Simple Past Tense as a Question
To ask a question in the simple past, begin with the past tense form of the auxiliary verb “to do,” followed by the subject and the root verb. Interrogatives can also begin with adverbs expressing time or place.
- Didn’t you want to see her star in the play?
- Where did she go?
- How many years ago did the Civil Rights Movement happen?
Learn more about verb tenses.