The simple past tense is sometimes called the preterit tense. We can use several tenses to talk about
the past, but the simple past tense is the one we use most often.
In this lesson we look at the structure and use of the simple past tense, followed by a quiz to check
How do we make the Simple Past Tense?
To make the simple past tense, we use:
- past form only
- auxiliary did + base form
subject +main verb
The structure for negative sentences in the simple past tense is:
subject + auxiliary verb + not +main verb
The structure for question sentences in the simple past tense is:
auxiliary verb + subject + main verb
The auxiliary verb did is not conjugated. It is the same for all persons (I did, you did, he did etc). And
the base form and past form do not change. Look at these examples with the main verbs go and work:
Exception! The verb to be is different. We conjugate the verb to be (I was, you were, he/she/it was,
we were, they were); and we do not use an auxiliary for negative and question sentences. To make a
question, we exchange the subject and verb. Look at these examples:
How do we use the Simple Past Tense?
We use the simple past tense to talk about an action or a situation—an event—in the past. The event
can be short or long.
Here are some short events with the simple past tense:
Here are some more examples:
- I lived in that house when I was young.
- He didn't like the movie.
- What did you eat for dinner?
- John drove to London on Monday.
- Mary did not go to work yesterday.