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Past Simple

When do we use the Past Simple?

The Past Simple is used to talk about actions or situations completely finished in the past, there is no connection with the present. In some grammar books it is also called Simple Past.

1. action finished in the past (single or repeated)

We cooked a meal last night.

My friends left for New York a week ago.

My parents learned Latin in school when they were young.

2. series of completed actions in the past each action is finished before the next begins.

got up, I had a shower then I cleaned my teeth, after that I ate breakfast.

3. together with the Past Continuous – the Past Simple interrupts an action which was in progress in the past.

Both actions are completely finished and in the past. The first action was already happening when the second one began.

I was having a bath when the telephone rang.

1st action → Past Continuous → was having
2nd action → Past Simple → rang

While I was walking to the shops, I met an old friend.

1st action → Past Continuous → was walking
2nd action → Past Simple → met

4. Signal words

  • a month/year ago
  • in 1999
  • last night/week/year
  • the other day
  • years ago
  • yesterday

5. Form

regular verbs → infinitive + ed
irregular verbs → 2nd column of the table of the irregular verbs

6. Examples

6.1. Affirmative sentences in the Past Simple – regular verbs

Long formsContracted forms
played football.not possible
You played football.
He played football.

6.2. Affirmative sentences in the Past Simple – irregular verbs

Long formsContracted forms
went to school.not possible
You went to school.
He went to school.

6.3. Negative sentences in the Past Simple

You cannot not negate a main verb in English. Always use the auxiliary did (Past Simple of to do) and the infinitive of the verb for negations.

There is no difference between regular and irregular verbs in negative sentences.

Long formsContracted forms
did not wash the dishes.didn’t wash the dishes.
You did not wash the dishes.You didn’t wash the dishes.
He did not wash the dishes.He didn’t wash the dishes.

4.4. Questions in the Past Simple

You need the auxiliary did and the infinitive of the verb.

Long formsContracted forms
Did I wash the dishes?not possible
Did you wash the dishes?
Did he wash the dishes?