What is the English past simple tense?
The English past simple / simple past is the most common past tense in the English language. It’s used to talk about finished actions that occurred at a fixed time in the past.
See my guide below to learn how it’s used.
Past simple regular verbs
If you want to form a regular verb in the past simple tense, then you add “-ed” to the end of the base form.
- verb + “-ed”
Steven mowed his lawn on Sunday.
How this is formed and used in a sentence
Typically, past simple verbs don’t change along with the subject.
|I / You / He / She / We / They||listened||to music|
All of the subjects (pronouns) use the same verb form.
At the park, I kicked a ball.
I baked a cake in my kitchen.
On Sunday, I prayed at church.
I laughed at the joke.
Past simple spelling changes
Past simple regular verbs end in “-ed” (which is easy to remember), but you should also keep in mind that in some cases, there are changes to the spelling.
|Regular verbs||Regular verbs ending in “-e”||Regular verbs ending in “-y”||Stressed final syllable|
|“-ed” is added||only “-d” is added||“-y” ending is removed and replaced with “-ied”||last consonant is doubled before “-ed”|
- lick -> licked
- strive -> strived
- try -> tried
Past simple irregular verbs
Irregular verbs work differently and do not follow the same rules by adding “-ed” to the end of the base form.
Unfortunately, you just have to memorize them as they do not all follow a consistent pattern.
Irregular past simple verb examples
Here’s an example sentence using an irregular past simple verb:
I ran to the store.
The verb “to be”
The verb “to be” is irregular (this includes the past simple).
The good news is that “to be” is the only past simple verb that changes depending on the subject. This means you’ll need to memorize them.
Here’s an example using two different subjects:
We were late, so our mother was worried.
How to use the past simple of the verb “to be”
“To be” in the past simple tense changes depending on the subject.
|I||was||at a friend’s house|
|He / she||was|
|We / they||were|
She was a famous dancer.
They were hungry.
I was at the game.
You were in a hurry.
Continue learning English grammar
Now that you’ve learned the past simple, where to from here?
I’ve put together a list of my favorite books for learning English (all levels) which you may find helpful.
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