English Past Simple (Explained For Beginners + Examples)

  • Lara Scott
    Written byLara Scott
  • Read time3 mins
  • Comments0
English Past Simple (Explained For Beginners + Examples)

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”

For example:

Listen to audio

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.

Subject Past Verb
I / You / He / She / We / They listened to music

All of the subjects (pronouns) use the same verb form.

Additonal examples

Listen to audio

At the park, I kicked a ball.

Listen to audio

I baked a cake in my kitchen.

Listen to audio

On Sunday, I prayed at church.

Listen to audio

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
kick prance fry dub
kicked pranced fried dubbed
“-ed” is added only “-d” is added “-y” ending is removed and replaced with “-ied” last consonant is doubled before “-ed”

Other examples

  • 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

come have see put go do
came had saw put went did

Here’s an example sentence using an irregular past simple verb:

Listen to audio

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:

Listen to audio

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.

Subject “be”
I was at a friend’s house
You were
He / she was
We / they were

Other examples

Listen to audio

She was a famous dancer.

Listen to audio

They were hungry.

Listen to audio

I was at the game.

Listen to audio

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.


Did you find this helpful?

Comment below.

Share link Grab the link to this article
Copy Link
Support me by sharing:
  • Reddit share
  • Facebook share
  • Twitter share

Let me help you learn English
JOIN THE GUILD:

Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Greek
Greek

COMMENTS

Comment Policy: I love comments and feedback (positive and negative) but I have my limits. You're in my home here so act accordingly (with respect).
NO ADVERTISING. Self-promotion gets you banned for life and links do not work here.
"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."
- Ludwig Wittgenstein
© The Mezzofanti Guild, 2023. NAGEL PTY LTD. All Rights Reserved.
Join The Guild

Let Me Help You Learn A Language

  • Get my exclusive language learning content delivered straight to your inbox.
  • Learn about the best language resources that I've personally test-driven.
  • Get insider tips for learning languages.

Language you're learning...

No spam. Ever.