English Past Simple (Explained For Beginners + Examples)

  • Lara Scott
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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.

SubjectPast Verb
I / You / He / She / We / Theylistenedto 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 verbsRegular verbs ending in “-e”Regular verbs ending in “-y”Stressed final syllable
“-ed” is addedonly “-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


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.

Iwasat a friend’s house
He / shewas
We / theywere

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.

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I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
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