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Simple Past Tense
What Is the Simple Past Tense?The simple past tense is used to describe a completed activity that happened in the past. In other words, the activity started in the past and ended in the past. For example:
- John baked a cake.
- They painted the fence.
Table of Contents
- Forming the Simple Past Tense
- Spelling Rules
- Forming the Simple Past Tense of Irregular Verbs
- Real-life Examples of the Simple Past Tense
- Using the Simple Past Tense
- Interactive Verb Conjugation Tables
- Video Lesson
- Printable Test
Forming the Simple Past TenseIf you're dealing with a regular verb, the simple past tense is formed like this:
- jump > jumped
- paint > painted
Spelling RulesIf a verb of one syllable ends [consonant-vowel-consonant], double the final consonant and add "ed":
- chat > chatted
- stop > stopped
- sew > sewed
- play > played
- fix > fixed
- incur > incurred
- prefer > preferred
- open > opened
- enter > entered
- swallow > swallowed
- thrive > thrived
- guzzle > guzzled
- cry > cried
- fry > fried
Forming the Simple Past Tense of Irregular VerbsIf it's an irregular verb, the simple past tense is formed in all sorts of different ways. Here are some examples:
- break > broke
- catch > caught
- find > found
- see > saw
Real-life Examples of the Simple Past TenseHere are some real-life examples of the simple past tense:
- I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. (Italian sculptor Michelangelo)
- I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way so I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
Using the Simple Past TenseWhen making a statement, you can use the following word order:
- The Martians landed near the aqueduct.
- The burglar used the fire escape.
The Negative VersionIf you need the negative version, you can use the following word order:
- The Martians did not land near the aqueduct. (We could have used "didn't" instead of "did not.")
- The burglar did not use the fire escape.
The Question VersionIf you need to ask a question, you can use the following word order for a yes/no question:
- Did the Martians land near the aqueduct?
- Did the burglar use the fire escape?
- Why did the Martians land near the aqueduct?
- When did the burglar use the fire escape?
- Did the Martians land near the aqueduct or the town?
- Did the burglar use the fire escape or the stairs?
The Simple Past Tense with Time ExpressionsThe simple past tense is often seen with a time expression explaining when the activity took place or how long it lasted.
Examples of "when an activity took place":
- On Tuesday last week, the Martians landed near the aqueduct. ("On Tuesday last week" tells you when it happened. It's called an adverbial phrase of time. Other examples are"Yesterday," "Last year," "Before breakfast,". They are really common. When any adverb appears at the front of a sentence, it is usual to follow it with a comma. A comma is not usually used when the adverbial phrase appears at the back of a sentence. NB: This is not a strict rule. Use a comma if it helps your reader.)
- The Martians landed near the aqueduct on Tuesday last week. (Note: No comma)
- Just before he was caught, the burglar considered using the fire escape. ("Just before he was caught" tells you when the activity took place.)
Examples of "how long an activity took":
- For the whole of June, the council inspected the drains. ("For the whole of June" tells you how long the activity took.)
- Her daughter hid under the bed for three hours. (Using "for" is a common way of describing how long an activity lasted.)
Infographic for the Simple Past Tense
Top 10 Regular Verbs
Top 10 Irregular Verbs
All 4 Past Tenses
|Person||Simple Past||Past Progressive Tense||Past Perfect Tense||Past Perfect Progressive Tense|
The simple past tense is for a completed activity that happened in the past.
The past progressive tense is for an ongoing activity in the past. Often, it is used to set the scene for another action.
The past perfect tense is for emphasizing that an action was completed before another took place.
The past perfect progressive tense is for showing that an ongoing action in the past has ended.
All 4 Present Tenses
|Person||Simple Present||Present Progressive Tense||Present Perfect Tense||Present Perfect Progressive Tense|
The simple present tense is mostly for a fact or a habit.
The present progressive tense is for an ongoing action in the present.
The present perfect tense is for an action that began in the past. (Often, the action continues into the present.)
The present perfect progressive tense is for a continuous activity that began in the past and continues into the present (or finished very recently).
All 4 Future Tenses
|Person||Simple Future||Future Progressive Tense||Future Perfect Tense||Future Perfect Progressive Tense|
The simple future tense is for an action that will occur in the future.
The future progressive tense is for an ongoing action that will occur in the future.
The future perfect tense is for an action that will have been completed at some point in the future.
The future perfect progressive tense is for an ongoing action that will be completed at some specified time in the future.
The Other Past TensesThe simple past tense is one of four past tenses. This table shows all four of the past tenses:
|The 4 Past Tenses||Example|
|simple past tense||I went|
|past progressive tense||I was going|
|past perfect tense||I had gone|
|past perfect progressive tense||I had been going|
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