The simple past tense is the one-word past tense of verbs in English. This module looks at regular and irregular verbs in the simple past.
Narrating about a sequence of past events
Regular and Irregular Verbs
To form the past tense with regular verbs we use the base form of the verb and add the ending “-ed”.
We cannot use the ending “-ed” with irregular verbs. They follow a different conjugation table.
eat (ate), begin (began), break (broke), buy (bought), drive (drove), go (went), know (knew), leave (left), make (made)
I ate a hamburger yesterday.
He drove home last night.
We went to the game last week.
She knew him from earlier.
I left after lunch.
You made a mistake.
The Verb "to be"
To form the past tense of “to be”, we use “was” and “were”.
I was happy.
You were honest.
He was funny.
To form the past tense of “to be” in the negative, we simply add “not”.
I was not happy.
You were not honest.
He was not funny.
Questions with “was” and “were”:
Question: Was I happy? Answer: Yes, I was.
Question: Was he honest? Answer: No, he was not.
Question: Were they late? Answer: Yes, they were.
Simple Past with "do"
To form a negative, or to ask and answer questions in the Past Tense we need to use “to do” + a verb in the infinitive.
Questions with “Wh-” question words:
Simple Past Negative Examples
- I didn’t go to school last night.
- You didn’t understand.
- She didn’t eat dinner yesterday.
- He didn’t go to work.
- We didn’t have fun last night.
- They didn’t call you.
Past Simple Question Examples
- Did you eat dinner?
- Did he go to work?
- Did he have lunch?
- When did they go on vacation?