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English Grammar Reference: The Past Simple

We use the past simple when the action and time period are finished.

So we can say:

I went to America in 1990.

   |____________|________________|______________________|
Past
1990
Present
Future

If we don't say when it happened we cannot use the past simple and we have to use the present perfect.

The past tense of regular verbs is easy - we add -ed.

Present simple
Past Simple

walk
work
play
like
love

walked
worked
played
liked
loved

Irregular verbs have to be memorised although some follow patterns and you can learn them as a group.
List of past forms of common irregular verbs
Complete list of past forms of irregular verbs

While in the present simple we use do or does, to make the negative form and the question form in the past simple we use did.
To make a negative statement we use didn't and the base form of the verb.

Subject

didn't

Base form of verb

 
I
didn't
do
anything yesterday.

He

didn't

go

to work last week.

She

didn't

want
to go out last night.

They

didn't

watch
the film on Saturday night.

Examples

I didn't have a coat. (Dolly Parton, Coat of Many Colors)

When we make questions we use did and the base form of the verb:

Question word

Auxiliary

Subject

Base form of verb

 

 

Did

you

go out

last night?

 

Did

he

go

on holiday last year?
What time

did

you

start

work this morning?
How many times
did
you
call
her yesterday?
How much beer wine
did
they
drink
last night?

As in the present simple, if we use the verb to be, we do not use did.

Past of verb To Be

 

Past of verb To Be (negative)

I was

We were

 

I wasn't

We weren't

You were

You were

 

You weren't

You weren't

He was
She was
It was

They were

 

He wasn't
She wasn't
It wasn't

They weren't

She was angry last night.
Thet were late this morning.
We weren't very interested in history when we at school.
I wasn't here when he called.

 

See examples of the Past Simple in the following songs:

English Grammar Exercises: Dolly Parton, Coat of Many Colors