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Simple Past Tense

by | Mar 21, 2020 | English Grammar, Verb Tenses | 0 comments

In this article we’ll look at the simple past tense. The Simple Past Tense is the most basic past tense in English grammar. It is mostly used to express finished actions in the past.

How to use the Simple Past Tense

1. Use this tense for finished, completed actions or events in the past.


  • Columbus discovered America in 1492.
  • I went to the cinema yesterday.

2. Use it to express past actions that follow each other (usually in stories)


  • I heard voices, so I woke up and went downstairs.

3. Use it to express a period of time that started and ended in the past.


  • I lived in Paris for 2 years. – I don’t liv there anymore.
  • She studied in Japan for 4 years. – She doesn’t study there anymore.

4. Use it to express past habits and states.


  • My dad always ate vegetables.
  • I learned to play the guitar when I was a child.

Simple Past Tense – Signal words/Time expressions

yesterday, (2 years/weeks/months) ago, last night, then, in 1990,

Sentence Structures

Affirmative Sentence Structure:

Subject Verb Rest of the sentence
I / You
He / She / It
We, You, They
saw a movie last night.

The form is the same in all persons.
Use -ed endings with regular verbs or use the second form if the verb is irregular.

Negative Sentence Structure:

Subject Auxiliary Verb + NOT Verb Rest of the sentence
I / You
He / She / It
We, You, They
did not or didn’t see a movie last night.

“Did” is the past form of “do”. We use “did + not” to form negative sentences in the simple past.

Interrogative Sentence Structure:

Auxiliary Verb Subject Verb Rest of the sentence
Did I / you
he / she / it
we, you, they
see a movie last night?

Use “did” before the subject to form questions.


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