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Practice with the exercises:
Exercise 1

1. Past simple

The simple past is used to talk about completed actions in the past.
Last week we travelled to Canada.
Last year we dressed up as pineapples.

2. The past of regular and irregular verbs

In English, there are two types of verbs: regular and irregular. In order to construct the Past Simple correctly, we must know whether the main verb is regular or irregular.

Regular verbs form the past by adding the particle -ed to the verb. There are some spelling changes we must take into account:

Ending Rule Examples
One-syllable verbs ending in consonant + vowel + consonant The last consonant is doubled Stop Stopped Chat Chatted
More than one-syllable verbs ending in: consonant + vowel + consonant when the stress is in the last syllable. Admit Admitted Permit Permitted
Verbs ending in consonant + vowel plus -L Travel Travelled Cancel Cancelled
Verbs ending invowel plus -Y We just add -ED Play Played Stay Stayed
Verbs ending in consonant plus -Y The -Y is replaced by -IED Study Studied Tidy Tidied
Verbs ending in -E We add -D Live Lived Like Liked

However, there are a number of verbs which do not follow this form, the irregular ones. Here is a list of the most common ones.

Present Past Simple Past Participle
Buy Bought Bought
Choose Chose Chosen
Put Put Put
Sing Sang Sung

As we can see, there are some verbs that share the same form for the present, past and participle, so we will know if the sentence is in the past tense by the context.

2. Structure of past simple

  • Affirmative form
    Subject verb
    (past form)
    Examples
    I enjoyed I enjoyed the holidays.
    You You enjoyed the holidays.
    He He enjoyed the holidays.
    She She enjoyed the holidays.
    It It enjoyed the holidays.
    We We enjoyed the holidays.
    You You enjoyed the holidays.
    They They enjoyed the holidays.
  • Negative form
    Subject auxiliary Verb
    (infinitive form)
    Examples
    I did not
    didn't
    enjoy I didn't enjoy the holidays.
    You You didn't enjoy the holidays.
    He He didn't enjoy the holidays.
    She She didn't enjoy the holidays.
    It It didn't enjoy the holidays.
    We We didn't enjoy the holidays.
    You You didn't enjoy the holidays.
    They They didn't enjoy the holidays.
    Remember that in negative sentences the verb is used in the infinitive because the particle did already indicates that the sentence is in the past tense. The same thing will happen in interrogative sentences.
  • Interrogative form
    AUXILIARY Subject Verb
    (infinitive form)
    Examples
    Did I enjoy? Did I enjoy the holidays?
    You Did you enjoy the holidays?
    He Did he enjoy the holidays?
    She Did she enjoy the holidays?
    It Did it enjoy the holidays?
    We Did we enjoy the holidays?
    You Did you enjoy the holidays?
    They Did they enjoy the holidays?

    Interrogative sentences in simple past also have their own short answers.

    Adverb Subject AuxiliarY
    Yes, I did
    you
    he
    she
    it
    we
    you
    they
    Adverb Subject AuxiliarY
    No, I didn't
    you
    he
    she
    it
    we
    you
    they
    Did she  work last night? Yes, she did.
    Did they finish the food? No, they didn't.

3. How is the past simple used?

The Simple Past is used to talk about actions that began and ended sometime before now, either in the recent or distant past.

When I was young I went to China.
Last night we sang in a karaoke.

With the past simple we usually use certain time expressions.

Expressions Examples
Last week/month/year It was his birthday last week.
When I was a child/six When I lived in London, my English improved.
Yesterday It rained all day yesterday.
Six weeks / ten days / ages / a long time ago Most people didn't have mobile phones ten years ago.
The other day I saw your brother at the bus stop the other day.

Note that last is placed before the expression of time. However, ago is placed after.

Last summer we got married.
I won the lottery three years ago.

There are two other tenses related to the past simple, the present perfect and the past continuous.

Remember!

The simple past is used to express actions that began and ended at some point in the past.
  Structure Examples
AFFIRMATIVE Subject + verb (in past) + (complement) John bought a present for his sister.
NEGATIVE Subject + didn't + verb (infinitive) + (complement) They didn't get married.
INTERROGATIVE Did + subject + verb (infinitive) + (complement) Did you call Marta? Yes, I did.

 

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