The Past Simple Tense

Another name for the Past Simple Tense is the ‘preterite tense’. Several tenses and forms can be used to talk about the past. The Past Simple Tense is the tense which we use more often. Here, we will look at the structure and the use of the Past Simple Tense which will be followed by a short exercise to check your understanding. The Past Simple Tense is one small topic in the vast ocean of English Grammar. English Grammar really helps you to be fluent in the language which could be useful for you in the near future.

Let us now understand the Past Simple Tense.

The making of Past Simple Tense:

It has two main basic structure tenses,

  1. Positive sentence which is Subject+Main verb(past participle)
  2. Negative sentence which is Subject+ auxiliary do (conjugated in past simple as ‘did’) + main verb (base)

Let us have a look at some examples,

subjectAuxiliary verbMain verb
+IreadThe book.
+YouFinished Your work.
ShedidnotPlay Very well.
Wedidnotgothere.
?Didyoueatgood?
?DidtheyWork  hard?

From the given table above, notice that there is no auxiliary verb for positive sentences. The main verb is conjugated in the past simple, invariable: ed (or irregular)

In the case of negative sentences, the auxiliary is conjugated in the past simple, invariable: did

  • The main verb is invariable in base form: base
  • In case of negative sentences, ‘not’ is put in between the auxiliary verb along with the main verb.
  • In case of question sentences, the subject and the auxiliary verbs are exchanged.

Usually, we don’t use the auxiliary ‘did’ in the case of the positive sentences. But if we want to stress something, or if we want to contradict something, we are free to use it.

Let us look at the Past simple tense with the main verb ‘be’,

Subject  +The main verb ‘be’
Conjugated in past simple
was, were

Here are some examples,

subjectThe main verb ‘be’
+I/he/she/itwasthere.
+You, we, theywereIn America.
I,he/she/itwasnothere.
You, we, theywerenotsad.
?WasI,he/she/itlate?
?WereYou, we, theywrong?

Notice from the given table that there are no auxiliary verbs even for questions and negatives.

  • The main verb is conjugated in the past simple: was,were
  • In case of negative sentences, ‘not’ is put after the main verb.
  • In case of question sentences, the subject and the main verb are exchanged.

The Past simple tense is used to talk about a situation or an event that has occurred in the past. The event can be short or long.

For example,

  • She went to shop in the mall.
  • We did not hear the song.
  • I did not watch that movie.
  • Did you see the truck?

Remember that the event can be a few minutes ago or seconds in the past or many years ago too. It also does not matter how long the event is.

Simple Past Tense can be used when the event is in the past or the event is completely over or we say the time or the place of the event. Note that we use the simple past tense when we tell a story. In order to set the scene, we may begin with the past continuous tense but we always have to use the past simple tense for the action.

EXERCISE QUESTIONS

Change all the given sentences to simple past tense.

  1. I was going to the shopping mall. 
  2. We are watching a movie.
  3. She is playing.
  4. They will be going for a walk.
  5. I am completing my assignment.

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