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How to Use the Simple Past Tense for English

Updated: Jan 10

The Past Tense (English Language)

Explanation


Simple Past Tense: The simple past is the basic form of past tense in the English language. It is used to refer a completed action in a time before now. The time of the action and the action duration is not important.

The Past Tense verb shows action that is already happened. To put simply, Past tense verbs refer to the actions or events that happened in the past. They can be either-

  • Regular verbs that simply end with a "d" or an "ed" E.g.: Ram played the game.

  • Irregular at times and change their spelling to show the past tense. E.g.: Ram slept in the afternoon.



The various other rules for making the simple past tense are explained below-

Rules for making Simple Past Tense

  • For regular verbs, we add -ed to the root form of the verb (or just -d if the root form already ends in an e):

E.g.: Play- Played, Work-Worked, Type-Typed, Listen-Listened

  • If a regular verb ends in a single vowel and a single consonant (except x), we double the consonant before adding -ed:

E.g.: beg –begged, hop-hopped, clap- clapped, jog-jogged

  • For a regular verb with two or more syllables; verb ending in l or r; and if the last syllable is stressed, we double the l or r before adding -ed:

E.g.: confer-conferred, control-controlled, fulfill-fulfilled, and Prefer-preferred

  • For a regular verb with two or more syllables, the verb ending in l or r, and if the last syllable is not stressed, we do not double the l or r before adding -ed:

E.g.: suffer-suffered, travel-traveled, and cancel-canceled

  • If a regular verb ends in a consonant and y (or if the final syllable of a regular verb ends the same way), we change the y to i and then add -ed:

E.g.: copy-copied, qualify-qualified, apply-applied, hurry-hurried, fry-fried, and bury-buried

  • If a regular verb ends in a vowel and y (or if the final syllable of a regular verb ends the same way), we do not change the y to i and then add -ed:

E.g.: obey-obeyed, enjoy-enjoyed, dismay-dismayed, and stay-stayed

  • If a regular verb ends in x, we only add – ed without doubling x E.g.: box – boxed, fax –faxed, mix- mixed, tax -taxed

  • For irregular verbs, the simple past tense of some irregular verbs looks exactly like the root form:

E.g.: Put-Put, Cut- Cut, Set- Set, cost- cost

Various patterns of simple past tense for regular verbs

Affirmative Sentences

  • Subject +Verb + ed

  • I skipped

Negative Sentences

  • Subject +did not +infinitive without to

  • They didn’t go

Interrogative Sentences

  • Did +Subject +infinitive without to

  • Did She reach?

Situations in which ‘past tense’ is used with examples?

  1. We always use the simple past when we say when something happened, so it is associated with certain past time expressions

Frequency: often, sometimes, and always

E.g.: I sometimes walked home at lunchtime.

E.g.: I often brought my lunch to school.

  1. A definite point in time: last week, when I was small, yesterday, five weeks ago

E.g.: We saw a good film last week.

E.g.: Yesterday, I arrived in Geneva.

  1. An indefinite point in time: the other day, ages ago, a long time ago People lived in caves a long time ago.

E.g.: She played cricket when she was a child.

  1. For finished actions, states or habits in the past

Examples-

  • I went to the watch movie yesterday


  1. Past tense is used with finished actions, states or habits in the past when we know that the time period has finished. This includes when the person we are talking about is no more living.

Examples-

  • Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa


  1. Past tense is used with finished actions, states or habits in the past that we have introduced with the present perfect or another tense. This is sometimes called specific 'details of news'.

Examples-

  • Joe fell off a ladder when he was repairing his window.









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