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#5 Simple Past - The Tenses In English - English Free Test

#5 Simple Past - The Tenses In English - English Free Test

I) An Introduction

Simple past tense is used to narrate an action of the past. The verb in the past tense ends with an '-ed' and hence, there are seven ways of marking the irregular verbs in the past tense. The most common being the change of the vowel as in 'drink' - 'drank'.

  • You called Debbie.
  • Did you call Debbie?
  • You did not call Debbie.
[VERB+ed] or irregular verbs

  • Katie worked in that office for almost four years.
  • He passed away in 1999.
  • We went for the movie yesterday.
  • Three years ago, I studied at the Canada University.

II) Description

Positive, Negative, Question Forms
> Positive > Negative > Question
I saw him yesterday.
I didn't (did not) see him yesterday. Did you see him?
>I arrived yesterday. >I didn't (did not) arrive. >Did I arrive yesterday?
>You arrived yesterday. >You didn't (did not) arrive. >Did you arrive?
>He/she/it arrived >He/she/it didn't arrive >Did he/she/it arrive?
>We arrived >We didn't arrive >Did we arrive?
>They arrived >They didn't arrive >Did they arrive?

Common Mistakes
> Common mistakes > Correct version > Why?
> I was work in London. > I worked in London. > In positive sentences, a helping verb such as 'was' or 'did' is not used.
> He worked in London? > Did he work in London? > The helping verb 'did' is used in past simple questions.
> Worked he in London? > Did he work in London? > The helping verb 'did' is used in past simple questions.
> Did he wrote a letter? > Did he write a letter? > The main verb is used in the infinitive form in questions and negatives.
> He didn't wrote a letter. > He didn't write a letter. > The main verb is used in the infinitive form in questions and negatives.
Most Verbs

Most verbs conjugate by adding -ed like the verb "wait" below.

Positive Negative Question
I waited. I did not wait. DidI wait?
You waited. You did not wait. Didyou wait?
We waited. We did not wait. Didwe wait?
They waited. They did not wait. Didthey wait?
He waited. He did not wait. DidHe wait?
She waited. She did not wait. DidShe wait?
It waited. It did not wait. DidIt wait?
Irregular Verbs

Many verbs, such as "have," take irregular forms in the Simple Past. Notice that you only use the irregular verbs in statements. In negative forms and questions, "did" indicates Simple Past. To learn more about irregular verbs, visit Englishpage.com's Irregular Verb Dictionary. You can also use Englishpage.com's Online Irregular Verb Flashcards to memorize irregular verb forms.

Positive Negative Question
I had I did not have Did I have?
You had You did not have. Did you have?
We had We did not have. Did we have?
They had They did not have. Did they have?
He had He did not have. Did he have?
She had She did not have. Did she have?
It had It did not have. Did it have?
To Be

The verb "be" is also irregular in the Simple Past. Unlike other irregular verbs, there are two Simple Past forms: "was" and "were." It also has different question forms and negative forms. Always remember that you DO NOT use "did" with the verb "be" in the Simple Past.

Positive Negative Question
I was. I was not. Was I?
You were. You were not. Were you?
We were. We were not. Were we?
They were They were not Were they?
He was He was not Was he?
She was. She was not. Was she?
It was. It was not. Was it?
Modal Verbs

Modal verbs behave very strangely in the Simple Past. The most important verb to remember is "must." Notice how it becomes "had to" in the Simple Past.

"Must" becomes "had to":

  • I must call my wife now.
  • I had to call my wife yesterday.

III) Usages

Repeated Actions

Use the Simple Past to express the idea that an action started and finished at a specific time in the past. Sometimes, the speaker may not actually mention the specific time, but they do have one specific time in mind.

  • I saw a movie yesterday.
  • I didn't see a play yesterday.
  • Last year, I traveled to Japan.
  • Last year, I didn't travel to Korea.
  • Did you have dinner last night?
  • She washed her car.
  • He didn't wash his car.
A Series of Completed Actions

We use the Simple Past to list a series of completed actions in the past. These actions happen 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so on.

  • I finished work, walked to the beach, and found a nice place to swim.
  • He arrived from the airport at 8:00, checked into the hotel at 9:00, and met the others at 10:00.
  • Did you add flour, pour in the milk, and then add the eggs?
Duration in Past

The Simple Past can be used with a duration which starts and stops in the past. A duration is a longer action often indicated by expressions such as: for two years, for five minutes, all day, all year, etc.

  • I lived in Brazil for two years.
  • Shauna studied Japanese for five years.
  • They sat at the beach all day.
  • They did not stay at the party the entire time.
  • We talked on the phone for thirty minutes.
  • A: How long did you wait for them?
    B: We waited for one hour.
Habits in the Past

The Simple Past can also be used to describe a habit which stopped in the past. It can have the same meaning as "used to." To make it clear that we are talking about a habit, we often add expressions such as: always, often, usually, never, when I was a child, when I was younger, etc.

  • I studied French when I was a child.
  • He played the violin.
  • He didn't play the piano.
  • Did you play a musical instrument when you were a kid?
  • She worked at the movie theater after school.
  • They never went to school, they always skipped class.
Past Facts or Generalizations

The Simple Past can also be used to describe past facts or generalizations which are no longer true. As in USE 4 above, this use of the Simple Past is quite similar to the expression used to."

  • She was shy as a child, but now she is very outgoing.
  • He didn't like tomatoes before.
  • Did you live in Texas when you were a kid?
  • People paid much more to make cell phone calls in the past.
IMPORTANT When-Clauses Happen First

Clauses are groups of words which have meaning but are often not complete sentences. Some clauses begin with the word "when" such as "when I dropped my pen..." or "when class began..." These clauses are called when-clauses, and they are very important. The examples below contain when-clauses.

  • When I paid her one dollar , she answered my question.
  • She answered my question when I paid her one dollar.

When-clauses are important because they always happen first when both clauses are in the Simple Past. Both of the examples above mean the same thing: first, I paid her one dollar, and then, she answered my question. It is not important whether "when I paid her one dollar" is at the beginning of the sentence or at the end of the sentence. However, the example below has a different meaning. First, she answered my question, and then, I paid her one dollar.

  • I paid her one dollar when she answered my question.

The examples below show the placement for grammar adverbs such as: always, only, never, ever, still, just, etc.

  • You just called Debbie.
  • Did you just call Debbie?
  • Tom repaired the car. Active
  • The car was repaired by Tom. Passive

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