Past Simple

Lesson 13. Can you conjugate Past Simple tense perfectly, e.g. in negative and question forms? A good way of remembering how to use this tense is to learn the relevant time expressions. John explains.

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Past Simple - Exercise 1  Video Exercise 1   Past Simple - Exercise 2  PDF Exercise 2

Past Simple - Revision PDFPDF Handout
Lesson transcript

In the next three lessons, we're going to look at the past tenses – so, Past Simple, Past Continuous and Present Perfect.

Now, just like we did with the present we'll  take each tense and divide it into three parts.

Part 1 will be the example uses, Part 2 will be the verb conjugations, so question and negative forms, and Part 3 will be the practice exercises.

Do remember also that there is a lesson on Irregular Verbs.

So, let's get started with Past Simple and examples of Past Simple are:

'I arrived', 'she asked', and 'they lived'.

Now, we make Past Simple – in the regular form – with the verb – e.g. 'arrive', 'ask' and 'live' plus '…ed', as you can see <here>.

So let's look at some example uses, and there are three examples here.

Number 1, 'Shakespeare wrote 38 plays'; number 2, 'Emily was born in 1984' and number 3 – 'we sold our house last week'.

[NB: these are all IRREGULAR past simple forms - see lesson 16].

Now, if I ask you what all of these examples have in common, the answer is that each action – 'wrote', 'was born', 'sold' – finished in the past.

So, when we say 'Shakespeare wrote 38 plays' it's obviously finished in the past.

In the same way, 'was born in 1984' and 'sold our house last week' are also finished in the past.

Now, do notice that there are also two time expressions on this page.

The first one, is <here> 'in 1984' and the second one is <here> 'last week'.

Let's look at a few more time expressions for Past Simple.

<Here> we have 'earlier', which is in the past. Obviously, we could also say 'this morning' in the past sense.

We can even have 'today'. You might say this in the evening, talking about the morning and afternoon, going back in time.

We have 'yesterday'. Going back further, we have 'last week / month or year'.

We can also have 'in 1989', 'in the 18th-century' and so on.

And finally, we can have 'two years / days / hours ago'.

So those are some common time expressions for Past Simple, and we have seen that we use Past Simple for finished actions in the past.

Let's turn now to verb conjugations.

Again to look again at our two example verbs 'to live' and 'to be' and as before we will look at them in the positive, in the question and in the negative forms.

So, starting with 'to live' in the positive form:
– I / you / he / she / it / we / they …lived

Don't forget the 'd'.

In the question form we have <something> I / you / he / she / it / we / they and that is:
– Did I live? (no 'd' – remember that – not 'did I lived' –  it's 'did I live'.

And the negative form:
– I / you / he / she / it / we / they did not live.

If we want to use the informal we would say:
– I didn't live

So that's 'to live'. Let's now look at 'to be' in the positive.
– I / he / she / it …was
– You / we / they …were

Question form now and for:
– I / he / she / it we would say 'was I?'

And for:
– You / we / they we would say 'were you?'

So the difference between the positive and question is simply swapping around the words.

And finally, the negative form:
– I / he / she / it …was not, and
– You / we / they … were not.

For the informal here we would say
– I wasn't and
<here> we would say
– You / we / they weren't.

So those are the verb conjugations for Past Simple and that's the end of the lesson.

Here is the PDF for the lesson. As you can see, we have the time expressions, we have the verb conjugations to revise and we have the example sentences from the beginning of the lesson to remind you of how to use it.

Join me in part three for the practice exercises.

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Countables, uncountables (1) | Articles (2) (3) (4) (5)
There is, there are (6) | Some, Any (7) | Many, Much, A lot of (8) | A few, a little (9)
Prepositions of time: In, On, At (10)
The Present: Present Simple (11) | Present Continuous (12)
The Past: Past Simple (13) | Past Continuous (14) | Present Perfect (15)
Irregular Verbs (16)
The Future: Future Simple (17) | Future Plans (18)
Phrasal Verbs (19), (20)

     Countable and uncountable nouns 

     Countable and Uncountable
     Learn the two key rules

     "The": Special Uses
      "The": Special Uses
      10 special uses of 'the' here

     Phrasal Verbs - Part 1 

     Phrasal Verbs Part 1
     Each example with a picture

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