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Past Simple Tense: Structure Uses and Examples




Table of Content(toc)

Simple Past Tense Structure

Past simple tense is formed with the second form of a verb. Like present simple tense, the simple past tense also has three forms affirmative, negative and interrogative. The simple past tense does not require any auxiliary verb to complete its meaning. 

Positive Sentences 


Subject + (Verb)2 + Object

The affirmative form of past simple tense states that the subject had performed the action at a specific time in the past.

Examples
  • He was in New Delhi yesterday.
  • I visited this school last Friday.
  • They did it last week.
  • I met him two days ago.
  • She went to London last winter. Have you ever been there?
  • Yesterday we worked on our project for two hours.

Negative Sentences 


Subject + did + not + (Verb)1 + Object.

The negative form of past simple tense states that the subject had not performed any action in the past.

Examples
  • He did not go anywhere last Monday.
  • She did not write a letter.
  • I didn't clean the room.
  • He didn't read an exciting story a week ago.
  • The baby didn't sleep well last night.
  • You did not understand me.

Interrogative Sentences 


Did + Subject + (Verb)1 + Object

The interrogative form of simple past tense asks whether the subject had performed an action in the past or not.

Examples
  • Did you invite him to a party yesterday?
  • Did she wash the clothes?
  • Did he live in this house?

Interrogative sentences can also be formed by using other question words how, where, when, etc., followed by did. These types of questions ask how, where, or when something is done or to ask for specific information.

Examples
  • Why did you go with them?
  • When did she write this letter?
  • Why did you come to the club?
  • What did she wear last Sunday?
However, when the question word who is functions as an interrogative pronoun, we use it without followed by did to form the interrogative sentence.
Examples
  • Who spent more money in the game?
  • Who left their wallet behind?
  • Who invented the computer?

However, when the question word who is functions as an interrogative pronoun, we use it without following by did to form the interrogative sentence.
Examples
  • Who spent more money in the game?
  • Who left their wallet behind?
  • Who invented the computer?

Formation of Simple Past Tense with be verbs 



The past forms of the be verbs am and is are was and were are used in the past simple tense formation.

Use was when the subject is a singular noun or one of these pronouns I, he, she, or it. The negative statements take the word, not after the verb. In the interrogative statements, the be verb goes before the subject.

Examples
  • She was a lawyer before she joined politics.
  • John was an excellent football player when he was at college.
  • I wasn't there when the accident happened.
  • Was she in the class when I called her?

If the subject is, we, you, or they we use were to form the simple past tense.

Examples
  • We were surprised to hear that he got the job.
  • They weren't alone in the school yesterday.
  • How long were you here?  

Uses of the Past Simple Tense 


Past tense is used for a past habit and repeated events. To emphasize a past habit, we use used to in the simple past tense.
  • I used to go to a picnic with friends when I was in college. But I don't any longer.
  • I used to go by bus, but now I prefer the train.
  • People used to live in caves a hundred years ago.
  • They usually went by bus.
  • I used to go to school by bike.
  • He always came late.
  • He used to drink.
  • She went to the same club every wedding ceremony.
  • She always helped her friend.
  • We studied together every day.
  • I didn't attend any college parties, but I attended a lot in university.
  • Did he call them every day? (To know if this was his habit in the past) 
We used the simple past tense when something happened at a specific time in the past. Adverb of time is used to say when something has happened.

  • We lived in that flat over there. (we don't live there any longer)
  • I saw him yesterday.
  • They arrived just a few minutes ago.
  • He spent his holidays in London last summer.

To indicate specific times in the past, we use time expressions like
Last month, yesterday, before, ago, since, earlier, then, when, in 1960, once, etc.

If an activity or situation has existed for some time in the past, we use the simple past tense to indicate that situation.
  • British empire ruled India for many years.
  • I can played cricket when I was 16.
  • He was our department chairperson for ten years.
  • She studied Hindi when she was in high school.

When we want to indicate when a present situation began, we use the simple past tense.
  • I planned to move that house a month ago.

Note the following formula for past simple.

Present Perfect + Point of time = Simple Past

This indicates that to formulate past simple tense, there must be a specific mention of time in the past.

Further Examples of Past Simple Tense 

  • He bought these shoes in Paris.
  • I didn't drink tea this morning.
  • Did you watch the movie last night?
  • The weather was cold this morning.
  • Who did you have dinner with?
  • When did you visit your friend?
  • When did your brother leave school?
  • They finished the building a year ago.
  • She lost her son in a car accident.
  • My friend phoned me a moment ago.
  • I usually drive to work, but yesterday I walked instead. 

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