How to form and use the Past Simple?

How to form and use the Past Simple?

You asked for it, and here it is….

Today we will be looking at the Past Simple….

In the English language there are various tenses we can use to describe an action in the past, with the past simple being one of those tenses.

Why use the Past Simple Tense?

The Past Simple is an important tense to learn because it is the ‘normal’ tense for talking about the past and you need a special reason to use other past tenses. There are several situations in which we use the Past Simple, but, first, we’re going to learn how to form the Past Simple of verbs.


The Past Simple tense of regular verbs is formed by adding the suffix -ed to the infinitive of the verb, as in work – worked.

Keep in mind that the verbs ending in -e add -d only, as in achieve – achieved.

The same form is used for all persons:

I washed the car.

You washed the car.

He/She/It washed the car.

We washed the car.

You washed the car.

They washed the car.

Obviously, the car is really clean now :)

Here is a video to help you better understand how to form the past simple:

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As you already know, English also has some irregular verbs, whose simple past forms cannot be predicted so you must learn them by heart (For those of you who don’t know, ‘learn something by heart’ is an idiom and it means ‘to memorize something’).

Here’s a video with the 50 most usual verbs and their past forms:

Keep learning English!  Here are some related articles for you:

Common mistakes made with the Past simple:

Some of the most common mistakes people make with the Past Simple are related to spelling, so here are some spelling notes which you need to remember so that you can avoid spelling mistakes:

  • Verbs which have a single vowel letter followed by a single consonant letter double the consonant: beg-begged; rub-rubbed.

  •  In two-syllable verbs, we double the final consonant when the last syllable contains a single vowel letter followed by a single consonant letter and is stressed: prefer-preferred.

  • When there is a consonant before -y, the y changes to i before we add -ed: marry-married.

Once you memorize these, spelling mistakes will no longer be your problem :) .


Let’s go on to making positive, negative and interrogative sentences in the simple past tense.

To make a positive sentence in the simple past we have:

the subject + the verb with -ed + the object

I washed the car.

The car is still pretty clean. J

To make a negative sentence in the simple past we have:

the subject + did not + the infinitive form of the verb + the object

            I did not wash the car.

 We can also contract did not into didn’t.

I didn’t wash the car.

 To make an interrogative sentence in the simple past we have:

Did + the subject + the infinitive form of the verb + the object

        Did I wash the car?

Now that we have gone through the form of the simple past, we can go on to its use. Remember, it is the most typical past tense, so it is used in the most typical past situations. Think of the typical past tense in your native language, this is the simple past in English language.


We are going to mention 5 most general uses of the simple past.

1.    We use the simple past to express an action started and finished at a specific time in the past.

This means that the action started in the past and also finished in the past. The time of the action can be stated (a), but it can already be known or implied (b), which means that the speaker does not always have to specify the time.

(a)    Last month I didn’t travel to Austria.

(b)    I saw Jim at the store.

2.    We use the simple past to list a series of completed actions in the past. These actions happen one after the other.

The simple past is used in this way in story-telling or when we are telling people about past events.

I finished my homework, I went to the gym, and I ate dinner. – All these actions happened one after the other. First, I finished my homework, then I went to the gym, and finally, I ate dinner.

3.    The simple past can be used with a duration which starts and stops in the past.

We use it for an action which happened within a specific time period which is over at the moment of speaking.

Eva studied Russian for two years.  – This means that Eva no longer studies Russian. The action took place within a specific time period, in this case, two years, but it is over now.


4.    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 played tennis when I was a child. – The habit stopped in the past, meaning that I no longer play tennis now that I’m older.


5.    The simple past can be used for past facts or generalizations which are no longer true.

These past facts and generalizations are no longer happening and no longer true because they have been changed by someone.

John was really quiet as a child, but now he’s outgoing and talks a lot.

Still having some problems with the use of the past simple? 

Here is a video to help you out ;)


This would be all for today. If you have any doubts or questions, feel free to ask. Also, if you have any trouble memorizing the simple past of irregular verbs, try learning five of them each day. Repeat the ones from the day before and learn another set of them. Soon you’ll know them like the back of your hand. Have fun and enjoy! :)