Simple past rules and examples

Simple past

Simple past rules

The Simple past describes a completed action in a time before now and things that happen one after another in the past. Note that the simple past form is the same for all persons.

Examples: Simple Past

First Bob read a book, then he went to bed yesterday night.
Last week I came to a church and then I took the road right.

Actions at a specific time

Simple Past: Actions that happened at a specific time in the past.

Examples simple past tense:

I got a present yesterday. I had in great time in America last year.

Simple past regular verbs

Add -ed to the regular verb. look - looked, watch - watched,
Some verbs you need to change a bit.

Verb ending in... Add ... Examplee
-e only add - d live - lived
date - dated
Consonant +y Change y to i an add -ed carry - carried
cry - cried
1 vowel + 1 consonant Double consonant and
add -ed
stop - stopped

Simple Past regular verbs - examples

Add -ed to the regular verb.

cook - cooked, play - played, wash - washed

-e at the end of the verb: only add -d.

love - loved, live - lived, close - closed, live - lived

Simple past irregular (not regular) verbs

Some verbs are not regular. They are irregular. You should learn them by heart!

Example: Simple Past tense - irregular verbs: 

begin - began
break - broke
come - came
drink - drank

fall - fell
forget - forgot
get -  got
speak - spoke

To be - Simple past

Example: Simple Past tense - irregular verbs:  to be

Simple present
I am
you are
he/she/it is
we are
you are
they are

Simple past
I was
you were
he/she/it was
we were
you were
they were

Simple past signal words

Use the simple past when you say when something happened. See the following signal words:

frequency: often, sometimes, always
We sometimes had no school.

a definite point in time: last week, when I was a child, yesterday, six weeks ago
They were in London last week.

an indefinite point in time: the other day, ages ago, a long time ago
He learned English when he was young.

More simple past signal words: ago, in 2011, in 1999, ... last month, last week, last year, yesterday.

Examples: Simple Past signal words

I ate oranges last year.
We went to school eyery day in 1999.
He took his dog for a walk a month ago.

Simple past - questions

To form a question: 'did' + subject + infinitive.

Examples: questions Simple Past


I ate oranges in 2011. Did I eat oranges in 2011?
We went to school last week. Did we go to school last week?
He took his dog for a walk yesterday. Did he take his dog for a walk yesterday?

Questions with was/were

Sentences with 'to be' (was/were). Questions with was/were.

She was in London. Was she in London?
They were at the station. Were they at the station?

Simple past negative

Negative sentences simple past: examples short form

I knew Covent Garden?   I didn't know Covent Garden.
We went to school eyery day.  We didn't go to school every day.
He took his dog for a walk.  He didn't take his dog for a walk.

Questions with wasn't/weren't

Negative sentences with wasn't/weren't. Long form, short form.

She was not in Los Angeles. She wasn't in Los Angeles.
They were not at the station. They weren't at the station.

Simple past examples

▶ 18 more exercises simple past with free online exercises. Simple past examples and sentences. Online exercises  Simple past, questions and simple past negative sentences.