English – How do we make the Simple Past Tense?

Standard
 

The simple past tense is sometimes called the preterite tense. We can use several tenses to talk about the past, but the simple past tense is the one we use most often.
 
 

How do we make the Simple Past Tense?

To make the simple past tense, we use:

  • past form only
    or

  • auxiliary did + base form

Here you can see examples of the past form and base form for irregular verbs and regular verbs:

 

V1
base

V2
past

V3
past participle

 

regular verb

work
explode
like

worked
exploded
liked

worked
exploded
liked

The past form for all regular verbs ends in -ed.

irregular verb

go
see
sing

went
saw
sang

gone
seen
sung

The past form for irregular verbs is variable. You need to learn it by heart.

You do not need the past participle form to make the simple past tense. It is shown here for completeness only.

 

The structure for positive sentences in the simple past tense is:

subject

+

main verb

 

 

past

The structure for negative sentences in the simple past tense is:

subject

+

auxiliary verb

+

not

+

main verb

 

 

did

base

The structure for question sentences in the simple past tense is:

auxiliary verb

+

subject

+

main verb

did

 

 

 

base

The auxiliary verb did is not conjugated. It is the same for all persons (I did, you did, he did etc). And the base form and past form do not change. Look at these examples with the main verbs go and work:

 

subject

auxiliary verb

 

main verb

 

+

I

 

 

went

to school.

You

 

 

worked

very hard.

She

did

not

go

with me.

We

did

not

work

yesterday.

?

Did

you

 

go

to London?

Did

they

 

work

at home?

Exception! The verb to be is different. We conjugate the verb to be (I was, you were, he/she/it was, we were, they were); and we do not use an auxiliary for negative and question sentences. To make a question, we exchange the subject and verb. Look at these examples:

 

subject

main verb

 

 

+

I, he/she/it

was

 

here.

You, we, they

were

 

in London.

I, he/she/it

was

not

there.

You, we, they

were

not

happy.

?

Was

I, he/she/it

 

right?

Were

you, we, they

 

late?

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