The simple past is a verb tense that is used to talk about things that happened or existed before now. Imagine someone asks what your brother Wolfgang did while he was in town last weekend.
The simple past tense shows that you are talking about something that has already happened. Unlike the past continuous tense, which is used to talk about past events that happened over a period of time, the simple past tense emphasizes that the action is finished.
You can also use the simple past to talk about a past state of being, such as the way someone felt about something. This is often expressed with the simple past tense of the verb to be and an adjective, noun, or prepositional phrase.
How to Formulate the Simple Past
For regular verbs, add -ed to the root form of the verb (or just -d if the root form already ends in an e):
Play→Played Type→Typed Listen→Listened Push→Pushed Love→Loved
For irregular verbs, things get more complicated. The simple past tense of some irregular verbs looks exactly like the root form:
Put→Put Cut→Cut Set→Set Cost→Cost Hit→Hit
For other irregular verbs, including the verb to be, the simple past forms are more erratic:
See→Saw Build→Built Go→Went Do→Did Rise→Rose Am/Is/Are→Was/Were
The good news is that verbs in the simple past tense (except for the verb to be) don’t need to agree in number with their subjects.
How to Make the Simple Past Negative
Fortunately, there is a formula for making simple past verbs negative, and it’s the same for both regular and irregular verbs (except for the verb to be). The formula is did not + [root form of verb]. You can also use the contraction didn’t instead of did not.
For the verb to be, you don’t need the auxiliary did. When the subject of the sentence is singular, use was not or wasn’t. When the subject is plural, use were not or weren’t.
How to Ask a Question
The formula for asking a question in the simple past tense is did + [subject] + [root form of verb].
When asking a question with the verb to be, you don’t need the auxiliary did. The formula is was/were + [subject].
Common Regular Verbs in the Past Tense
Common Irregular Verbs in the Past Tense