Simple Past Tense - Explore Meaning, Definition, Structure, Rules, Uses and Examples

Did you learn the simple past tense yet? No? Nothing to worry about. This article on simple past tense will help you understand the meaning, definition and structure of simple past tense. Furthermore, you will also learn how to use the simple past tense and its uses along with examples.

Table of Contents

The Simple Past Tense

The simple past tense, in English, is used to represent an action/event that took place in the past. With many verbs, the simple past tense is formed by adding an ‘ed’ or a ‘d’ to the end of the base verb. However, there are other verbs which behave differently and take different spellings when used in the simple past form.

Definition of Simple Past Tense

The ‘simple past tense’, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is defined as “the form of a verb used to describe an action that happened before the present time and is no longer happening. It is usually made by adding -ed.” The Collins Dictionary defines the ‘simple past tense’ as “a tense used to refer to the past.” The Macmillan Dictionary defines the simple past tense as “the tense used to talk about habitual actions, behaviour, or situations that happened or existed before now.”

Structure of the Simple Past Tense

Learning the structure of the simple past tense can be made simple if you analyse how the tense is used in the positive, negative, interrogative and negative interrogative formats. Look at the table below to have a better understanding of the same.

Structure of Simple Past Tense

Positive

Negative

Interrogative

Negative Interrogative

Subject + Verb in the past form (base form of the verb + ed/d for regular verbs or past tense form of the irregular verbs)

Subject + Didn’t + Verb in the base form

Did + Subject + Verb in the base form

Didn’t + Subject + Verb in the base form

Example: You spoke really well.

I had my breakfast.

Example: You did not speak really well.

I did not have my breakfast.

Example: Did you speak really well?

Did I have my breakfast?

Example: Didn’t you speak really well?

Didn’t I have my breakfast?

Rules and Points to Remember When Using the Simple Past Tense

When conjugating a verb in the simple past tense, there are a few points you have to remember and bear in mind.

  • Conjugating regular verbs – In order to present the main verb in the sentence, you just have to add ‘-ed’ to the end of the regular verb and ‘-d’ to the end of a regular verb which ends with an ‘e’.

For example: Reach – reached, kick – kicked, walk – walked, confess – confessed, work –

worked

Like – liked, introduce – introduced, force – forced, announce – announced,

` notice – noticed

  • Verbs that remain the same – Some verbs take the same spelling as the base verb and remain the same in the past tense.

For example: Cut – cut, put – put, hurt – hurt, set – set, hit – hit

  • Verbs that take different spelling patterns – Irregular verbs are seen to follow different spelling patterns and there is no rule as such to explain why they are so.

For example: Buy – bought, think – thought, draw – drew, drink – drank, see – saw

What Do You Use the Simple Past Tense For?

The simple past tense can be used to,

  • Refer to an action or event that happened in the past
  • Speak about something that was true for some time in the past
  • Explain something that happened more than once in the past

Forming the Simple Past Tense – Examples

To help you understand how the simple past tense can be used, here are a few examples.

Referring to an action that happened in the past

  • We went to the park yesterday evening.
  • I totally forgot about the meeting.
  • Manu opened the door for the guests.

Referring to an action that was true for some time in the past

  • Karthik played tennis when he was in school.
  • Miss Holly worked as a guest lecturer at our college.
  • Santana used to love reading fantasy novels when she was younger.

Referring to an action that took place several times in the past

  • I worked as an academic counsellor for six months.
  • We enjoyed playing Pictionary every time we met.
  • My father dropped me at school every day till I entered high school.

Test Your Understanding of Simple Past Tense

Fill in the blanks with the simple past tense of the verbs mentioned in the brackets:

1. I _____ (pay) the bills already.

2. The teacher ________ (motivate) her kids to stand up for themselves and their fellow classmates.

3. Reena ______ (to be) a student at Delhi University.

4. ______ you ______ (finish – interrogative) the science and maths assignments?

5. Tina __________ (know – negative) about yesterday’s test.

6. _________ he ________ (complete – negative interrogative) the paper yet?

7. Rahul __________ (play) basketball in college.

8. Will and Emma _________ (to be) at the fair.

9. Manish _________ (sell) all the sachets.

10. I _________ (think) about it but I don’t think it will work.

Check out if you filled in the blanks with the right form of the verb.

1. I paid the bills already.

2. The teacher motivated her kids to stand up for themselves and their fellow classmates.

3. Reena was a student at Delhi University.

4. Did you finish the science and maths assignments?

5. Tina did not know about yesterday’s test.

6. Didn’t he complete the paper yet?

7. Rahul played basketball in college.

8. Will and Emma were at the fair.

9. Manish sold all the sachets.

10. I thought about it but I don’t think it will work.

Frequently Asked Questions on Simple Past Tense in English

What is the past tense?

The simple past tense, in English, is used to represent an action event that took place in the past. With many vwebs, the simple past tense is formed by adding an ‘ed’ or a ‘d’ to the end of the base verb. However, there are other verbs which behave differently and take different spellings when used in the simple past form.

What is the definition of simple past tense?

The ‘simple past tense’, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is defined as “the form of a verb used to describe an action that happened before the present time and is no longer happening. It is usually made by adding -ed.” The Collins Dictionary defines the ‘simple past tense’ as “a tense used to refer to the past.” The Macmillan Dictionary defines the simple past tense as “the tense used to talk about habitual actions, behaviour, or situations that happened or existed before now.”

What is the formula of the simple past tense?

The basic formula of the simple past tense is as follows:
Subject + verb in the past tense (verb + ‘ed/d’ for regular verbs)

Give some examples of the simple past tense.

Here are a few examples to show you how the simple past tense is used in sentences.

  • We went to the park yesterday evening.
  • My father dropped me at school every day till I entered high school.
  • Santana used to love reading fantasy novels when she was younger.
  • We enjoyed playing Pictionary every time we met.
  • Manu opened the door for the guests.

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