This lesson is in 2 parts. Part 1 explains how to conjugate English verbs into the simple past. Part 2 explains how to use the simple past in English.
The simple past, sometimes called the preterite, describes a state of being or an action that began and was completed in the past. For example:
State of being
Note that the events described using the simple past can be of short or long duration.
The simple past is frequently used with temporal adverbs (yesterday, last week, one year ago, etc).
In this example, we know the action occurred in the past for two reasons: because of the temporal adverb yesterday and because ate is the simple past of the verb EAT. More examples:
The simple past can recount a series of connected events that occurred in the past. Often times this series of events is preceded by the past progressive. In these situations the past progressive is used to create the scene. For example:
*Note that the past progressive describes a continuous event in the past. The simple past interrupts that event and recounts a series of events to conclude the story.
Asking questions using the simple past requires the use of the auxiliary verb DO. This rule applies to all verbs except BE (learn more). Notice that did is used, the simple past of the verb DO, and the main verb remains in the base form.
|Yes / No questions|
|Did||you||eat||pizza last night?|
|Did||Tom||go||to work today?|
Remember: The simple past is only one of four English past tenses.