Learn English Tenses: PAST SIMPLE
In this class, you will learn how to use the past simple tense.
This is one of the most exciting and important tenses in our series of English verb tenses.
Because we use this tense so often to talk about all kinds of things.
For example, you can use this tense to tell someone what you did yesterday.
You can also use this tense to tell somebody what happened in the world 500 years ago.
So, whatever you're trying to describe that happened before now, you can use the past
Are you ready to learn this tense?
So, you see here on the board, I've shown a timeline.
And everything before now is in the past.
So, when we talk about the past simple tense, we're talking about a time that is before
But past simple specifically talks about something that happened in the past and it's finished
We can talk about an action, or an event, or a situation that started and ended in the
And that's shown here by these little Xs, these things happened before, okay?
So, now let's look at a little sample of what this tense sounds like when we actually use
it with a basic verb, the verb "to work".
So, in some ways, this is so easy because when we use the past simple tense with these
- all of these different subjects, right, you just have to learn one word.
So, for example, if our base verb is "to work", in the past we just say "worked".
So, say it after me: I worked.
You just used the past simple tense.
Now, let's look at when we use the past simple tense, okay?
So, we can use it with the time expression or without a time expression.
So, when we say "last week", right, that's a time expression.
It's a word that tells us about time, like yesterday, last month, last year, okay, five
years ago, these are all time expressions.
So, of course, you can use a time expression with the past tense.
But you could also use the past simple tense without a time expression.
So, you can simply say "I cooked dinner.", okay?
And as soon as I use this word "cooked", we know that we're talking about the past.
Next, we can use the past simple tense to talk about the recent past or the distant
The recent past means something that just happened a short time ago, and the distant
past means something that happened a long time ago.
Okay, yesterday is not very long ago, so we could use it with the past simple.
We could also use the past simple to talk about something that happened way back: "She
lived in London a long time ago.", alright?
So, it doesn't matter, we can use it in all these cases.
Next, we can use one verb, or we can use many verbs in the sentence, it doesn't matter.
Usually, they will all be in the past simple.
For example, we can use it for one action: "She talked to her manager.", right?
Or we can use it for many actions, in one sentence even: "They invited their friends,
ordered pizza, and watched the game.", okay?
Doesn't matter, you can have as many verbs as you need to and it's not a problem.
Most of the time, once you start in the past simple, you're going to stay in that tense
And here, we have the other verbs in our examples.
So, these are the main situations in which you can use freely and easily the past simple
Now, let's look at how we form the past simple tense.
So, the first thing you have to remember when you're working with this tense, is that in
English, there are two kinds of verbs: regular verbs and irregular verbs.
How do we know which is which?
Well, it's kind of a little tricky, but the regular verbs are the ones that, in the past
tense, they just have "-ed" or "-d", they end like that.
For example: work becomes worked.
So, in all those cases, we see that there is a "-ed", this is the most common ending,
we will see later there are a few other ways that we can do it, but usually we add "-ed",
but in the irregular verbs, that doesn't happen.
We don't have a past tense form which has "-ed".
In the irregular cases, sometimes the verb changes a little bit and sometimes it changes
You probably already have heard many of these words, though, so you probably do know them,
so let's look at the verb "go".
In the past, it becomes "went".
So, those are just some examples of the irregular ones, okay, there are many more and we're
going to look at exactly how that works a little bit later, but for now, let's start
with the regular verbs, okay, and I'll show you exactly what to do and how to use them
in a positive sentence, in a negative sentence, and in a question.
So, we already looked a little bit at the positive or affirmative sentence, and we saw
that all we do is we take the base form of our verb, so let's say our base verb here
This is the base form before we make any changes to it.
So, when we put it into the past simple tense, in this case, it's a regular verb, so we just
add "-ed", and we can use that same verb for all of the subjects, right?
You remember that from the beginning?
I worked, you worked, we worked, they worked, he worked, she worked, it worked, you don't
This is a lot easier, actually, in English than in many other languages where there are
different forms for every subject, so sometimes English is actually easier and might be easier
than many other languages, okay?
So, that's for the positive sentence.
Now, let's look at what happens when we make it negative, make a negative sentence, so
then we say, "I didn't work.".
Here, you have to use a helping verb, which is the verb "do", in the past "did", and negative,
Didn't is the short form that we usually use in conversation.
We say, "I didn't work.", but what does it stand for?
Didn't is actually a short form, or a contraction, of two words: did not.
So, you could say "We did not work.", but usually, if we're just speaking in regular
conversation, we just say "We didn't work.".
Say it after me: We didn't work.
It's a little bit tricky to get it out of your mouth, but if you practice it, you'll
Next, what happens when we ask a question?
We have to use that same helping verb again, this time the order changes though, okay?
Now, did you realize something?
Here, we had to change the verb, right?
In the positive sentence, the verb changed, we added that "-ed" and we said, "They worked.",
We came back to the base form of the verb, right?
We just said, "They didn't work.", and what happened with the question?
We came back to the base form of the verb, we said "Did they work?"
So, the only place where you really need to change the verb at all, the regular verb,
is here in a positive or affirmative sentence, okay?
Now remember that when you're asking questions, first of all, this is just like a regular
"Did they work yesterday?", for example.
You could also ask what's called a negative question.
You could say something like "Didn't they work yesterday?
Or, you could ask a question that begins with one of the question words.
What are the question words again?
Who, what, when, where, why, how, how much, how many, right?
We have to keep the same structure and we say, "Where did you work yesterday?"
So, just put the question word, if you have one, before "did", but we need the word "did"
So, this is the entire structure of the past simple tense for regular verbs.
Now, let's look at some of the spelling changes we need to make when using the past simple
So, we already talked about the basic one, which is that you take the verb, the base
form of the verb, and you add "-ed".
So here, we have some examples.
We just needed to add "-ed", and that works for lots of the regular verbs, but there are
always some exceptions, and here are a few exceptions, okay?
Sometimes, the verb itself, the base form of the verb ends with an "e" already, then
you don't need to add another "e", you just add "d", so bake and baked.
Next, if you have a verb that ends with a "y" and has a consonant before it, okay, consonant
means anything that's not a vowel.
A vowel is A, E, I, O, U and a consonant is anything else but that vowel, okay?
So, if you have a word that ends with "y" and has a consonant before it, then what you
do is you cancel the "y", right, cancel the "y" and add "-ied", like you see here: cried.
And then we have one other pattern that you might see very often, and that is when we
double the last letter and then add "-ed".
If you look at the base form of the verb, from the end, okay, and you see that there
is a consonant and a vowel and a consonant, alright, from the end, then we usually double
the last letter as in stop - stopped.
So, we doubled the last letter plus we added the "-ed".
So, these are some of the basic ways in which you need to make spelling changes in the past
simple tense, but the best way for you to learn it is with these rules but also by just
observing and paying attention every time you're reading English.
Pay attention to the spelling so that you can master it.
Now, let's talk about pronunciation.
The pronunciation of past tense regular verbs depends not on the spelling but on the sound
of the base form of the verb at the end.
So, if the base form of the verb has a voiced sound, then we pronounce it with a "d".
What does that mean, voiced sound?
It means that when you say it, it has a little bit of vibration, it creates some vibration
or movement inside your vocal cords or your throat.
Consonants that do that, voiced consonants, are N, G, M, R, V, vowels, and so on.
So, when you say these words, words that end with that kind of voiced sound in the base
form of the verb, like "learn", right?
When you have those sounds, then you're going to say them with a "d".
For example: learned, charged, played, called, loved, seemed.
Now, if the last sound of the base form of the verb is unvoiced, then that means that
there's no vibration or almost no vibration, alright, when you say it.
Consonants like those are K, S, P, F, also words that end with a "CH" sound or "SH" sound,
these are unvoiced, there's very little vibration, so for these kind of words, we have a "t"
or "tuh" sound at the end.
For example: cooked, hoped, missed, washed, laughed, watched, okay?
Now, I know it's a little bit hard, like how are you going to remember like voiced, unvoiced,
vibration, no vibration, movement, no movement?
If you're very interested in the pronunciation and you want to understand it perfectly, then
please study that in detail and you will be able to master it, okay?
But otherwise, what you can do for these two columns is to listen carefully and for all
words, listen very carefully to good English teachers, good English speakers, and pay attention
Now, one category that's easier is when the base form of the verb ends with a "t" or a
That means a "tuh" or "duh" sound.
For example, want, right?
We had the "t" sound, or need, we had the "d" sound, in those cases, it's really easy.
We just make the ending stronger and we say like a "ed" sound.
For example: wanted, needed, invited, decided, started, ended.
So, those are the basic rules for pronouncing the regular past tense form of verbs.
Now, let's practice what you've learned.
So, first, we'll take some sentences that are written in the present simple tense and
we'll change them into sentences into the past simple tense, okay?
These are just positive sentences, not negative and not questions.
So, number one: I play tennis.
In the past, what does that become?
What does that become in the past?
They studied math, and remember, the spelling changed because it's a "y" here, becomes "-ied",
Now, let's take some sentences which are already in the past but they're positive sentences
and change them to make them negative sentences.
Number three: It rained becomes - what?
We come back to the base form of the verb here after the negative sentence, right?
Make it negative: John didn't call.
Again, we've come back to the base form of the verb.
Okay, next, let's do a few questions, alright?
Number five: Alex sent the email.
So, you want to know if Alex did that, so how would you start that question?
You'd start with the word "Did", right?
Here, it was "Alex sent", but we're coming back to what?
The base form of the verb, yes.
Did Alex send the email, okay?
And, of course, we had to start with "did", that helping verb that we use with questions
Number six: They stayed at the hotel.
So, you want to ask a question now that starts with "Where".
What do you need to say after that?
Because even if you add the question word, you're still going to need to have that "did"
and then your subject and then the verb in the base form, okay, good.
Number seven: She arrived at 6:00.
Now, your question is asking about "When".
Again, we've come back to the base form of the verb, okay?
So, if you've got these right, that means you've understood it, and if you haven't,
we're going to practice a little bit more as we go along.
Now, let's look at how to form the past simple tense with irregular verbs.
So, once again, what's an irregular verb?
That's a verb where the past tense form is quite different or sometimes completely different
from the regular base form of the verb.
Let's look at an example here.
Our base verb is going to be the verb "to go", alright?
So, in the past, in a positive sentence, what do we say?
And again, it will be the same for all of the subjects.
I went, you went, we went, they went, he went, she went, it went, right?
You have to remember it, okay?
There is no other way, really.
Next, when we go to the negative sentence, so, it's the same principle as we learned
We're going to back to the base form of the verb, let's see how it sounds.
We've come back, right, to the base form of the verb here.
And again, didn't is a contraction or short form for the words "did not", but again, in
conversation, we're just going to say "didn't".
Question, again, we need that helping verb "did" in the negative and in the question,
so the question becomes "Did you go?".
Again, we're coming back to that base form of the verb, okay?
The way that we form those verbs is the same for regular and irregular, just with irregular,
you have to learn what is that past tense form for the verb, okay?
But otherwise, it's really the same thing, so once you've learned it for regular verbs,
you can apply the same rules to work on these verbs, okay?
And remember the same style works here, so if you need to add a question word: Where
We just put it just here, before the "did", but we have to keep this order, alright?
Now, just to show you that you've got it, let's try with another irregular verb: buy.
So, buy is the base form of the verb.
What does it become in the past, have you heard it?
So, that word, for example, is spelled like this: bought.
Yesterday, I didn't buy, right, we're coming back to the base form of the verb, and Did
Let's try it with the verb sell.
So, this is in the regular base form of the verb.
The past tense of sell is sold, okay?
So, when you can do that, right, the positive, the negative, and the question, then you can
express whatever you need to express in the past continuous tense - sorry, the past simple
tense, even with irregular verbs.
Now, let's do some practice with the irregular verbs.
Now, I realize that you might not know all the answers here unless you have heard these
But don't worry, we'll do it together.
If you know them, you can help me to fill them out, and otherwise just follow along,
So, first we're going to take three verbs in the present simple tense, their base form,
and we're going to write them in the past tense form, and these are all irregular verbs.
So, let's take the verb "forget", and if we want to put it into the past, what will it
So, if you don't know it, this is a good time to learn it.
Also, learn what the word is, learn how to pronounce it, learn how to spell it, spelling
the irregular verbs also is something that you need to learn.
There are no 100% rules, but there are patterns for the spelling and the verbs fall into some
groups and you might see some patterns there for spelling, but otherwise you kind of have
to learn them as you go along, alright?
Let's change that into the past.
The past tense of sleep is: She slept early.
Now, here, we have the past tense form already of these irregular verbs, but we're going
to do is we're going to take this sentence a negative sentence, alright?
Spoke is the past tense of which verb?
So, now how do we make it negative here?
They didn't speak Spanish, okay?
Remember, we're coming back always to the base form of the verb.
Next: this is actually an interesting irregular verb because it doesn't change.
The present tense form is hurt, the past tense form is also hurt, and that's why it's an
irregular verb, because it doesn't change.
But it doesn't change in this particular way, alright?
So, hurt, right, becomes - when it's negative - It didn't hurt.
Knew is the past tense of which verb?
So, how do we make this a negative sentence?
They didn't speak Spanish, okay?
You have to feel the rhythm, hear the rhythm, say it aloud lots of times, and it will help
you to remember the rules, alright?
Next, we're going to make some questions.
Number seven: I met your manager at the meeting.
The past tense verb here is what?
I met your manager at the meeting.
The question word we're using is "Where".
So, what do we say after that?
Where did you meet my manager?
Again, question word, but after that, we still have to keep the form for questions with "Did
Number eight: She gave John $50.
Gave, gave is the past tense of which verb?
So, how much did she give John?
So, you see the pattern, you've learned it, you've practiced it, and a little more practice
and you'll feel very comfortable making these kind of changes from a positive sentence to
a negative sentence or a question, whatever you need to say or write.
Next, let's look at how to give short answers with the past simple tense using both the
regular verbs and irregular verbs, okay?
So, let's take the first one: Did Jack finish his report?
So, if somebody asked you that, as we said before, we don't usually give, like, a full
answer: Yes, Jack finished the report, you just say something short.
So, you say, for example, "Yes, he did.", if it's a positive answer and you know to
say that because the question starts with "Did".
So, we say "Yes, he did.", and that cannot be shortened.
No contraction allowed there, or "No, he didn't.", alright?
And again, we get "didn't" from this "did", alright?
It's coming from there, so the way that the question is asked is the way you can answer.
The next question: Did the flight leave on time?
"Yes, it did.", no contraction possible, or "No, it didn't.", alright?
Again, you see that you can use the word from the question to answer the question, alright?
And here's the last one for you and I'm just going to give you one option here: Did you
So, I hope you're saying "Yes, I did.", right?
We're not even going to talk about the last option because I'm positive that you have
So, this is how we give the short answers in the past simple tense.
Now, we'll look at some common mistakes that students make when using the past simple tense,
and you can help me to correct them.
So, sometimes the mistake is that the student is using the wrong tense.
For example - these are all mistakes.
We're going to correct them together, but first let's read what's wrong.
"I give him the laptop yesterday."
So, this sentence is about the past because it says "yesterday", but the person used a
verb in the present tense: give.
We correct it by changing "give" to "gave".
I gave him the laptop yesterday.
So, you always need to make sure that you're using the right tense.
Next, sometimes the verb form is wrong.
For example, "She writed the report."
So, let's suppose this is in the past, so is that a word?
So, this is an irregular verb, the verb "write" is irregular and the past tense of the verb
She wrote the report, alright?
So, sometimes, that's the mistake.
Let's look at a negative sentence: They didn't called.
What mistake does the student make here?
Whenever we have a negative sentence, we come back to using what?
But this student forgot, so it should be "They didn't call.", right?
The student forgot that you come back to the base form of the verb.
So, it should be, even if the question, "Did you have lunch?".
Let's say these again: She wrote the report.
Sometimes the mistake is in spelling.
For example, this person wrote "He stoped smoking."
So here, what did we need to do, do you remember when we learned about the spelling?
This should be "He stopped smoking.", okay?
Because we had consonant-vowel-consonant for "stop" and then we need to double the last
letter and add "-ed", alright?
And sometimes, the mistake is that the helping verb "did" is forgotten.
For example, these are questions.
Now, if someone said that, would the other person understand?
Probably they would understand.
What's the helping verb that we use?
So we would say "Did you", okay?
Here, "He speak to his boss?".
That's wrong, so how do we correct it?
Again, the helping verb has been forgotten, so we say, "Did he speak to his boss?", alright?
So, these are some of the common mistakes that people make using the past simple tense,
so be careful of your tense, your verb form, your spelling, and make sure to use that helping
Just to review, you know that you have learned the past simple tense properly and well when
you can do three things, right?
Make a positive sentence, a negative sentence, and a question easily and quickly, and switch
back and forth without any uncertainty, okay?
When you can do it correctly and quickly and confidently.
Let's look at some examples with the regular verbs: She called.
These kinds of sentences should come to you easily now, alright?
The more you practice, they will.
Or, with an irregular verb, for example: They paid.
So, these were examples - these were my examples, these were a few examples, but you have examples
all around you, all through your life, all through your day, so one of the best things
you can do and an easy thing you can do to improve your command of this and your understanding
of this past simple tense is to write.
Write like a little diary at the end of each day.
Write the things that you did.
What did you do during the day?
And this way, you will discover what you can say and where you have difficulties.
And what you will also know is you'll be reviewing your vocabulary, your grammar, everything
Later, when you can do that, and write about your regular routine already, write about
Write about things other people are doing.
Write about what's happening at work.
Write about your favorite movie.
Write about something that's happening in the news, okay?
But basically, for all of those purposes, you can use the past simple tense.
Now, remember, this is part of a series of classes that we have, and the next class you
can go to after the past simple tense is the past continuous tense.
So, make sure to move forward into the fullness of all of these tenses.
So, eventually, you can express yourself very well and effectively in English.
And, if you'd like a little more practice on the past simple tense, then go to www.engvid.com
Thanks very much for watching, and I wish you all the best with your English tenses.