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English Grammar - The simple past tense

The Simple Past Tense

Definition

The simple past tense is a verb tense form that indicates that an action is complete. It denotes actions or states of being, in the past.

Form

To form the simple past tense, you have to use the past tense form of the verb. In the case of many verbs, you have to just add an –ed to the root form of the verb. For example, the past tense of the verb walk is walked.

However, there are irregular verbs for which the past tense form does not follow the rule mentioned above. These verbs have a different spelling in the past tense form. For example, the past tense form of the verb eat is ate. The past tense form of the verb bring is brought.

Some verbs do not change at all in the past tense form. Examples are read, beat, and hit.

Below given is a list of commonly used verbs and their past tense form.

Root form of the verb

Past tense form of the verb

buy

bought

sleep

slept

write

wrote

put

put

keep

kept

swim

swam

sing

sang

speak

spoke

dance

danced

carry

carried

smile

smiled

dig

dug

drink

drank

drive

drove

do

did

Has/have

had

be (is/am)

was

be (are)

were

come

came

Uses of the simple past tense

The simple past tense is used to indicate completed actions. The action is complete at a time before now, which can be in the distant past or the recent past.

Examples

I had breakfast at around 7.30 in the morning.
The lion escaped from its enclosure yesterday.

Note:

The simple past tense is often used with a time expression. The time expression can be that of frequency, a definite point of time or an indefinite period of time.

Time expressions of frequency are often, always, sometimes, seldom, rarely, occasionally etc.

Definite points of time are expressions such as yesterday, last week, at 8 o’clock, last year, in 1980, and when I was a child.

An indefinite period are expressions such as ages ago, the other day, and a long time ago.

Examples

I seldom had food at the school canteen.

She had a bad headache yesterday.

In 2001, Sam graduated from Stamford.

The other day, I heard someone talking about the tsunami.

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