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Past Simple

Grammar - Past Simple - Young woman and police officer at scene of crash

It all happened very quickly. The grey car came straight out of the corner and hit the blue car.
The blue car didn’t have any chance. It was the grey car driver’s fault.

Introduction to Past Simple

Use the Simple Past to express the idea that an action started and finished at a specific time in the past. Sometimes, the speaker may not actually mention the specific time, but they do have one specific time in mind.

Positive Forms

A regular Past form ends in -ed

  • It happened very quickly
  • The van crashed into the car
  • I posted the letter yesterday
  • We once owned a caravan

Some verbs have an irregular past form

The car came out of the corner

  • I won the game
  • I had breakfast at six
  • The train left on time
  • We took some photos
  • Victor rang us earlier

The Past Simple is the same in all persons except in the past tense of be


I/he/she/it was

you/we/they were

I was ill last week

Those cakes were nice

Negatives and Questions


I/you/he/she/it/we/they did not stop the car (or didn’t)


Did I/you/he/she/it/we/they stop the car?

  • The car did not stop.
  • The driver didn’t look to his right
  • What did you tell the police? – Nothing
  • Did you ring home? – Yes, I did

We do not use a past form such as stopped or rang in negatives and questions, because the auxiliary verb “did” is already in the past tense.

  • The car didn’t stopped (Wrong)
  • The car didn’t stop (Right)
  • Did you rang us at six o’clock? (Wrong)
  • Did you ring us at six o’clock?(Right)

We also use was and were in negatives and questions without auxiliary verb did.


I/he/she/it/ was not in Paris (or wasn’t)

You/we/they were not in Paris (or weren’t)


Was I/he/she/it/ in Paris? (or wasn’t)

Were you/we/they were not in Paris? (or weren’t)

  • I wasn’t very well last week
  • The gates weren’t open.
  • Where was your friend last night?
  • Was your steak nice?


We use the Past Simple for something in the past which is finished

  • Emma passed her exam last year
  • We went to the theatre on Friday
  • Elvis Presley died in 1977
  • I knew what the problem was
  • When did you buy this car? – About three year ago.

Past Simple is used to express actions in the past taking place one after the other

  • He came in, took off his coat and sat down.
  • The car took the turn fast, accelerated and hit to a truck.

Past Simple is used to express action in the past taking place in the middle of another action

  • While I was driving fast on the road, it rained.
  • She came in when her friend was sleeping.


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