Simple past tense

Simple Past Tense: Definition, Formula, Rules, Uses, And Worksheet PDF

Whether you’re a native speaker of English or just learning, it’s important to understand how to use the simple past tense. 

The simple past is used in all kinds of situations—from telling stories about what happened this morning to describing a vacation from last year. It can also help you express complicated ideas simply and clearly when speaking or writing.

Simple Past Tense Definition

So what is the simple past tense? 

The simple past tense (also called past simple tense, preterite, or past indefinite) is one of the most common tenses in English.

It is used to talk about events that happened in the past.

It is often used with time expressions, such as yesterday, two years ago, last year, and when I was a child.

Keep reading to know all the uses of the simple past tense.

Simple Past Tense 

Simple Past Tense Formula

Affirmative FormSubject + verb (past simple) + rest of sentenceShe went to the store yesterday.
Negative FormSubject + did + not + verb (base form) + rest of sentenceShe didn’t go to the store yesterday.
Yes/No QuestionDid + subject + verb (base form) + rest of sentence?Did she go to the store yesterday?
Special QuestionSpecial word (what/when/where/why/who/how) + did + subject + verb (base form) + rest of sentenceWhen did she go to the store?
Tag QuestionsPositive statement, negative tag (auxiliary verb “didn’t”+ subject)
Negative statement, positive tag (auxiliary verb “did”+ subject)
– She went to the store yesterday, didn’t she?
– She didn’t go to the store yesterday, did she?

When To Use Simple Past Tense

No.Uses Of Simple Past TenseExamples Of Simple Past Tense
Use 1To talk about an action that happened in the past (Time expression might not be mentioned, but the speaker has one specific time in mind.)I ate dinner last night.
Use 2To describe an event that happened repeatedly in the pastWe went swimming every weekend last summer.
Use 3To talk about a series of completed actionsI woke up, brushed my teeth, and ate breakfast.
Use 4To talk about a duration that started and stopped in the pastShe sat at the coffee shop all day.
Use 5To talk about a habit or routine in the paststudied English when I was a child.
Use 6To talk about an action that was true for some time in the pastHe was shy when he was little, but now he is outgoing.
Use 7To be used in the second conditional sentenceIf I had enough money, I would buy a new car.
Use 8To describe an action that happened after another event in the pastI had finished my homework before I came to school.

Examples Of Simple Past Tense

10 Examples Of Simple Past Tense

1. My mum went to the market yesterday.

2. We went to the mall last Saturday.

3. I graduated from high school in 2017.

4. She visited Japan last summer with her friends.

5. The company launched a new product yesterday morning.

7. I had a car accident last night.

6. My parents got married in 1998 at their friend’s house.

8. The boys bought a new car yesterday, costing them $20,000.

9. I ate a sandwich for lunch yesterday.

10. He went to school two days ago.

20 Sentences In Simple Past Tense

1. The sun rose at 5:30 this morning.

2. I went to see my friend yesterday.

3. My sister broke her arm last week. 

4. We visited my grandparents for their 50th wedding anniversary party last summer.

5. We went to the movies last night.

6. They visited their grandmother on Sunday afternoon.

7. She studied hard for her IELTS exam.

8. She was absent from school yesterday because she was ill.

9. My mother drank a cup of coffee this morning.

10. I saw him at the library this afternoon.

11. We went to the party last night and had a great time!

12. We went to a concert last night but didn’t enjoy it very much.

13. Did you go home last night?

14. The dog ate my homework last week.

15. I went to Delhi last week.

16. We didn’t visit my grandmother yesterday afternoon.

17. I didn’t go to school yesterday because I was sick.

18. He played basketball yesterday morning.

19. It rained all day yesterday.

20. When did the dog eat the food?

Simple Past (Regular Verbs)

Regular verbs follow a simple pattern. Below are some examples.

Rules Of Regular VerbsExamples
Add ed to the verb.walk-walked, talk-talked
Add d to the verb if the verb ends in e.arrive-arrived, live-lived
Change the y to i and add ed if the verb ends in consonant +, try-tried
Double the last consonant and then add ed if a one-syllable verb ends with a consonant-vowel-consonant.
However, don’t double the last consonant if the verb ends in w, x, or y. e.g., (fix-fixed, play-played)
stop-stopped, swim-swimming
Double the last consonant and then add ed if a verb with two or more syllables ends with a consonant-vowel-consonant and the final syllable is stressed.control-controlled, prefer-preferred

Simple Past (Irregular Verbs)

Irregular verbs do not follow regular rules. Here are some examples. 

teach: taught

go: went 

drink: drank 

buy: bought

do: did 

come: came

make: made

fall: fell

choose: chose

catch: caught

have: had

read: read

fly: flew 

get: got

sleep: slept 

say: said

speak: spoke

see: saw

break: broke 

stand: stood

wear: wore 

bring: brought

leave: left

tell: told

drive: drove

meet: met

eat: ate

rise: rose

run: ran 

be (am/is/are): was/were

Simple Past Tense Exercises With Answers PDF

Download The Simple Past Tense Worksheet.

Fill in the blanks with the correct verb form in the simple past. 

1. I __________ (work) at home yesterday.

2. She __________ (go) to school by bus yesterday morning.

3. We __________ (eat) lunch at noon yesterday afternoon.

4. What time __________ you __________ (get) to school?

5. You ___________ (borrow) a book last week.

6. The dog ___________ (chase) the squirrel up a tree, but he ___________ (cannot/get) him down.

7. The children ___________ (play) in the park until dark.

8. Mary ___________ (bake) a cake for her son’s birthday party.

9. My boyfriend and I ___________ (break up) because we had different ideas about our future together.

10. He _________ (fly) to London yesterday morning and arrived at ten o’clock in the evening.

Answers: 1. worked 2. went 3. ate 4. did, get 5. borrowed 6. chased, couldn’t get 7. played 8. baked 9. broke up 10. flew

Simple Past Vs. Present Perfect

Both tenses are used to talk about actions that happened in the past. 

The main difference between them is what they emphasize: simple past describes an action that happened at a specific moment in the past but has no lasting effects on the present, while present perfect stresses the impact that the action causes.

For example,

cut my finger when I was cooking. But it’s ok now. (past simple)

I have cut my finger and need a bandage as it’s bleeding. (present perfect)

You might also like the following: 

Simple Past Tense: Final Words

I hope this guide has helped you understand the past simple tense.

Now go forth and use this tense to communicate with others in your daily life.

Want to know more about English grammar? Check out this dedicated section.

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