Past simple

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Study this example:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was an Austrian musician and composer. He lived from 1756 to 1791. He started composing at the age of five and wrote more than 600 pieces of music. He was only 35 years old when he died. lived/started/wrote/was/died are all past simple

Very often the past simple ends in -ed (regular verbs):

  • I work in a travel agency now. Before that I worked in a department store.
  • They invited us to their party, but we decided not to go.
  • The police stopped me on my way home last night.
  • Laura passed her exam because she studied very hard.

For spelling (stopped, studied etc.), see Appendix 6

But many verbs are irregular. The past simple does not end in –ed. For example:

write → wrote
see → saw
go → went
shut → shut

  • Mozart wrote more than 600 pieces of music
  • We saw Alice in town a few days ago.
  • I went to the cinema three times last week.
  • It was cold, so I shut the window.

For a list of irregular verbs, see irregular verbs

In questions and negative sentences we use did/didn’t + infinitive (enjoy/see/go etc.):

Ienjoyed
shesaw
theywent
youenjoy?
didshesee?
theygo?
Ienjoy
shedidn’tsee
theygo
  • I enjoyed the party a lot. Did you enjoy it?
  • How many people did they invite to the wedding?
  • I didn’t buy anything because I didn’t have any money.
  • Did you go out?’ ‘No, I didn’t.’

Sometimes do is the main verb in the sentence (did you do?, I didn’t do):

  • What did you do at the weekend? (not What did you at the weekend?)
  • I didn’t do anything. (not I didn’t anything)

The past of be (am/is/are) is was/were:

I/he/she/it was/wasn’t
we/you/they were/weren’t
was I/he/she/it?
were we/you/they?
  • I was annoyed because they were late.
  • Was the weather good when you were on holiday?
  • They weren’t able to come because they were so busy.
  • I wasn’t hungry, so I didn’t eat anything.
  • Did you go out last night or were you too tired?

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