TENSES: The past simple

past_simpleIn English grammar, the past simple is used to talk about finished events or actions in the past. Here are some example sentences including regular past simple verbs:

  • I worked last Monday.
  • They studied for an English test last week.
  • She smiled when she saw him.


The past simple can also be used to talk about something you did not do.

  • I didn’t work last weekend.
  • He didn’t do his homework.
  • You didn’t tell me!

The past simple verb doesn’t change when you talk about other people.

Positive + Negative –
I worked didn’t work.
You worked didn’t work.
We worked didn’t work.
He worked didn’t work.
She worked didn’t work.
It worked didn’t work.
They worked didn’t work.

The past simple verb doesn’t change when you ask questions.

Did I work?
Did you work?
Did we work?
Did he work?
Did she work?
Did it work?
Did they work?


To make the past simple tense form of regular verbs, we add +ed .

Present Past
I work I worked
He works He worked

However, pronunciation of regular past tense tense verbs can change.

For example, ‘He worked’ sounds like ‘He workt’

Base verb
Sounds like /t/
Sounds like /d/
sounds like /id/
Work Worked
Look Looked
Talk Talked
Like Liked
Watch Watched
Laugh Laughed
Wish Wished
Listen Listened
Open Opened
Learn Learned
Change Changed
Climb Climbed
Try Tried
Paint Painted
Want Wanted
End Ended
Decide Decided

Past simple irregular verbs

Irregular verbs don’t follow the rules above. You simply need to learn them.

For example. eat – eated – ate

  • He ate chicken for dinner last night.

Click here to see a list.

Some verbs can be used with a regular or an irregular form.

These include:

  • burn (burned OR burnt)
  • dream (dreamed OR dreamt)
  • learn (learned or learnt)
  • smell (smelled OR smelt)



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