Past Simple Tense In English Grammar | Beginner English Lessons

Lesson summary

Confused about how to talk about this past? In this English lesson you will learn about the past simple tense in English grammar and how and when to use it.

Video transcript

I went to the beach last weekend.  What does this mean?  How many times did it happen?  Is it finished? Is the time when it happened important? Let’s find out. 

 

What’s up guys? My name is Shane and today we are talking about the past simple tense in English. This is a very important tense to learn in English because we always have to talk about things that happened in the past, right? 

 

But don’t worry if past simple is still a bit confusing for you because today we learn about what the past simple is, when to use it and how to use it.

 

And make sure you watch until the end of the video because we have a quiz to test your understanding. Okay, let’s get started. 

 

How to make the past simple

Positives

I went to the beach last weekend.  This is a past simple sentence.  How do we make it? What is the structure?

 

We have I, the subject. Then we have a past tense verb.  And then we have the object.  This is very important here.

 

When we are using past simple, we must have a past tense verb. 

 

Some common examples of past tense verbs are: go, went.  Come, came. Walk, walked. Eat, ate. Have, had. Do, did.  Give, gave.  See, saw. Talk, talked and for to be, we say was or were. 

 

Okay, now we know some past tense verbs but what about if we are using he, she, it, I, they? Which verb do we use?

 

We can say I went. He went. She went. They went.  John went.  John and Paul went. 

 

So when we are using a past simple verb that’s not the verb to be, we don’t have to change anything.

 

We can say I went, they went, John and Paul went. It doesn’t matter if the subject is singular or plural.  But, if we have a past simple sentence with the verb to be, we need to say was or were. 

 

For example, I was.  He was. She was. It was.  And john was.  So you can see here all of these subjects are singular. 

 

We are only talking about one thing. But with were, we say we were.  They were.  The dogs were.  That’s more than one dog. Or we could say John and Paul were. 

 

So when we use were, we use it with plural subjects. Subjects that have two or more things. 

 

Negatives

Now let’s talk about negatives.  I went to the beach last weekend.  How can we say no? No go to the beach. 

 

We can say I did not go to the beach last weekend.  So you can see here when we make a negative, we have to say did not plus a present tense verb.

 

We don’t say did not and then a past tense verb. No no no. 

 

We must say did not and then a present tense verb. Did not go. Did not eat. Did not walk. And it’s the same for all subjects. I did not go. He did not go. They did not go. We did not go. 

 

Okay what about negatives with the verb to be? For example: I was happy becomes I was not happy. So when we have was, we just add not after the was. I was not. He was not. She was not. It was not. 

 

What about were?  For example: they were happy. The negative is they were not happy. They were not happy. So we just add not after were.  They were not happy. We were not happy. The dogs were not happy.  John and Paul were not happy. 

 

Questions

I went to the beach last weekend.  How can we change this into a question? We can say did you go to the beach last weekend?  Did you go to the beach last weekend?

 

So just remember, when we make a question, we say did you and then go.  So we use the present tense verb did plus the present tense verb.

 

And this is the same with all subjects so we can say did he go to the beach. Did it go to the beach?  Did they go to the beach? Did we go to the beach? What about with the verb to be? 

 

For example: he was happy.  The question is was he happy? Was he happy?  Was she happy? Was it happy? Was john happy? 

 

What about with they, we and plural nouns? We were happy. The question is were we happy. Were we happy? Were they happy?  Were the dogs happy?  Were john and Paul happy? 

 

And if you’re not sure if you need to use was or were, think about the positive or the negative. For example, he was happy. He was. 

 

The question is was he happy?

 

If we say they were not happy. They were not happy, then the question is were they happy? 

 

Uses of the past simple

The past simple has a few main uses.  So let’s look at one of the most important uses first. 

 

I went to the beach last weekend. I went to the beach last weekend. What are we talking about here? Past, present or future? The past.  Is this action finished? Yes it is.

 

And how many times am I talking about? Just one.

 

And what’s important here? That the action is finished or that the action went on for a period of time?

 

What’s important here is that the action is finished. So that’s the first use of the present simple. We use it to talk about one action that has finished in the past.

 

We want to say the action is finished. How long it happened for is not important. So this is the main use of the past simple.

 

And normally, not always, but normally if you see a past simple sentence,  it’s normally talking about  something that happened once in the past which is finished.

 

And you can see here at the end of the sentence, we have two words.  We have last weekend.  These are called time words. They tell us when the action took place, when the action happened.

 

Do you have to use time words with past simple?  Normally, yes. But if you’re talking to someone and the person knows what time you’re talking about then normally, you don’t have to use a time word.

 

And we can also use past simple with nouns and adjectives but when we do this, we need to use the past form of the verb to be which is was or were.

 

When I was a child, I walked to school every day. When I was a child, I walked to school every day.

 

What are we talking about here? Past, present or future? Past.

 

Is it finished? Yes.

 

How many times are we talking about here?  One or more than one? More than one.

 

This probably happened many many times.

 

Some other examples could be:  when I went on holiday, I swam in the ocean many times.

 

Or they always enjoyed going to the park.

 

I lived overseas for 10 years.  I lived overseas for 10 years.  What are we talking about here?  Past, present or future? We are talking about the past. 

 

Is it finished? Yes it is.

 

How many times am I talking about? Just one time.

 

But it was a very long time, right? It was 10 years. 

 

So this is the third use of the past simple. We can use it to talk about something that was true in the past for a long time.

 

Some other examples could be:  I enjoyed being a student. I enjoyed being a student. I was a student for a long time, right? For many many years. 

 

I finished work, drove home and then had my dinner. I finished work, drove home and then had my dinner. What am I talking about here? Past, present or future? The past.

 

Are these things finished? Yes.

 

How many things am I talking about? One, two or three? Three. I am talking about three things.

 

So these things happened in a sequence, right? They were steps. First, I finished work. Second, I drove home. And then third, I had my dinner.

 

So this is the fourth use of the past simple. We use it to talk about a series of completed actions. A sequence of completed actions. First, second, third, fourth.

 

So these are the four main uses of the past simple. So just remember, normally, when we use the past simple, we are talking about something that’s finished and we’re not interested in how long it went on for. We’re just interested in that it is finished. It’s happened in the past and it’s finished. 

 

Quiz

Okay so we have learned the basics of the past simple. Now let’s have a quiz to test your understanding.  I will show you some words and I want you to make a past simple sentence.

 

Number one.  I go bank last week. I go bank last week.  And the correct answer is: I went to the bank last week. I went to the bank last week. Remember, with past simple, we need to have a past tense verb.

 

Number two. He happy yesterday.  He happy yesterday.  And the correct answer is he was happy yesterday. He was happy yesterday.  Because remember, when we’re talking about nouns or an adjective, we need to use was or were. And he is a singular subject so we use was. He was.

 

Number three. He happy yesterday. Question.  He happy yesterday. Question.   And the correct answer is: was he happy yesterday? Was he happy yesterday? Remember, when we make a question with was or were, we put was or were first.  Was he happy yesterday? 

 

Number four. He eat pizza yesterday. Question.  He eat pizza yesterday. Question.   And the correct answer is did he eat pizza yesterday? Did he eat pizza yesterday? 

 

Because remember, when we ask a question, and when we have did, we use a present tense verb afterwards.  Did he eat? Did he drink? We don’t say did he ate, did he drank. No. 

 

Number five.  They not happy yesterday. They not happy yesterday.  And the correct answer is: they were not happy yesterday. 

 

Remember, when we have they, a plural subject and we’re talking about .. or we’re using an adjective, then we need to use were. They were not happy yesterday.

 

Okay I will show you a sentence and I will tell you to change it to the question, to the positive or to the negative.

 

Number one. Did he run yesterday? Did he run yesterday? Change that to the positive. 

 

And the answer is: he ran yesterday. He ran yesterday. 

 

Now, change that to the negative. 

 

And the correct answer is: he did not run yesterday.  He did not run yesterday.

 

Okay number two. He was not excited. He was not excited. Change that to a positive. 

 

And the correct answer is: he was excited. He was excited. 

 

Now, change that to a question.  And the correct answer is: was he excited? Was he excited?

 

Okay last one, number three. They were teachers. They were teachers.

 

Change that to a negative. And the correct answer is they were not teachers. They were not teachers.

 

Now, change that to a question.  And the correct answer is: were they teachers? Were they teachers? 

 

And that is the end of the lesson today. Now you know the basics of the past simple tense in English.  Remember, these are just the basics of the past simple. There are always exceptions in English so if you have any questions about the past simple, please comment them down below. 

 

And if you’re interested in more videos like this, you can check out this video right here.  And if you haven’t subscribed to the channel already, make sure you subscribe right now so you don’t miss any videos, just like this one, that can help you really understand English like a native speaker.

 

If you liked the video, if you learned something today, please hit like and please share this with your friends who are learning English so they can really understand the past simple tense as well. 

 

And for daily quizzes, daily posts, updates, videos, lessons and much much more, make sure you are following me on Instagram and I will see you in the next video.  We can use it to talk about. What’s up guys? My name is Shane and today we are talking about the past.

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