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The Simple Past Tense With Examples

Past Simple Tense is another “simple” tense, which means that in the affirmative form, we have only the main verb with a suffix, and in the interrogative and negative, the auxiliary verb “to do.”

Nina Stankovic
Nina Stankovic

Past Simple Tense is another “simple” tense, which means that in the affirmative form, we have only the main verb with a suffix, and in the interrogative and negative, the auxiliary verb “to do.” In the “simple” tense for the interrogative and negative form, we use the auxiliary verb “do/does” for Present Simple; for Past Simple, the past tense of the verb “to do”— “did.” If the verb is regular, add the suffix -ed (or just -d if it already ends in -e). If it is irregular, we use the form from the second column, which is called Past Simple.

When is the Past Simple Tense used?

The use of this past tense in English is the most common, so pay attention to the following rules that we have highlighted:

  • Actions that happened at a specific time in the past.
Tinna arrived in Vienna last week.
  • We use the Past Simple when it is clear that events occurred sequentially, one after another, and are arranged in the order in which they occurred.
Stefan left the cabin, walked to the position, and caught the rest of his team.
  • Another way to use it is for finishing processes or conditions. These actions usually refer to our habits or habitual actions that happened in the past.
She worked for Ford when she was more youthful.
  • As soon as the action is not connected to the present, it is in the Past Simple Tense.
Beethoven composed the ninth symphony.

The Past Simple Tense structure

The structure is quite simple and consists of several parts:

We start the sentence with the subject. We don’t require an auxiliary verb to form the predicate; instead, regular or irregular verbs from the past will do.

Example of a regular verb:

I resolved a water problem at my new house.

Example of an irregular verb:

I ate the whole pizza last evening.

When we want to make a sentence in a negative or interrogative form, we use the auxiliary verb “to do” in the perfect tense, “did,” for all singular and plural forms. As you know, for the negative form, we add the negation “not.” The main verb returns to its basic form, the infinitive without too!

Example sentence in negative form:

Huw did not call his parents yesterday.

Example sentence in the interrogative form:

Did he find a gift for his mum?

Confirmation form—Examples

Formula: Subject + main verb (regular or irregular) + adverb
Janna was sleepy a few days ago.
His sister finished her homework two ago.
The teacher closed the window a few seconds ago.

Adverbial clauses

The simple past tense is used for an action that was completed in the past.

The simple past tense is used to express an action that continued and ended in someone a certain past. The characteristic tenses with which it is used are:

  • Yesterday;
  • the day before yesterday;
  • two years ago;
  • three hours ago;
  • last Monday;
  • last year/week/month, etc.;
  • in 1977, etc.

“To Be” Past Simple

The Past Simple Tense of the verb “to be”:

I was—We were;
You were—You were;
He/She /It was—They were.

I was at the theater last night.
My sister and her best friend were in London three years ago.
David was in Sarajevo last summer.

The verb “to be” in the past tense is “was” or “were.” The interrogative form is built by inversion and not by “did” like other verbs.

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Past Simple—Summary

This tense is used for actions in the past that we know exactly when they happened, and this tense is usually accompanied by time markers such as “yesterday,” “last month,” in 2000, two months ago, etc. The bottom line is that there was some action, that we know when it happened, and that it was finished—so it is irrelevant whether we ate the apple yesterday, two days ago, or two hours ago. The action just happened, and it's over.


I ate an apple.

It is built as follows:

1. Positive form

In positive sentences, the suffix -ed is added to regular verbs, while the form from the second column of irregular verbs is used for irregular verbs.


I played football with my brother yesterday.

“Play” is a regular verb, so we just add the suffix -ed.


I wrote a letter to him three months ago.

“Write” is an irregular verb, and the form in the second column is written.

2. Negative form

In negative sentences, we add “did not” (abbreviated “didn’t”) and return the verb to the infinitive. Thus, the previous sentences will be read in the negative form:

I didn’t play football with my brother yesterday.
I didn’t write a letter to him until three months ago.

3. Interrogative form

We form the interrogative form using the already mentioned auxiliary pronoun “did” and a verb in the infinitive:

Did I play football with my brother yesterday?
Did I write a letter to him three months ago?
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Nina Stankovic

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