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Past Simple Tense

In this lesson lesson of learning English as a Second Language , we shall learn :

  • The Usage of Past Simple (Indefinite) Tense
  • The Structure of Past Simple.
  • Short Replies in Past Simple.

Video Tutorial in English

Video Tutorial in Urdu

As you have already done 25 units in this website. Today we will be learning about Past Simple. Let me tell you that if you haven't done Unit 25 : Verb to be in Past Time , you must not go on with this unit. Kindly go through Unit : 25 and then try to to do this one.

So far in every lesson of this website , I have stressed on learning the usage of anything because that is the  most important thing which people often not consider and don't give importance at all. They  rather pay attention to learning complex structures and complex vocabulary and create problems for themselves. The primary thing related to every tense is carefully studying its uses. Once you understand how and when to use a tense you are on the right track and with a little efforts you will be on the road of success towards English Language.

Now , let me explain what Past Simple is and how we use it , Whenever you want to talk about a complete action, which is not happening at the time of speaking you should use Past Simple. Past Simple usually comes with an adverb of time to complete its meaning , so that , the listener may not have any further questions related to time.

The following can easily have you understand Past Simple


e.g. Yesterday,  I ate three burgers.

    (Action not happening at the time  of speaking and already complete)

    I cleaned my  car last Saturday.

    (Action not happening at the time of speaking and already complete)

The above examples are really easy to understand Past Simple . In sentence not.1 the action is ate (eat), but this action is not going on at the time of speaking because the person is not talking about right now, the person is talking about yesterday which is not at all Present Time. If I remove Yesterday from sentence no.1 , the sentence will still how Past Time but there will be a question remaining in the listener's mind and  that is WHEN? So , that is why Past Simple usually comes with an Adverb of Time.

In Sentence no.2 , the action is cleaned (clean). You can easily understand that the person is not talking about right now, he is talking about an action which is already complete and not happening at the time of speaking. If he just says, "I cleaned my car" and does not mention any time you will have a question WHEN? So , it is really important to mention time whenever you are talking about complete actions

One more important thing , it is not necessary that Past Simple may only show actions related to Yesterday , Last Friday , or Last Year, it is quite possible and usual to talk about complete action the same day.

For example, if you want to talk about actions you did today, you should use Past simple for this too. Because the ideology behind Past simple is for complete actions.

e.g. Today I woke up at 8 in the morning.

    (an action completed in the morning)

      I ate 2 eggs in the breakfast today.

    (an action completed today)

     I reached school at 9 today.     (a complete action)

     I took lunch at 3 today.            (a complete action)

I told you above that Past Simple usually comes with an adverb of time, I used the word "USUALLY" I did not say always. Sometimes, we do not mention any time while expressing past actions, the reason is that they are already understood.

e.g. (Location : at office    Time :10 a.m.)

     1. A: You look tired.

         B:  No , I am not . I just didn't sleep well.    (No time mentioned)

     2. A: I'm really hungry. I didn't take breakfast.  (No time mentioned)

         B: Would you like to have a sandwich.

         A: Yes , please.

First of all we look at sentence no.1 , you can see that A says to B that he looks tired , and B  denies and says that he didn't sleep well and does not mention any time. WHY? Because it is already understood which is LAST NIGHT.

In sentence no.2 ,  A says that he didn't take breakfast and does not mention the time which day's  breakfast  but the listener already know that A is talking about Today's breakfast.

So, remember that  sometimes, time is already understood and when that happens you don't need  to mention the time.

Simple enough , right?


Now, we will look at the formation of sentences of Past Simple.

First of all we will look at the Affirmative Structure of Past Simple. We use  2nd  form of the main verb in Past Simple Affirmative sentences and in the rest of sentences like Negative or Interrogative sentences we use 1st form of the main verb.

Affirmative :     Subject +  2nd form of a verb  + Object

                        I                 played              cricket last Tuesday.

                        She             went                to London last week.

Negative :        Subject   +  did + not +  1st form of a verb  +   Object

                        I                did    not       play                cricket last Tuesday.

                        She            did    not        go                 to London last week.

Interrogative :    Did     + Subject + 1st form of a verb + Object?

                         Did         you           play               cricket last Tuesday?

                         Did         she            go                 to London last week?

Note :

The above structures will help you in forming the sentences of Past Simple . The  above structures have secondary importance, the primary importance is knowing when and how to use Past Simple. You can observe that we use 2nd form of the main Verb in Affirmative Sentences of Past Simple but in Negative  and Interrogative Sentences we use only 1st form of the main verb. You can also see that there is an addition of a helping verb DID which is only present in Negative and Interrogative Sentences and not in Affirmative Sentences. Another thing which is really very important is that you may know that DID is the 2nd form of DO but here , DID is not the main verb, it is just  helping verb which does not mean anything , so don't try to translate DID in your own mother tongue. It is quite possible to have no meaning in your mother tongue. Did is only acting as a helping verb in Past Simple and does not  show any action unless used as a main Verb.

Short Replies in Past Simple

I hope you already know what Short Replies are, in this lesson we shall learn short replies in Past Simple. As I have already explained in previous lessons that Short Replies of any Tense are made with the helping verb  of the same tense. So, in the case of Past Simple Tense we will be making the Short Replies using DID.

For Example:

1.    A: Did you attend the party last night?

       B: Yes , I did.

       A: Did you enjoy the party?

       B: No, I didn't.

2.    A: Did Mary call you yesterday?

       B: No, she didn't.

Important Note: Always remember that when you talk about Past conditions, state or want to tell what something or someone was , you should use WAS /WERE and when you want to describe a Past Action with a certain time , you should be using Past Simple . Another important thing is to learn all forms of different verbs. This thing is related to memorizing, you must memorize 2nd and 3rd forms of all basic and general verbs. Although , in Past Simple we do not deal with 3rd form of a verb but I think it is a good idea to learn 2nd and 3rd forms together.

Well, that's it in this unit, do remember that there are other uses of Past Simple but as a beginner, this is enough for you at this stage. But don't worry we shall cover other uses of Past Simple Tense in future lessons.

Warning! Don't just stop here. Solve the following exercises to check how much you understood the lesson. If you don't do that you will never find out your level of improvement. Students often think that it is very easy and they know it very well but this overconfidence shatters at the time of speaking in the real world. As there is a saying "Practice makes a man perfect" so start practicing right now! Wish you all the best!!!

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