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Past simple

Past simple construction: Infinitive + ‘ed’ suffix (not including irregular verbs)

Example verb: store

I stored   We stored
You stored   You (guys) stored
He/she/it stored   They stored
(1) We use the past simple to talk about a completed action in the past. The action began and finished at a specified time in the past. 
  • I went to James’s house yesterday. (went is an irregular past form of ‘go’). 
  • She saw Jane yesterday. (‘saw’ is also an irregular past form of ‘see’).
  • He worked yesterday.
  • You completed the task on Thursday.
(2) We use the past simple to talk about a series of actions in the past, that is, if more than one thing occurred and the recipient wants to express the actions in the same sentence. We usually omit the subject after the first form. 
  • Sally and I cleaned the car, washed our clothes and hanged them up also.
  • My boss called me yesterday and told me to come early.  (we can omit the subject after the second verb to avoid being repetitive so ”My boss called me yesterday and ‘he’ told me to come early” sounds repetitive) 
(3) We use the past simple to talk about customs or habits that we had in the past and stopped in the past. ‘used to’ has almost the exact same meaning. 
  • worked hard when I was younger.
  • Sam played an instrument for two years when he was six.
  • I really enjoyed his time when we were young.
(4) The past simple is used to talk about duration in the past, as long as the action started and finished at a specified time we use the past simple. Normally, we use an expression of time such as: for two minutes, all month, the whole day, x amount of time. 
  • waited for them for one whole hour and I wasn’t happy about it.
  • They screamed at me all day today.
  • She and I talked all afternoon. 
  • taught him English for three years. 
(5) The past simple is used to talk about facts and generalisations in the past that could still be true or untrue in the present. 
  • In my time, we had to work a lot harder than folk today.
  • He never liked to see his grandma.
  • They often bought apples at their local store.
  • Did they play soccer when they were young?
(6) We can use adverbs with the past simple such as: just, only, always, never, sometimes, still ever etc.
  • just cleaned your car.
  • They never knew about technical issues.
  • Did you ever do your homework? Yes, I sometimes did it.

English Verbs – The Complete Guide

Lesson #23: Past simple

Explanation

Construction: infinitive + ‘ed’ suffix (irregular verbs excluded)

Example verb: help

I helped   We helped
You helped   You (guys) helped
He/she/it helped   They helped
  • We use the past simple to talk about a completed action in the past. The action began and finished at a specified time in the past.
  • We use the past simple to talk about a series of actions in the past, that is, if more than one thing occurred and the recipient wants to express the actions in the same sentence. We usually omit the subject after the first form. 
  •  We use the past simple to talk about customs or habits that we had in the past and stopped in the past. ‘Used to’ has almost the exact same meaning. 
  • The past simple is used to talk about duration in the past, as long as the action started and finished at a specified time, we use the past simple. Normally, we use an expression of time such as: for two minutes, all month, the whole day, x amount of time. 
  • The past simple is used to talk about facts and generalisations in the past that could still be true or untrue in the present. 
  • We can use adverbs with the past simple such as: just, only, always, never, sometimes, still, ever etc.
Context
  • Good morning Sarah. How was your spring break?1 Where did you go?2 And what did you do?
  • Hi Jim, thanks for asking. Well, I did so many things. I don’t know where to begin to be honest. I went to Europe and travelled around the various countries.3
  • Which countries did you visit? And did you go with a friend?
  • Well, I went with my best friend, Lucy. We travelled to France, Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary, and also Norway.4
  • That’s a lot of countries!
  • You bet!5
  • Had you travelled much before that?
  • When I was younger, I never travelled. I never saw other cultures,6 and I never exposed myself to other languages.7 So that’s the reason why I was so anxious to see as many countries as possible.8
  • Did you have any problems with flight delays and that sort of thing?
  • We did actually have one issue when we were waiting for our flight to Hungary. My friend and I waited for more than five hours because the plane needed to refuel and delayed at least a few hours. 9
  • Flight delays can certainly be quite common these days.10 Which country did you enjoy most then?
  • Without a doubt, Spain. I had a great time there. Spaniards are by far the nicest people I have ever met.11
  • I’ve also heard they’re extremely friendly and nice.
  • Without a doubt. It was very hot though, at least thirty-five degrees.12
  • I’m sure it was. Anyhow, it’s great catching up.13
  • See you later.
  • bye
Analysis
  1. How was your spring break? The past simple is used here, as a question (how was) to talk about a completed action in the past.
  2. Where did you go? The past simple, in interrogative form (where did) is being used to describe a completed action in the past. You can’t use the present perfect in this sense. I.e., Where have you gone? This question is incorrect. You need to use the past simple.
  3. I went to Europe and travelled around the various countries. The past simple is used to describe a series of actions that happened in the past. The past simple is used to express completed past actions that happened at the same time.
  4. We travelled to France, Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary and also Norway. The past simple is used to describe a series of actions that happened in the past. In this case, it is the countries that she visited.
  5. You bet! This is a colloquial and common way to confirm something. I.e. I know I’m right. I bet!
  6. When I was younger, I never travelled. The past simple, (travelled) is used to describe a habit (or lack of one) that stopped. In this case, it never started. Other examples using the past simple to talk about habits or customs that we had in the past are: I worked hard when I was young. Daniel played the guitar for ten years. The past simple can be used to describe a past habit or custom.
  7. I never saw other cultures, and I never exposed myself to other languages. The past simple (saw and exposed) is being used to describe past habits or customs.
  8. So that’s the reason why I was so anxious to see as many countries as possible. The past simple, was is describing the state she was in, in the past. That state being anxious.
  9. My friend and I waited for more than five hours because the plane needed to refuel and delayed at least a few hours. The past simple is being used to talk about a duration in the past here. The past actions, waited for five hours, plane needed to refuel, plane delayed all occurred in the past, had a certain duration, and then finished in the past. That’s why the past simple is used.
  10. Flight delays can certainly be quite common these days. The present simple (can) is used to describe a habit, or something that occurs quite frequently. No other verb tense can be used in this sense.
  11. Spaniards are by far the nicest people I have ever met. The present perfect (have met) is used because the nature of the experience continues until the present moment, that nature being, Spaniards being the nicest people she has ever met. The past simple cannot be used here.
  12. It was very hot though, at least thirty-five degrees. The past simple form was is being used to describe an experience in the past and finished in the past.
  13. Anyhow, it’s great catching up. The phrasal verb catch up takes the meaning of ‘seeing someone again’ or ‘to meet someone you know’.

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