Simple Past


The simple past can also be called "past simple" or "preterit". It is the most commonly used past tense in the English language.

How to Form the Simple Past

Regular Verbs

For regular verbs, the rule to form the simple past is:

infinitive without "to" + -ed

Examples: to play - played     to show - showed     to talk - talked     to succeed - succeeded     to walk - walked     to listen - listened

For some verbs, special rules apply. To find out more about them, please read "The Past Participle" because the rules are identical for the simple past.

Irregular Verbs

Unfortunately, there are also irregular verbs that do not conform to any rules. You can find a list of these verbs in "Irregular Verbs in English".

Negative Form, Questions, Abbreviations

The negative form of the simple past is formed as follows:

past tense of "to do" (did) + not + infinitive without "to"

In questions, "Did" stands at the beginning of the sentence.

The negative form can be abbreviated: "Did not" -> "Didn't"


She did not tell me how to get there.
Didn't you get any milk yesterday?
Did they tidy up their room?

How to Use the Simple Past

1. Actions and Situations Completed in the Past

The simple past is used for actions that occurred at a certain point in the past or for actions and situations that went on for a while but then ended at some point in the past.


Last week Linda was sick, so she didn't go to school.
He went to Canada and wrote a book.
I lived in Japan until I was five.

2. Habits of the Past

The simple past can also be used for actions that were repeated regularly in the past.


When I was little I attended piano lessons every week.
In Manchester We often sat in the coffee shop talking about literature.
When Lisa worked as a teacher I took the bus to work every morning.

3. Facts and General Statements that Used to Apply

If something was true in the past but is no longer true today, it can also be described with the simple past.


Before the wall came down, we had the cheapest, tastiest bread rolls in Eastern Germany.
As a young woman, my mother had red hair.
Before I started using this page I had no idea about English grammar.