The simple past tense is a very common verb tense in English. Almost 20% of verbs in English are in the simple past tense. It is the second most common verb tense, after the simple present.

Using the simple Past Tense In English

The simple past tense is used for actions that happened at a particular time in the past. They started and finished in the past. When you are telling a story about something that happened in the past, most main verbs will be in the simple past tense.

Chart for Simple Past Tense in English

Simple Past Tense Illustration

The example sentences below illustrate the rules we generally follow when using the simple past.


Examples of the simple past

Here are some examples of the simple past tense in use:

Last night I saw a movie. 

Back in June, I went to Paris. 

I had a party last weekend. All my friends came. 

Magellan landed in the Philippines in 1521. 

Table: Forming the Simple Past

As the chart shows, regular verbs take -ed to form the simple past tense. In some cases, this requires doubling the last consonant in the word. When you use the simple past, you almost always need to identify a specific time in the past when the action happened. 

Simple Past Tense Verb Conjugation
Singular Plural
1st person worked. we  worked.
2nd person you  worked. you  worked.
3rd person he  worked. they  worked.
she  worked.
it  worked.


  • Generally, when we use the past tense, it is important that the speaker and listener know the specific time. For example, just saying I went to the movies is unusual. 

Other Forms of the simple past

Negative Sentences

If the verb is a form of be, make a negative sentences in the simple past, by putting not after the verb.

That was not Rebecca.

She wasn’t at school on Tuesday.

We were not excited.

If the verb is not a form of be, put did not before the main verb to make a negative.

We did not feel hungry at dinnertime.

I didn’t go to school yesterday.

They did not want to come.


Exactly like the questions in the simple present, if the simple past verb is a form of be, move the verb to before the subject to form a question.

Was that girl Rebecca?

Was that pork?

Were they angry?

Where were you?

How was the pizza?

For other verbs, add did before the subject.

Did you like the movie?

Did Claire go home? 

Where did you go?

What did you make for lunch? 

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