Simple Past Tense – Examples

We know that the past tense, present tense, and future tense are the three main tenses in English grammar. They help us denote a specific time when an action happens or how long an action takes place.

However, these tenses further have four different aspects within themselves. Today, we will learn one such part of the past tense called the simple past tense. The simple past tense is the basic form of past tense. In a very general sense, they denote an action that happened in a time period before the present time.

The simple past tense is also the most commonly used tense in English. But there are certain rules that we need to follow while using it. Let us get into them below.

What is simple past tense?

By definition, simple past tense describes an action that took place in the past. It talks about an action that occurred or happened before the present time.

The simple past tense is also commonly referred to as the preterite tense. This means it is used to refer to an action that has no existence in the present. It denotes that a verb began and finished at a time period in the past. And the past can be a recent past or a distant past, but the key point is that it is not in the present. Here, the focus is more on the finished period than the process.


Simple past sentences are easy to form. But there are some distinctions that we need to keep in mind.

A simple present sentence consists of a subject, followed by the verb in its past participle form. When the verb is regular, its base form is simply added with the suffix –ed or –d. So, the structure starts with the subject that precedes the past participle.

For example:

  • We played a lot.
  • She completed her homework.

But when the verb is an irregular verb, things are a bit different. Irregular verbs do not end simply with –ed or –d. Therefore, one needs to know their unique past forms before using them in a simple past sentence. Otherwise, the structure remains the same.

For example:

  • She swam for two hours.
  • They wrote all the papers.

Moreover, the simple past tense can form negative and question sentences as well.

For negative sentences, there is a specific rule that one needs to follow. The rule is that the sentence will consist of did not before the main verb. And here, the main verb will not change its root form. This rule is true for both regular and irregular verbs.

But for the verb to be, we do not require the auxiliary verb did.

For example:

  • She did not bring her notes.
  • I did not fight with anyone.
  • I was not ready to perform.

And to form question sentences, we simply change the position of the auxiliary verb did and position it at the beginning. The structure follows the auxiliary verb, then the subject, and finally the main verb.

For example:

  • Did you bring the key?


Now, let us quickly have a look at its common uses.

  • To express something that occurred in the past.
  • To tell the main action of a story.
  • To explain something with a finished time phrase.

So, these are the points that clearly define the simple past tense. Although it is the basic and the easiest form of past tense, its use can be tricky if the concept is unclear.

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