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Simple Past Tense

Simple past tense indicates an action that took place in the past.

  • Alfred Hitchcock directed many great films.
  • The cat chased the bird.
  • ate breakfast this morning.
  • We saw a Broadway play when we visited New York.

To form the simple past of most English verbs, simply add –ed to the base form. If the base form ends in consonant + y, change the to before adding –ed.

  • talk → talked
  • need → needed
  • carry → carried

If the base form ends in consonant + e, add –d.

  • bake → baked
  • arrive → arrived

If the base form ends in vowel + consonant, double the consonant if the last syllable is stressed or the word has only one syllable.

  • permit → permitted
  • transmit → transmitted
  • step → stepped
  • plan → planned

However, many common English verbs are irregular in past tense. These verbs change forms completely in simple past. For example:

  • see → saw
  • eat → ate
  • take → took
  • do → did

To form the negative of a simple past tense verb, use:

  • Did (the simple past tense form of do) + not + base form of another verb

To form a question in simple past tense, move the auxiliary did to the beginning of the sentence, in front of the subject.

  • The cat chased the bird.
  • Did the cat chase the bird?
  • The cat did not chase the bird.

Only the irregular verb to be does not use the did auxiliary.

  • They were tired of waiting.
  • Were they tired of waiting?
  • They were not tired of waiting.

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