Monday, May 18, 2009

The Simple Past Tense

Use the Simple Past to express the idea that an action started and finished at a specific time in the past. Sometimes, the speaker may not actually mention the specific time, but they do have one specific time in mind.

• I saw a movie yesterday.
• I didn't see a play yesterday.
• Last year, I traveled to Japan.
• Last year, I didn't travel to Korea.
• Did you have dinner last night?
• She washed her new car.
• He didn't wash his old car.

We use the Simple Past to list a series of completed actions in the past. These actions happen 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so on.

• I finished work, walked to the beach, and found a nice place to swim.
• He arrived from the airport at 8:00, checked into the hotel at 9:00, and met the others at 10:00.
• Did you add flour, pour in the milk, and then add the eggs?

The Simple Past can be used with a duration which starts and stops in the past. A duration is a longer action often indicated by expressions such as: for two years, for five minutes, all day, all year, etc.

• I lived in Seattle for eight years.
• Jane studied Spanish for five years.
• They sat at the beach all day.
• They did not stay at the party.
• We talked on the phone for one hour.
• A: How long did you wait for them?
B: We waited for ten minutes.

The Simple Past can also be used to describe a habit which stopped in the past. It can have the same meaning as "used to." To make it clear that we are talking about a habit, we often add expressions such as: always, often, usually, never, when I was a child, when I was younger, etc.

• I studied French when I was in high school.
• He played the piano.
• He didn't play the piano.
• Did you play a musical instrument when you were a child?
• She worked in a restaurant after school.
• They never went to school, they always skipped class.

The Simple Past can also be used to describe past facts or generalizations which are no longer true. This use of the Simple Past is quite similar to the expression "used to."

• She was shy as a child, but now she is very outgoing.
• He didn't like tomatoes but now he does.
• Did you live in Madrid when you were a younger?
• People paid much more to make cell phone calls in the past.

To Be
I was here. You were here. They were here. He was here. We were here yesterday.
Were you here yesterday? Was he here? Was I here? Wee they here yesterday?

Regular Verbs
It rained yesterday. It did not rain yesterday. It didn’t rain yesterday.
I drove to work yesterday. I didn’t drive to work.
I understood the problem. I didn’t understand it.
Did you go to work yesterday? Yes, I went to work. No, I didn’t go.
I was five years old when I started school. How old were you when you started?
Robert ate lunch with his family. Robert didn’t eat lunch. Did Robert eat with his family?
I paid attention in class when the teacher talked about King Henry VIII.
Did you learn anything? Yes, I learned a lot.
I walked to school every day when I was a boy.
He told me his name when I met him.
I sat down in a chair. Did you sit down?
(Some verbs don’t change)
He hit the ball. What did he hit?
Mary cut the cloth. What did Mary cut?
(some verbs change a lot)
He caught the ball. What did he catch?
Ann brought her dog. What did Ann bring?
I taught one class yesterday. What did I teach?