Lesson 2.1 – The Past Simple
Completed Action in the Past: Use the Simple Past to express an action that 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.
A Series of Completed Actions: 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?
Duration in Past: The Simple Past can be used with a duration which starts and stops in the past. 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 Brazil for two years.
- Shauna studied Japanese for five years.
- They sat at the beach all day.
Habits in the Past: 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 a child.
- He played the violin.
- She worked at the movie theater after school.
Another important thing is to remember that we have regular and irregular verbs in English, and in view of that, we will have different forms for both groups. Let’s see how to form Past Simple of regular verbs:
So, we make Past Simple of regular verbs by adding the suffix –ed to the infinitive – worked, closed or finished.
But we have to be careful because sometimes this suffix can make some changes in the spelling of the verb.
If the infinitive ends in –e, we add only the –d, like in close – closed.
If the infinitive ends in –y and it is preceded by a consonant, -y turns into i, like in cry – cried.
But if –y is preceded by a vowel, there is no change at all, like in play – played.
And finally, if the infinitive ends in a consonant preceded by an accentuated vowel, the consonant has to be doubled, like in stop – stopped.
Just be careful when making the negative and interrogative form, you always have to use the infinitive form of the verb.
Time expressions that show us we should use Past Simple are the following:
- two years ago
- last week/month/year/Monday
- in 1986/1239, etc.