English Grammar Course Unit 11: Simple past (I did)

Why should you study this unit?

In all these units so far, we talked about the future. It’s time we talked a little about the past as well. The past includes everything right from the minute gone by to many years back. So you might be looking for a pen that you were using just a minute ago and can’t remember where you left it or it could be a picture of your ancestral home taken many year back or it could be about how good a cricket player you were in school. All these make the past.

This unit will tell you a lot about how to talk about the past.

A. Study this example:

  • Anthony: Look! It’s raining again.
  • Lisa: Oh no, not again. It rained all day yesterday too.

Rained is the simple past tense. We use the simple past to talk about actions or situations in the past.

  • I enjoyed the party very much.
  • Mr. Charles died ten years ago.
  • When I lived in Athens, I worked in a bank.

B. Very often the simple past ends in -ed:

  • We invited them to our party, but they decided not to come.
  • The police stopped me on my way home last night.
  • She passed her exam because she studied very hard.

For spelling rules see Appendix 3.

  • But many important verbs are irregular. This means that the simple past does not end in -ed:
  • leave – left (We all left the party at 11:00.
  • go – went Last month I went to Rome to see a friend of mine.
  • cost – cost This house cost $75,000 in 1980.

The past of the verb be (am/is/are) is was/were:

  • I/he/she/itàwas  &  we/you/theyà were
  • Iwas angry because Tom and Ann were

For a list of irregular verbs see Appendix 2.

C. In simple past questions and negatives we use did/didn’t + the base form (go/open/buy, etc.):

It rained                                 did it rain?                                it didn’t rain.

  • Mary: Did you go out last night, Tom?
  • Tom: Yes, I went to the movies. But I didn’t enjoy it.
  • When did Johnson die?
  • What did you do over the weekend?
  • We didn’t invite her to the party, so she didn’t come.
  • Why didn’t you call me on Tuesday?

Note that we normally use did/didn’t with have:

  • Did you have time to write the letter?
  • didn’t have enough money to buy anything to eat.

But we do not use did with the verb be (was/were):

  • Why were you so angry?
  • Was Mark at work yesterday?
  • They weren’t able to come because they were very busy.

For the simple past see also Unit 12, Unit 19, and Unit 20.

Welcome to this English grammar quiz

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