The Past Indefinite Tense (The Past Simple)



Affirmative Form:

                           Subject + past verb

(Regular verbs end in –ed; irregular verbs have a different form.)

Example: I studied English for five years.

She ate pizza for dinner.

He went to the store.


Adverbs and time expressions:

Some adverbs and time expressions that can be used to indicate the past time frame with the Past Simple (Simple Past) tense are: yesterday, last night, last week, last month, last year, in 2005, two days ago, a week ago, an hour ago, previously, before, then.

These adverbs and time expressions are often used with the Past Simple tense to indicate that the action or event took place in the past and is now completed.


I went to the movies yesterday.

She visited Paris last year.

We had dinner together an hour ago.

He worked at that company previously.




Negative Form:

Subject + Did not (didn’t) + Base Verb (infinitive without to)

Example: I didn’t study French.

She didn’t eat salad.

He didn’t walk to work.




Question Form:

Did + Subject + Base Verb (infinitive without to)?

Example: Did you study Spanish?

Did she eat breakfast?

Did he finish his project on time?






The Past Simple tense: affirmative, negative, and question forms (table 1)

Affirmative Form Negative Form Question Form
I Studied didn’t study Did I study?
You Studied didn’t study Did you study?
He/She/It Studied didn’t study Did he/she/it study?
We Studied didn’t study Did we study?
They Studied didn’t study Did they study?


The Past Indefinite (Simple Past) is used to describe a completed action that occurred at a specific time in the past.





Here are some common situations in which it is used:

To describe an action that started and ended in the past:

I finished my work yesterday.

He left for vacation last month.

They watched a movie last night.




To describe a series of completed actions in the past:

I woke up, brushed my teeth, and took a shower.

She cooked dinner, set the table, and called her friends.

He went to the gym, worked out, and showered.




To describe a past habitual or repeated action:

I used to eat breakfast at 7:00 a.m. every day.

She always watched the news in the morning.

He often visited his grandmother on weekends.





To describe a past state of being or condition:

I was happy yesterday.

She felt sick last week.

He was tired after work.




To narrate a story or describe a past event:

 Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess.

 Last night, I saw a shooting star.

 When I was young, I had a pet dog.


These are just a few examples of how the Past Indefinite (Simple Past) can be used.

It’s worth noting that there are other tenses, such as the Past Continuous and the Past Perfect, which can also be used to describe past actions and events in different ways.




The Past Simple with Adverbial Clauses:

Adverbial clauses of time are often used to indicate when an action or event happened in the past, and they can be used with the Past Simple (Simple Past) tense.

Adverbial clauses of time typically begin with a subordinating conjunction that indicates time, such as: when, after, before, as soon as, while, until

Some examples of adverbial clauses of time used with the Past Simple tense are:

I went to bed when the movie ended.

She left after she finished her work.

He arrived before the meeting started.

We left as soon as the rain stopped.

I stayed in that city until I finished my project.



The Past Simple for describing a sequence of events:

The Past Simple tense can be used to describe a sequence of actions or events that happened in the past.

When describing a sequence of events, it is common to use time expressions such as first, then, after that, finally, etc.

For example:

I woke up early in the morning. First, I took a shower and got dressed. Then, I had breakfast and read the newspaper. After that, I went to work and had a busy day. Finally, I came home and watched TV before going to bed.


In this example, the Past Simple tense is used to describe a series of events that happened in the past, and time expressions such as first, then, and finally are used to indicate the order in which they occurred.





The Past Simple tense forms in various situations (table 2).

Situation Example
Completed actions in the past I went to the store yesterday.
Past habits or routines I always rode my bike to school when I was younger.
A series of completed actions in the past She woke up, took a shower, got dressed, and left for work.
Past events or situations The concert ended late last night.
Interruptions in the past I was studying when my friend called.
Polite requests or suggestions in the past Could you please help me with my bags?
Reported speech or indirect speech She told me that she had already eaten dinner.



The Past Simple for Narratives:

Note, that the Past Simple can also be used in narratives, such as telling a story or describing past events in detail:

I used to walk to school every day when I was a child.


In this sentence, the Past Simple tense used to walk is used to describe a habitual action that happened repeatedly in the past.

The action of walking to school happened every day, and it is implied that this was a regular habit or routine.







Click here The Past Indefinite Tense ( The Past Simple)

Click here The Present Indefinite Tense (the Present Simple)

Click here The Indicative Mood – the Active Voice

Click here What is the Mood of a Verb?