Tenses & Timelines: Simple Form-Past*

Tenses & Timelines: Simple Past

April 4, 2019

Native English Instructor

Written by Douglas Shaw

The simple past tense is used to talk about completed actions that happened at a specific time in the past. Forming the past tense by adding -ed to the end of the verb. (I did)

past tense

When the verb is an irregular form the spelling is different. We will cover irregular verbs later in this section.

Every one-word verb in English has a one-word past. For most verbs (for all persons) we form the past tense adding -ed. The exception to this rule is as in the word surprised, we would only add the -d because the verb ends with -e.

e.g. (Past)

  •  I decided the solution yesterday.

e.g. (Present perfect using the past form of the verb)

  • I have decided to take my vacation in Bali.

As mentioned before “most verbs” are formed this way but however, there are some verbs called irregular. Forming the irregular verbs the spelling of the past form of the verb will be changed.

e.g. (Present) drink

  • I like to drink Earl Grey tea.

e.g. (Past) drank

  • I drank Earl Grey tea last night.

e.g. (Present perfect with the past form of the verb – past participle)

  • I have drunk to many cups of coffee.

To summarize the past tense

Use the past tense to talk about completed actions that happened at a specific time in the past. The actions can take place in a short or long period of time. There can be a few actions happening one after another.

Use of the past tense

Past tense is divided in four functions.

  1. Events in the past that are now finished.
  2. Situations in the past.
  3. A series of actions in the past.
  4. Actions that are repeated or habitual.

Events in the past that are now finished

e.g.

  • I cut my hair last week. (short time period)
  • I went to university 32 years ago. (long time period)
  • I watched the video 1 hour ago. (short time period)
  • I flew to Chicago last night. (long time period)

Situations in the past

e.g.

  • We lived in Bekasi for 3 years. (Now we live in Jakarta)

A series of actions in the past

e.g.

  • The singer entered the room, took a drink of water and smiled at the audience.

Actions in the past that are repeated or habitual

e.g.

  • When I lived in America. I was always working on heavy machinery.

Note: It can be confusing sometimes to understand the past.

e.g.

  • She had a baby last year. In this sentence, she hasn’t lost her baby ; here you are talking about the actual process of giving birth.
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