The past is something we cannot change, that follows us wherever we go. Some say “learn from the past in order to be happy in the future”, and perhaps they are right. But I believe we should learn not only “from the past” but also “about the past”. So that’s why today I’m going to tell you how to talk about past actions.
“The past is over and gone,” says American author Wayne Dyer. He is quite right. The past has no connection to the present, and in this case we use the Past Simple tense. We use this tense to talk about actions or states in the past that have no connection to the present.
We often use finished time with the past simple tense, such as “yesterday”, “two weeks ago”, etc. We use “ago” to say when something happened, and “for” to speak about the time period. For example, if I say that I lived in London for 2 years, it means that I don’t live there anymore, but I lived there for 2 years in the past.
When she returned to England in 1910, Agatha found that her mother was ill, and so they decided to head for a holiday in the warmer climate of Cairo in Egypt. (from the biography of Agatha Christie, famous writer.)
Picture: Agatha Christie in her youth.
Agatha loved her mother. This is a past state (for neither Agatha nor her mother are alive at this moment). We use the Past Simple tense for past states.
“… Agatha found … so they decided…” She understood that her mother was ill, and immediately decided to go for a holiday. This is a sequence of events. We use the past simple tense to talk about a sequence of events in the past.
We also use the past simple tense to talk about actions which happened regularly in the past, often with expressions of frequency. For example, I drank coffee every morning 2 years ago.
“A cup of coffee every day makes your headache go away.” ©
Now let’s talk about the form of the Past Simple.
We form the affirmative Past Simple by adding “-ED” to the main verb. (if the verb is regular). If the regular verb ends in “e”, then we just add “d”. For example “like” in the past is “liked”, not “likeED".
If the verb ends in “consonant-vowel-consonant”, we double the last consonant and add “ED”.
For example, jog => jogged, not “joged".
If the verb ends in “y” after a consonant, the Y goes away, and we add “ied”. Reply => replied.
However, if the verb ends in “y” after a vowel, the “y” doesn’t go anywhere, we just add “ed”. Play => played.
Not all verbs are regular. Irregular verbs have special past simple forms, we don’t add “ed” to irregular verbs. Instead, we look at the list of irregular verbs and take the form in the second column.
http://www.englishpage.com/irregularverbs/irregularverbs.html => check out a list of irregular verbs over here.
Go here (http://gn.org.ua/irrverbs) to read a funny poem that will help you learn irregular verbs easily.
Watch this video to learn a rap song with irregular verbs.
We make the negative form of the Past Simple like this: “Subject + didn’t + verb-infinitive”. Notice that we use the infinitive form of the verb, not the past form. We do so because the auxiliary verb “didn’t” sort of pulls the past to itself, taking the past from the verb.
We form the interrogative in this way: “Question word + did + subject + verb-infinitive….?”
Please pay attention to the fact that we use the infinitive form of the verb in questions, due to the auxiliary “did”.
We form short answers with “Yes, subject pronoun + did” or “No, subject pronoun + didn’t”. For example, “Yes, I did”, or “No, he didn’t.”
We should not forget that the verb “to be” is special, as always.
And now, let’s practice!
Task 1.Was or were?
Task 2. Exercise on positive statements.
Task 3. Exercise on negatives:
Task 4. Exercise on questions:
Task 5. Exercise on irregular verbs
Task 6. Exercise on mixed past simple:
And now test yourself with this test:
GOOD LUCK! =)