Past Simple

Actions in the past in narration & conversation which can be translated by verbs of совершенного or несовершенного вида depending on the context. Time is definite i.e. the speaker knows what he’s talking about.
General Time Specification:
-adv. mod: Yesterday, 2 days ago, last week, on Monday,in 1999, the other day
-sub. clause: e.g. He called when I was out.
-implied past: e.g. I bought this T-shirt in Texas. Sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you.

1.Single action performed in the past: (single contin. action may be specified by FOR, DURING)
e.g. I saw him the other day. We quarrelled for 3 days. During the match he slept.

2.Succession in narration: e.g. I opened the door and saw her.
We walked all day and arrived 2 minutes ago.

3.Repeated actions in the past: (often, never, sometimes, now and again (then), for days.) e.g. She often saw him in the street.

4.Permanent past actions:
-indicates continuous processes in the past giving a general characteristic to the person or a thing denoted by the subject
e.g. She had a large nose. The house stood on the hill. She was fond of him.

-USED TO {ju:st} – бывало (когда-то часто)
e.g. She used to give me chocolate. I used to be a sentimental guy.
Did she use to know a lot of English words?

-WOULD (= officially USED TO): e.g. She would sleep 5 hours a day. Practice!

5.Action going on at the given past moment:
-obligatory with statives : e.g. He wanted all her troubles for himself at that moment.
-with sit, stand, lie, hang, shine, gleam, talk, speak, wear, carry, walk, action as such is named not the circumstances which are more important (with inanimate things it’s a must):
e.g. She sat in the garden and listened to the birds. He wore a black uniform.
A book lay on the table.

6.Future action viewed from the past (only in reported speech)
-clauses of Time, Condition, Concession:
e.g. He knew she was determined to marry him and would, if she though it useful, lie and cheat until she brought it off.

7.Unreal Actions (Subjunctive Mood)
Listen to Dr.Evil describing his childhood. Fill in the blanks with the verb "to be" in the Past Simple as you're listening. Pay special attention to the usage of "would" to express customary past actions.

The details of my life are quite inconsequential.... Very well, where do I begin? My father ... a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low-grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother ... a 15-year-old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize; he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes, he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament... My childhood ... typical: summers in Rangoon... luge lessons... In the spring, we'd make meat helmets... When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds — pretty standard, really. At the age of 12, I received my first scribe. At the age of 14, a Zoroastrian named Wilma ritualistically shaved my testicles — there really is nothing like a shorn scrotum — it's breathtaking... I suggest you try it.

Part 1: Making the Past Simple
To make the Past Simple, we use the past form of the verb. For example:
  We saw your dog on television yesterday.
  I drank too much oil.
When forming a negative or a question, we usually use did + the bare infinitive with normal verbs, like play, eat, do (if used as an active verb and not as an auxiliary) and tickle. Notice that we can shorten did not to didn't.
  Did you eat my pencil?
  No, I didn't eat your pencil.
That is usually true, but not if the question starts with the subject:
  Who put my hat in the refrigerator last night?
We don't use did in questions and negatives with a few special verbs. These include be (was/were) and can (could).
  Were you afraid when the giant spider came into the room? No, I wasn't.
  She can't remember where she left her husband.
If you need help remembering the past form of irregular verbs, you can visit our Elementary, Intermediate, and Advanced irregular verb lists.
Part 2: Using the Past Simple
In general, the Past Simple decribes a past action, but it can be something that happened only one time, or something that happened many times. It can be something that happened quicly, or something that happened for a long time. We usually understand the meaning because of the verb and the context.
Look at these two examples. One is about a simple action in the past. The other is about an action that happened more than once in the past.
  Yesterday I rode a purple horse.
  When I was a boy, I rode a motorcycle.
In this way, we can use the Past Simple to describe a state or action that happened many times or for a long time in the past. Here are more examples:
  After our wedding, we lived on the North Pole for ten years.
  My father visited us there every Christmas.
Notice also that the context ("after our wedding", "for two years", "every Christmas") helps us to understand when, how long, and how often the verb happened. Also, since the verb "live" usually lasts a long time (we usually live somewhere for several days or more), it also helps us to understand that the action wasn't a short one.
Part 3: The Past Simple and Hypothetical Actions
When we talk about something that we are imagining, but that maybe isn't true, we often speak hypothetically. To show that something is hypothetical, we often describe it in a way that sounds like the Past Simple.
  Try to imagine that you had three heads. (It's only an idea that we are imagining.)
There is one important difference. Instead of was we use were.
  I wish that he were Chinese, and that I were Chinese, too.
Some people use was here anyway (as in "I wish that he was Chinese..."), maybe because they don't understand the rules of English very well. Languages can change with time and maybe one day everyone will say "I was" and "he was" when speaking hypothetically. (I hope that I will either be dead or speaking another language if that day comes.)
This is an important idea in the Second Conditional, a form that we use to talk about a hypothetical situation and its possible effect. The Second Conditional is generall made from a hypothetical if clause and a result clause that uses would (showing a hypthetical result with a past form of will).
  If you were only five centimeters tall, where would you sleep?
  If I were only five centimeters tall, I would sleep in a warm glove.
There are many kinds of conditional sentences and questions, and we won't talk about all of them here. The Second Conditional is useful for describing something that we're imagining. Just remember to use the Present Simple for the conditional clause.
Part 4: Other Tenses for Describing the Past
There are other tenses for describing the past, and they're useful for telling stories. After you are comfortable using the Past Simple, try learning about the Past Continuous, the Past Perfect, and the Past Perfect Continuous.


  1. This is one of favourite videos which deserves to be learnt by heart.

  2. The word of the lesson is shorn scrotum.