Past Simple Tense

Past Simple

Past Simple Tense in English Grammar:          

The Past Simple Tense is also known as the Simple Past or Past Indefinite Tense. We use it to express the actions completed in the past often referring to time. This tense also talks about past habitual actions. It focuses on when an action took place rather than the duration of action.

Past Simple Tense Structure and Formula: (Rules)

Past Simple Tense

‘Be’ forms – was, were are used as main verbs in the Past Simple Tense.


  • I was a teacher.
  • She was not a doctor. 
  • He wasn’t a lawyer.
  • Were we eligible?
  • Weren’t they sportsmen?

‘Have’ form – had is used as the main verb in the Present Simple Tense.


  • I had an Audi car. 2 years ago.
  • She had no Motorbike when she was young. (or)
  • She did not have a motorbike when she was young. 
  • Did they have proper uniforms? 
  • When did they have all facilities?
  • Didn’t we have a complete time-table? 


Signal Words:

It is essential to focus on signal words because they help us identify the correct tense in a sentence. The signal words for the Past Simple Tense are:

last night/month/year


last Friday/Sunday 

5 minutes ago 

in 1990….,

if sentence type II (If I talked, 

Usage of the Past Simple Tense:

 It is used: 

To express an action completed in the past often referring to time. 

(Adverbials of time like yesterday, last week/month/year, in 2019 etc., are used with the Past Simple Tense).  


  • He did not go to college yesterday.
  • They went to the Cinema last night.
  • Shiva completed his B.Tech., in 2018.

To express an action that took place over some time in the past.


  • Mr. Reddy worked as a principal in Lead India School from 2011 to 2019
  • Jahnavi studied her MS at the University of Cincinnati from 2018 to 2020.

To express an action occurring habitually in the past.

(The verbsused to andwas accustomed to’ are used to describe a habitual action in the past.)  


  • Praveena practised (used to practise) singing daily during the summer holidays.   
  • He used to get up early                                                                              
  • John was accustomed to walking long distances

After the phrases like as if, as though, it is time.    


  • Raju behaved as if he were the owner of the theatre (He doesn’t own it) 
  • It is high time we left (high is used to emphasize the idea) 
  • He behaved as though he drank too much.

In If-Clause of Improbable Condition (Type – 2).


  • If you attended the class, you would understand the lesson.
  • If you visited Hyderabad, you would visit Ramoji Film City.

The Past Simple Tense Vs. The Present Perfect  

(Refer to the Present Perfect Tense in English Grammar)

The Past Simple Tense Vs. The Past Continuous  

(Refer to the Past Continuous in English Grammar)

The Past Simple Vs. The Past Perfect  

(Refer to the Past Perfect Tense in English Grammar)


Recommended Readings:

Introduction to the Tenses

The Present Simple

Present Continuous

Present Perfect

The Present Perfect Continuous

The Past Simple  

Past Continuous  

The Past Perfect  

Past Perfect Continuous 

The Future Simple

Future Continuous  

The Future Perfect  

Future Perfect Continuous


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