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Lesson 7.1

Past Simple

El pasado simple
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There are several tenses for speaking about the past in English, but the past simple is the most commonly used. It is used for actions completed in the past. In the past tense there are both regular verbs and irregular verbs.

There are several tenses for speaking about the past in English, but the past simple is the most commonly used. It is used for actions completed in the past. In the past tense there are both regular verbs and irregular verbs.

Grammatical Rules

Form

To form the past simple of regular verbs we add the ending “-ed” to the verb. The form is the same for all persons (I, you, he, she, it, we, they).

Examples:

 want →   wanted
 learn →   learned
 stay →   stayed
 walk →   walked
 show →   showed

Exceptions:

1. For verbs that end in “e”, we only need to add “-d”:

Examples:

 change →   changed
 believe →   believed

2. If the verb ends in a short vowel plus a consonant (except “y” o “w”), we double the final consonant:

Examples:

 stop →   stopped
 commit →   committed

3. When the verb ends in a consonant and “y”, the “y” becomes an “i”:

Examples:

 study →   studied
 try →   tried
Note: There are many irregular verbs in English and unfortunately there are no fixed rules for forming them. See here for a list of irregular verbs. Below are the three most commonly used irregular verbs which also are used as auxiliary verbs.
Verb Past simple
be   was (I, he, she, it)
  were (you, we, they)
do   did
have   had
Note: There are many irregular verbs in English and unfortunately there are no fixed rules for forming them. Below are the three most commonly used irregular verbs which also are used as auxiliary verbs.
Verb Past simple
be   was (I, he, she, it)
  were (you, we, they)
do   did
have   had

Pronunciation

The pronunciation of the ending “-ed” is different depending on the letter with which the verb ends. In general though, the “e” is silent.

1. For those verbs which end in “p”, “f”, “k” o “s” (voiceless consonants, except “t”), we pronounce the “-ed” as a “t”.

Examples:

 looked[lukt]
 kissed[kisst]

2. For those verbs which end in “b”, “g”, “l”, “m”, “n”, “v”, “z” (voiced consonants, except “d”) or a vowel, we pronounce only the “d”.

Examples:

 yelled[jeld]
 cleaned[klind]

3. Verbs that end in “d” o “t”, we pronounce the “e” as an “i”.

Examples:

 ended[endid]
 waited[weitid]

Structure

1. Affirmative Sentences

Subject + principal verb…

Examples:

 She was a doctor.
 The keys were in the drawer.
 I wanted to dance.
 They learned English.
 We believed him.
 I bought a blue car.

2. Negative Sentences

To be:

Subject + “to be” + “not”…

Examples:

 She wasn’t a doctor.
 The keys weren’t in the drawer.

Note: The verb “to have got”, which in the present simple follows the same rules as “to be”, cannot be used in the past. To indicate possession in the past, we use the verb “to have”.

All other verbs:

Subject + auxiliary verb (to do) + “not” + principal verb (in infinitive)…

Examples:

 I didn’t want to dance.
 They didn’t learn English.
 We didn’t believe him.
 I didn’t buy a blue car.

Note: As in the present simple, in negative sentences in the past simple the auxiliary verb is conjugated (“did”) and the principal verb remains in the infinitive.

3. Interrogative Sentences

To be:

“To be” + subject…?

Examples:

 Was she a doctor?
 Were the keys in the drawer?

All other verbs:

Auxiliary verb (to do) + subject + principal verb…?

Examples:

 Did you want to dance?
 Did they learn English?
 Did you believe him?
 Did you buy a blue car?

Note: As with negative sentences, the auxiliary verb is conjugated (“did”) and the principal verb remains in the infinitive.

Uses

1. The past simple is used to talk about a specific action or event that began and ended in the past. It is generally used with adverbs of time such as “last year”, “yesterday”, “last night”…

Examples:

 Tom stayed at home last night.
 Kate worked last Saturday.
 I didn’t go to the party yesterday.
 Did they walk to school this morning?

2. The past simple is used to talk about a series of actions that occurred in the past.

Examples:

 I received the good news and immediately called my husband.
 He studied for an hour in the morning, worked all afternoon and didn’t return home until 10 at night.

3. We also use the past simple for repeated actions or habits in the past.

Examples:

 We always traveled to Cancun for vacation when we were young.
 He walked 5 kilometers every day to work.

4. The past simple is also used for narrations or actions that occurred over a long period of time in the past.

Examples:

 I worked for many years in a museum.
 She didn’t eat meat for years.

5. We use the past simple to speak about facts or things in the past in general.

Examples:

 The Aztec lived in Mexico.
 I played the guitar when I was a child.
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