Past Tense

Use the simple past tense to talk about things that happened in the past. The simple past tense is also used to talk about things that happened in stories.

  • The wicked Queen gave Snow White a poisoned apple.
  • Pinocchio’s nose grew longer every time he told a lie.
  • Dinosaurs lived millions of years ago.
  • I bought a new camera last week.
  • Joe learned to play the guitar very quickly.
  • We drove to the safari park last weekend.
  • The giant panda gave birth to a cub last night.
  • Yesterday Dad took me to the carnival.
  • The plane landed a few minutes ago.
  • The children visited a farm during the holidays.
  • Who invented the computer?
  • Jack and Jill went up the hill.
  • Little Red Riding Hood decided to visit her grandmother.
  • The Three Bears found Goldilocks asleep in their house.

The simple past tense is usually formed by adding -ed to the verb. For example:

  • jump + ed = jumped
  • lift + ed = lifted
  • laugh + ed = laughed
  • look + ed = looked

If the verb ends with -e, just add -d. For example:

  • agree + d = agreed
  • hate + d = hated
  • die + d = died
  • live + d = lived

With some short verbs that end in a consonant, double the last letter of some verbs before adding -ed. For example:

  • fan + ed = fanned
  • pat + ed = patted
  • grab + ed = grabbed
  • rip + ed = ripped
  • nod + ed = nodded
  • slam + ed = slammed

The verbs above are all short verbs of just one syllable. They all end with a consonant such as b, d, m, n, p, t, and have only a single vowel before the consonant.

With verbs that end in -y, change the y to i before adding -ed. For example:

  • bury + ed = buried
  • fry + ed = fried
  • carry + ed = carried
  • hurry + ed = hurried
  • cry + ed = cried
  • try + ed = tried

Past Progressive Tense

Use the past progressive tense to talk about things that were happening in the past and had not stopped happening. They were continuing.

  • I was watching television.
  • Ben was finishing his homework.
  • She was putting her books into her schoolbag.
  • Jenny and I were tidying the classroom.
  • We were all dancing at the party.
  • You weren’t listening to the teacher.
  • Some boys were looking out of the window.

You can also use the past progressive tense to say what was happening when something else happened.

  • Sam was doing his math homework when the phone rang.
  • Dad was cooking our dinner when I got home.
  • When I saw Joe, he was looking for his dog.
  • We were all enjoying the movie when the power went out.
  • What were they doing when the bell rang?

To make the past progressive tense, use was or were and a verb that ends in -ing. You form the past progressive tense like this:

  • was + present participle
  • were + present participle

In the examples above, was and were are called helping verbs, or auxiliary verbs. They help to form the past progressive tense when you join them to the present participle (the form of verbs ending in -ing) . For example: Ben was doing his homework. Peter was making a model of a bridge.