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

You must 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 actions that were going on at a certain moment in the past.

  • Mary was waiting for the bus when Peter passed by.
  • Miss May was cleaning the chalkboard.
  • Sally was packing her books into her schoolbag.
  • Jenny and I were tidying the classroom.
  • The twins were fighting in the corner.
  • Michael and John were washing the paint brushes.
  • Mom was cooking our supper when I came home.

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.