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Simple Past

The English simple past tense is the most common way of expressing past time, such as for

  • actions in the past that took place once, never or several times (habits in the past):
    • We visited her parents every weekend back then.

  • actions that took place one after another:
    • They came in, looked around and then left.
       
  • actions that interrupt other actions:
    • I was eating dinner when the phone rang.

Note the use of two different past tenses: the continuous, background action of eating (in the past progressive) and the one-time action - the phone ringing - interrupting it (in the simple past).

  • conditions concerning hypothetical situations, in the if-clause of a conditional sentence:
    • If I talked too much, you would tell me to shut up.

Words and phrases like these typically signal the use of the simple past:

  • 10 minutes ago
  • in 2015
  • last weekend, last year
  • the other day
  • yesterday

Here are some other very simple examples:

  • Affirmative: I spoke ten minutes ago. He spoke last Saturday. They often visited in 2005.
  • Negative: We didn't (did not) speak. She didn't (did not) speak either.
  • Question: Did you speak the other day? Did she ever speak?

 

 

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