Subject + past tense (-ed except irregular verbs)

Examples: I walked They ran
You killed He/ she/ it cried*
We ate *Note: if the verb ends in -y, change the -y to an -i and add -ed.

 

Rules

 

Use simple past for:

1. Telling a story or talking about something that happened to you at a specific time (usually, the time is either said or already known)

– Last Saturday, my new passport finally came in the mail.

– I went to a good university (when I was younger), but my dreams died shortly after.

 

2. Descriptions of people, things, and situations in the past

– Sammy was the fattest little dog in my neighborhood, and his owner always smelled like garlic and cheese.

– It was a dark alley, but I needed to pee, so I pressed on.

 

3. Things that don’t happen anymore or facts that are no longer held true

– People often rented movies before the internet became popular.

– The Earth was thought to be flat for many centuries.

 

4. Habits that you’ve outgrown

– I used to bite my nails a lot, especially while I wrote exams.

– She often picked her nose in class.

 

5. Feelings

– It was great to go to the game last weekend. I really needed a break from work.

Note: When we use simple past for feelings, we often change to present tense to explain those feelings.

– It was nice to have lunch with you yesterday. I always enjoy spending time with good people.

 

6. Use ‘did’ plus the base verb to emphasize a point.

– He really did want to see you last night; He was just sick.

– I did like your mother’s cooking; please believe me!

 

Notice the difference

 

The main differences between simple past (I went) and present perfect (I have been) are:

1. Simple past allows you to indicate time.

2. Simple past can tell you you used to do something regularly, not just once at some point in the past.

– I played hockey when I was younger (it was something I used to do)

– I have played hockey (it has happened once or twice)

3. The action for simple past has ended and perhaps won’t be done again.

– I went to university (assume I graduated).

– I have been to university (maybe I didn’t graduate or didn’t think it was important)