Past tense exercises
Past simple tense - examples, rules
In the simple past tense there are two types of English verbs - regular and irregular verbs. They have different forms.
Positive statement: I worked, He worked
Negative statement: I did not work (I didn't work), He did not work (He didn't work)
Question form: Did you work?
Negative question: Did you not work? (Didn't you work?)
In the past simple tense regular verbs are usually formed by -ed ending. It is the same for all persons, singular and plural.
Passive voice: The test was finished. The emails were sent. (See more at Active and passive voice.)
We add -d (not -ed) to the verb that ends in -e: like - liked
If it ends in a consonant and -y, we change -y into -i: carry - carried, try - tried.
But: play - played, because it ends in a vowel and -y.
If the verb has only one syllable and ends in a single vowel and a consonant, we double the consonant to keep the same pronunciation: stop - stopped. The same rule applies to words with more syllables if the stress falls on the last syllable: ad'mit - admitted, pre'fer - preferred. But: 'enter - entered (the stress is not on the last syllable). In words ending in -l the consonant is always doubled after a single vowel: travel - travelled.
All the irregular verbs have different forms. For example: choose - chose, draw - drew, drink - drank, meet - met, see - saw, think - thought. But the question and negative are made in the same way: I learnt - Did you learn? No, I did not learn.
- You can have a look at IRREGULAR VERBS, where you will find the list of verbs and some online exercises.
In the past simple tense we do not use did with to be and modals.
Were you a student? Was he in London? I was not at home. He was not happy.
Could you sing? Could he come? I could not swim. He could not stay.
The auxiliary did is not used in questions beginning with wh- pronouns (who, which) in case that the pronoun is the subject of the question.
Who met you? (who is the subject)
Which train arrived on time? (which train is the subject)
But: Who did you meet? Which train did you miss? (who and which train are the objects)
The negative question normally expresses a surprise.
Didn't you know it?
1. We use this tense for activities or situations that were completed at a definite time.
a) The time can be given in the sentence:
I came home at 6 o'clock. When he was a child, he didn't live in a house.
b) The time is asked about:
When did they get married?
c) The time is not given in the sentence, but it is clear from a context that the action or situation was finished.
He is 20 years old. He was born in Canada. - Alan: I've been to Iceland. (present perfect) - Greg: Did you enjoy it? (past simple)
2. We use it for repeated activities.
We walked to school every day. - And did you ever go by bus?
3. The simple tense is used in stories to describe events that follow each other.
Charles entered the hall and looked around. He took off his coat and put it on a chair. He was at home.
Past continuous tense - examples, rules
Positive statement: I was sleeping, You were sleeping
Negative statement: I was not sleeping (I wasn't .... ), You were not sleeping (You weren't .... )
Question: Were you sleeping? Was he sleeping?
Neg. question: Were you not sleeping? (Weren't you .... ?) Was he not working? (Wasn't he .... ?)
The past continuous tense is formed with the past tense of the verb to be and the present participle (-ing form).
The past continuous tense passive voice:The letter was being finished. The emails were being sent.
We use the past continuous for activities or situations that were not completed.
From 10 to 12 I was washing my car. I was in the garage. (I did not finish my work. It was in progress. I started before 10 and finished after 12.)
The sun was setting. The beach was changing its colours. (The sun was still in the sky when I was watching it.)
Compare this sentence with completed actions:
From 10 to 12 I washed my car. (I finished my work. (I started at 10 and finished at 12.)
Finally, the sun set. It was dark and we did not see the beach anymore. (The sun completely disappeared.)
We use the past continuous tense for uninterrupted activities or situations. If the action is interrupted (it is not continuous - something is done in more intervals or we did more things one after another), we use the simple.
Tom was watching TV on Sunday. x Tom watched TV in the morning and in the evening.
Yesterday I was working in the garden. x Yesterday I worked in the garden and on my house.
The continuous tense is typically used:
1. To express the idea that an action in the past continuous started before the action expressed by the past simple tense and continued after it.
When she saw me, I was looking at the trees. (These two actions happened at the same time. I was looking at the trees for some time and she saw me in the middle of it.)
When she saw me, I looked at the trees. (These two actions happened one after another. First she saw me and then I looked at the trees.)
2. With a point in time to describe an action that started before that time and continued after it.
At 8 o'clock Jane was doing past simple exercises. (At 8 o'clock she was in the middle of the activity. She did not finish it.)
At 8 o'clock Jane did past simple exercises. (She started the activity at 8 o'clock and finished it.)
3. The continuous is used to describe a situation, while the simple is used to express actions in stories.
The sun was shining. Jack and Jill were lying on the beach. Jack was reading a book and Jill was sleeping. All of a sudden, Jack raised his head. Jill woke up. Something happened.
4. The continuous tense describes an activity which was not finished in contrast with the simple past, which describes a completed activity.
I was reading a book yesterday. And today I am going to continue.
I read the book yesterday. I can lend it to you now.
5. The continuous can be used to show a more casual action, the simple is for a deliberate action:
I was talking to my neighbour yesterday. We had a nice chat. (I did not do it on purpose. We just met in the street.)
I talked to my neighbour yesterday. And he promised to help me. (I did it on purpose. I needed to ask him for help.)
- You can also find some past simple exercises and past continuous exercises in a printable pdf form at Esl worksheets, where you can download them for free and print easily.
- Pdf grammar rules are available at E-grammar printables (see the first item in the menu).