Grammar: The Past Simple
Cartoon man (Andy Avatar) with thumbs upIn this lesson, you’ll learn how to use the Past Simple. Listen to the audio explanation so you can hear how to say the words or expressions.

The Past Simple
We use the Past Simple to refer to completed actions from the past:

  • She drove the car to work yesterday.
  • They built the castle in the 16th century.

Typical time expressions with the Past Simple include: last week, last month, last night, an hour ago, three days ago, in the past, yesterday…:

  • I walked to work yesterday.
  • He left his job last week.

We use did + a verb for questions:

  • Did she go to the party?
  • Did you send me that photo?

And didn’t + a verb for negatives:

  • They didn’t see us.
  • She didn’t drive there.

We use was / were for the past of the verb to be; and could for the past of can:

  • She was in the car.
  • They were at home.
  • They couldn’t see it.

We add –ed (with some small variations) at the end of regular Past Simple verbs:

  • We walked through the park.
  • I played basketball with them.

However, there are many important irregular verbs that you will have to learn: see-saw; do-did, etc.:

  • I saw her yesterday.
  • They made a delicious cake.


We can use question words (who, what, when, where, why, etc.) with the Past Simple:

  • Who did you see there?
  • What time did you arrive?

We often use the Past Simple to tell stories or explain what happened. It’s perfect for telling personal anecdotes.

Affirmative Negative Interrogative
I played. I didn’t play. Did I play?
You played. You didn’t play. Did you play?
He played. He didn’t play. Did he play?
She played. She didn’t play. Did she play?
It played. It didn’t play. Did it play?
We played. We didn’t play. Did we play?
They played. They didn’t play. Did they play?

Grammar speaking drill/s
Now we’re going to practise using the language. Listen to the instructions, and do the exercises orally (by speaking)! Good luck! [Scroll down for the answers.]

Language drill
Listen and say the complete sentences with the correct words.

  1. She _______ a text message.
  2. He _______ a voicemail message.
  3. What time did he _______ the work?
  4. Who did they _______ the money to?
  5. We _______ there last week.
  6. She didn’t _______ to finish it.
  7. Did you _______ the new shirt you wanted?
  8. We _______ the centre of town.
  9. When I _______, I couldn’t see them.
  10. We _______ at the hotel.
  11. I _______ the phone.
  12. She _______ the files.
  13. They _______ to walk to work.
  14. We _______ time to see it.
  15. anything good on TV last night?
  16. Did you get that e-mail I _______?
  17. He _______ work because there was a bus strike.
  18. She _______, had a shower and then left for work.
  19. We _______ going there, but decided not to.
  20. _______ any phone calls this morning

1. sent; 2. left; 3. finish; 4. give; 5. went; 6. have time; 7. get; 8. walked around; 9. came out; 10. met up; 11. couldn’t find; 12. downloaded; 13. decided; 14. didn’t have; 15. did you see; 16. sent you; 17. drove to; 18. woke up; 19. thought about; 20. did you get

Now, try the quiz to see how much you can remember!

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Quiz / Lesson 2 Grammar 2