The past simple tense is used in various situations. The simple past tense describes an action that was completed in the past. This tense is used in basic English and is very important for ESL students to understand. The past simple tense follows a specific sentence pattern. This is important for students to understand in order to conjugate regular verbs and irregular verbs.
Common words to look out for:
|yesterday||the day before yesterday||last week||last year||last month|
|last summer||last Friday||three hours ago||four days ago||in 2010, 1898, and 1492|
Simple past verbs can be conjugated like this:
Positive -> Subject + Verb (2nd form) + object
Negative -> Subject + did not + verb (1st form) + object
Question -> Did + subject + verb (1st form) + object?
When to Use Simple Past Tense Form
Every tense is used to express certain actions. Past simple verbs are used to talk about actions that have already happened.
1. A series of completed actions in the past
- I visited my cousins and stayed for an hour or two; we drank tea and chatted about her childhood.
- My friend woke up, washed his face, and brushed his teeth.
2. A single completed action in the past
- My dad went to the mall yesterday.
- We ate dinner last night.
- I woke up to a loud banging at the door.
3. A past period of time expression
- He had a dog for 10 years.
- My grandma talked to my mom for 20 minutes.
- I stayed with my father all day yesterday.
4. A habit in the past- used with adverbs of frequency
- The student always did their homework on time.
- I often played soccer after school as a child.
- When my sister was a baby, she cried a lot.
Simple Past Tense Form Timeline
The best way to teach verb tense to ESL students is through the use of timelines. Timelines can help learners better understand the sequence of events while they are learning English vocabulary and improving their oral and written skills. The events of a story they have recently read or heard can be recounted by students using simple timelines and they can even describe an eventful day in their own lives.
Regular Past Tense Verb List
There are three main forms that students should be familiar with when it comes to past tense sentences. It’s important to use simple verbs and simple past tense sentences that students are familiar with when teaching these.
The positive form of the verb is used to express actions that have happened in the past.
1. Bill waited for his friends this morning.
2. They listened to music all night last night.
3. The students learned Chinese last year.
4. Gaston studied English at school yesterday.
5. Jasmine ate dinner with us last Tuesday.
The negative form of the verb is used to express actions that didn’t happen in the past.
1. Patty didn’t watch a show before bed last night.
2. I didn’t borrow a book from the library last week.
3. She didn’t talk to her Chinese teacher yesterday.
4. Erika didn’t brush her hair before school today.
5. Sarah and Mitchell didn’t ride bikes to school today.
The question form of the verb is used to ask about a previous action that may or may not have happened.
1. Did you practice your trumpet yesterday?
2. What film did you watch last weekend?
3. Where did you go on your last holiday?
4. Who did you talk to on the phone last night?
5. Did you clean the house yesterday?
Simple Past Tense Rules
1. Add -ED
The general rule of thumb is that -ED is added to the end of a regular verb. It’s important to note that words that end in “W, X, or Y”, (i.e. play, fix, snow) also end in -ED when written in the past tense.
1. She helped me look for my dog yesterday.
2. The chef cooked us pasta this morning.
3. Lucy washed her clothes last Monday.
4. The old man smiled at the baby.
5. Kelly walked 10 miles yesterday morning.
6. The flowers looked better today.
7. Yesterday, my brother and I folded the laundry.
8. Tania batted first.
9. The boy painted a picture.
10. The girl played with cars.
11. The kids watched soccer yesterday.
12. I finished all of my homework last night.
13. I called my dad as soon as I got home yesterday.
14. I chatted with my best friend for three hours last night.
15. I climbed the mountain yesterday.
2. Add -D
For rule #2, we just add -d to regular verbs that end in e.
1. I hoped that we would win the game.
2. I baked a cake for the school fundraiser.
3. They escaped before the police found them.
4. She cycled to school this morning.
5. The kids glued a picture.
6. The volcano exploded three times last night.
7. The dog breathed in my face.
8. The clown juggled at my birthday party last year.
9. My mom and dad argued about who won the game.
10. My brother sneezed because of the cat.
11. My dad snored last night.
12. It tasted delicious.
13. I agreed with the teacher.
14. She lived in Asia for five years.
15. The plant died because they forgot to water it.
3. Add -ied
Actions verbs that end in “y” and there is a consonant before it is changed to “ied.” This means it has already happened.
1. The mom carried the baby.
2. The girls studied English.
3. He copied her homework.
4. Mom tidied my room.
5. She married her best friend.
6. They hurried to the train.
7. The boys bullied the small girl.
8. I worried about my dog at home alone yesterday.
9. They identified the suspect quickly.
10. I tried yoga for the first time last week.
11. The baby cried because he was hungry.
12. Sally spied on her brother.
13. My clothes dried overnight.
14. I fried an egg for breakfast.
15. The dog playfully buried the bone.
4. Double the Consonant and Add -ED
If a word ends in a consonant, we simply double the consonant and add -ed to the end of the word.
1. Sarah and James jogged to school this morning.
2. The bunny hopped across the road.
3. The baby napped all afternoon.
4. The dog begged for more food.
5. Stella hugged Gaston in the garden.
6. Reed tapped the wall.
7. Josh dropped the egg on the floor.
8. We planned our entire holiday last week.
9. She plugged the charger into the wall.
10. I clipped my toenails last night after the shower.
11. It stopped quickly when it saw the waterfall.
12. They shopped over the weekend.
13. The horse trotted in the field.
14. The boy dragged his suitcase up the stairs.
15. I skipped class.
Irregular Verb Conjugations
Irregular verbs are words that don’t follow the standard rules when conjugating verbs. The standard rule is to add -ed to a verb when conjugating to the past tense. The following verbs have their own rules, and it’s important for students to memorize these words.
|Present Tense Verb||Past Tense Verb||Sentence|
|be||was/were||There was a cat in the yard.|
|become||became||The puppy became a dog.|
|begin||began||The match began at 6:00.|
|bend||bent||I bent over to pick something up.|
|bleed||bled||When the child fell, he cut his leg and bled.|
|catch||caught||The dog caught the frisbee.|
|choose||chose||She chose the wrong door.|
|come||came||We came home at around 7:00 last night.|
|deal||dealt||The dealer dealt with the cards.|
|do||did||She did yoga this morning.|
|draw||drew||The child drew a picture for his mom.|
|drink||drank||The kids drank a lot of water before their game.|
|drive||drove||My mom drove us to school this morning.|
|eat||ate||We ate pizza|
|fall||fell||He fell off the bed.|
|feed||fed||She fed her fish.|
|fight||fought||They fought like cats and dogs.|
|mean||meant||I meant to take out the trash this morning.|
|read||read||They read a history book.|
|forgive||forgave||Martha forgave her niece.|
|get||got||Jimmy got hurt playing football.|
|freeze||froze||Cole froze when he was snowboarding.|
|sell||sold||The man sold the house to the woman.|
|write||wrote||Sophia wrote a graphic novel.|
|win||won||Rose won a Nobel Peace Prize.|
Bringing Simple Past into the Classroom
The best ways to teach past tense verbs are through practice and repetition. Playing games is a great way to kick up engagement if you teach children. Here are a few resources with fun games and engaging content that can fit into any classroom or age group.
1. ISL Collective
ISL collective is a great resource for teachers everywhere. All of the lessons, games, and videos are teacher made. Therefore, it’s definitely important to first watch or read through to ensure perfect grammar. Either way, teachers can find plenty of past tense sentences and more activities to practice English grammar.
Learn More: ISL Collective
There are plenty of videos on Youtube that explain the past verb tense. It’s important to use these videos as a hook in the classroom and then use worksheets, and partner work to drill in the English verbs being taught.
Learn More: Ellii
3. Sentence Diagramming
Sentence diagramming as a whole class is a great way to help students break down sentence examples. This will also help students to get a better grasp on the overall English sentence structure.
Learn More: Ellii