Past Simple Tense Formula, Rules, and Uses with Examples

Simple Past Tense Definition and Formula/Structure

Past simple tense also called past indefinite tense is formed with the second form of a verb. Like the present simple tense, the simple past tense also has three forms: affirmative, negative, and interrogative. The simple past tense does not require any auxiliary verb to complete its meaning.

Past Simple Tense Structure, Rules, and Uses with Examples

Simple Past/Past Indefinite Formula Positive Sentences

Subject + (Verb)2 + Object

Learn: Present Simple Tense: Structure, Uses and Examples

The affirmative form of past indefinite tense states that the subject had performed the action at a specific time in the past.

Simple Past Tense Positive Sentences Examples

  • He was in New Delhi yesterday.
  • I visited this school last Friday.
  • They did it last week.
  • I met him two days ago.
  • She went to London last winter. Have you ever been there?
  • Yesterday, we worked on our project for two hours.

Simple Past Tense Structure Negative Sentences

Subject + did + not + (Verb)1 + Object.

The negative form of past simple tense states that the subject had not performed any action in the past.

Simple Past Tense Negative Sentences Examples

  • He did not go anywhere last Monday.
  • She did not write a letter.
  • I didn’t clean the room.
  • He didn’t read an exciting story a week ago.
  • The baby didn’t sleep well last night.
  • You did not understand me.

Past Simple Structure Interrogative Sentences

Did + Subject + (Verb)1 + Object

The interrogative form of simple past tense asks whether the subject had performed an action in the past or not.

Simple Past Tense Interrogative Sentences Examples

  • Did you invite him to a party yesterday?
  • Did she wash the clothes?
  • Did he live in this house?

Interrogative sentences can also be formed using other question words, such as how, where, when, etc., followed by did. These types of questions ask how, where, or when something is done or ask for specific information.


  • Why did you go with them?
  • When did she write this letter?
  • Why did you come to the club?
  • What did she wear last Sunday?

However, when the question word “who functions as an interrogative pronoun, we use it without followed by did to form the interrogative sentence.


  • Who spent more money on the game?
  • Who left their wallet behind?
  • Who invented the computer?
simple past tense examples

Formation of Simple Past Tense with be verbs (Was & Were)

The past forms of the be verbs “am” and “is,” are, “was” and “were” are used in the past simple tense formation.

Use was when the subject is a singular noun or one of these pronouns: I, he, she, or it. The negative statements take the word, not after the verb. In the interrogative statements, the be verb goes before the subject.


  • She was a lawyer before she joined politics.
  • John was an excellent football player when he was at college.
  • I wasn’t there when the accident happened.
  • Was she in the class when I called her?

If the subject is, we, you, or they, we use were to form the simple past tense.


  • We were surprised to hear that he got the job.
  • They weren’t alone in the school yesterday.
  • How long were you here? 

5 Uses of Past Simple Tense with Examples

Past tense is used for a past habit and repeated events. We use used to in the past indefinite to emphasize a past habit.

  • I used to go to a picnic with friends when I was in college. But I don’t any longer.
  • I used to go by bus, but now I prefer the train.
  • People used to live in caves a hundred years ago.
  • They usually went by bus.
  • I used to go to school by bike.
  • He always came late.
  • He used to drink.
  • She went to the same club every wedding ceremony.
  • She always helped her friend.
  • We studied together every day.
  • I didn’t attend any college parties, but I attended a lot in university.
  • Did he call them every day? (To know if this was his habit in the past)

We used the past indefinite tense when something happened at a specific time in the past. The Adverb of time is used to say when something has happened.

  • We lived in that flat over there. (we don’t live there any longer.)
  • I saw him yesterday.
  • They arrived just a few minutes ago.
  • He spent his holidays in London last summer.

To indicate specific times in the past, we use time expressions like

Last month, yesterday, before, ago, since, earlier, then, when, in 1960, once, etc.

If an activity or situation has existed for some time in the past, we use the simple past tense to indicate that situation.

  • British Empire ruled India for many years.
  • I can played cricket when I was 16.
  • He was our department chairperson for ten years.
  • She studied Hindi when she was in high school.

When we want to indicate when a present situation began, we use the simple past tense.

  • I planned to move that house a month ago.

Note the following formula for past simple.

Present Perfect + Point of time = Simple Past

Related: Future Indefinite Tense Structure and Uses

This indicates that to formulate past simple tense, there must be a specific mention of time in the past.

Past Indefinite Examples (Positive, Negative and Interrogative)

  • He bought these shoes in Paris.
  • I didn’t drink tea this morning.
  • Did you watch the movie last night?
  • The weather was cold this morning.
  • Who did you have dinner with?
  • When did you visit your friend?
  • When did your brother leave school?
  • They finished the building a year ago.
  • She lost her son in a car accident.
  • My friend phoned me a moment ago.
  • I usually drive to work, but yesterday I walked instead.


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