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THE SIMPLE PAST TENSE


a. Use :

The Simple Past Tense is used to talk about completed actions in the past:
--> My brother got a new job in Madrid last week.
--> How did he react when you told the truth?
--> Shakespeare died in 1616.

In addition, the Simple Past is used to describe situations which existed for a period of time in the past.
--> Millions of years ago, dinosaurs inhabited the earth.
--> George Washington was the first president of the United States.

The Simple Past is also used to express non-continuous actions which occurred at a definite time in the past.
--> Columbus reached America in 1492.
--> I graduated from school last year.

It is also used to talk about habits in the past:
--> We always had roast beef on Sundays when I was a boy.
--> We used to walk a mile in the morning when we were in London.
--> We never went abroad for our holidays until the 1970s

It is used to talk about events that happened one after the other:
--> He jumped out of bed, ran into the bathroom and slammed the door.

It is used in the second conditional
--> She would help him if she knew he was in trouble.

  2. Formation of the simple past:
a. The verb To Be
The Simple Past of the verb to be is conjugated as follows:

I was
you were
he was
she was
it was
we were
they were

Questions and negative statements
The Simple Present and Simple Past of the verb to be do not use auxiliaries to form questions and negative statements. Instead, the verb itself is used.

The verb to be forms questions and negative statements in the same way in the Simple Past as in the Simple Present. In order to form a question, the verb is placed before the subject. For example:

Affirmative Statement Question
  I was awake.   Was I awake?
  They were ready.   Were they ready?

In order to form a negative statement, the word not is placed after the verb. For example:

Affirmative Statement Negative Statement
  I was awake.   I was not awake.
 They were ready.   They were not ready.

In spoken English, the following contractions are often used:

Without Contractions With Contractions
  was not   wasn't
  were not   weren't

In order to form a negative question, the verb is placed before the subject, and the word not is placed after the subject. However, when contractions are used, the contracted form of not immediately follows the verb. For example:

Without Contractions With Contractions
  Was I not awake?   Wasn't I awake?
  Were they not ready?   Weren't they ready?

In order to form tag questions, the verb itself is used. In the following examples, the negative tag questions are underlined. Contractions are usually used in negative tag questions.

Affirmative Statement Affirmative Statement with Tag Question
   
  I was awake.   I was awake, wasn't I?
  They were ready.   They were ready, weren't they?



b. Other verbs
English verbs other than the verb to be have the same form in the Simple Past, regardless of the subject.

In the case of regular English verbs, the Simple Past has the same form as the past participle. For example, the Simple Past of the regular verb to work is conjugated as follows:

I worked
you worked
he worked
she worked
it worked
we worked
they worked



In the case of irregular English verbs, the form of the Simple Past must be memorized. As illustrated by the examples below, for some irregular verbs, the Simple Past is the same as the past participle; whereas for others, the Simple Past differs from the past participle. For example:

Bare Infinitive Simple Past Past Participle
  begin   began   begun
  find   found   found
  go   went   gone
  let   let   let
  take   took   taken

Like the regular verbs, irregular verbs other than the verb to be do not modify in the Simple Past, but have the same form, regardless of the subject. For example, the Simple Past of the irregular verb to take is conjugated as follows:

I took
you took
he took
she took
it took
we took
they took



i. Questions and negative statements
In both the Simple Present and the Simple Past of verbs other than the verb to be, questions and negative statements are formed using the auxiliary to do and the bare infinitive.

For questions and negative statements in the Simple Past, the Simple Past of the auxiliary to do is used. The Simple Past of to do is conjugated as follows:

I did
you did
he did
she did
it did
we did
they did

In order to change an affirmative statement into a question, did is placed before the subject, and the form of the verb is changed from the Simple Past to the bare infinitive. In the following example, the regular verb to work is used. The verb to work has the Simple Past worked, and the bare infinitive work.

Affirmative Statement Question
  I worked.   Did I work?
  You worked.   Did you work?
  He worked.   Did he work?
  She worked.   Did she work?
  It worked.   Did it work?
  We worked.   Did we work?
  They worked.   Did they work?



In order to change an affirmative statement into a negative statement, did not is placed after the subject, and the form of the verb is changed to the bare infinitive. In the following example, the irregular verb to speak is used. The verb to speak has the bare infinitive speak and the Simple Past spoke.

Affirmative Statement Negative Statement
  I spoke.   I did not speak.
  You spoke.   You did not speak.
  He spoke.   He did not speak.
  She spoke.   She did not speak.
  It spoke.   It did not speak.
  We spoke.   We did not speak.
  They spoke.   They did not speak.



In spoken English, the following contraction is often used:

Without Contraction With Contraction
  did not   didn't

In order to change an affirmative statement into a negative Question, did is placed before the subject, not is placed after the subject, and the form of the verb is changed to the bare infinitive. However, when contractions are used, the contracted form of not follows immediately after the auxiliary did. For example:




Without Contractions With Contractions
  Did I not work?   Didn't I work?
  Did you not work?   Didn't you work?
  Did he not work?   Didn't he work?
  Did she not work?   Didn't she work?
  Did it not work?   Didn't it work?
  Did we not work?   Didn't we work?
  Did they not work?   Didn't they work?
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