Simple Past Tense: Rules, Uses & Practice

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  • 0:03 Simple Past Tense
  • 0:40 Uses
  • 1:34 Rules
  • 1:44 Regular & Irregular Verbs
  • 2:40 Practice Time!
  • 3:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

There are several past tenses in the English language. In this lesson, you'll learn about the rules of simple past tense and practice making sentences using this tense.

Simple Past Tense

What was your favorite childhood trip? Think about it, and how you would describe it to someone else. In order to do that, you need to use past tense. Specifically, you need simple past. Simple past tense is what you use when you are talking about something that has been completed.

How long the action or activity lasted doesn't matter for simple past, as long as it is no longer happening. For example, you could use simple past to talk about how you walked to school every day because 'walked' is simple past tense, or how one time you went to the movies because 'went' is also simple past.


Simple past tense is used for both recent and distant past actions. Remember, it is that the activity you are talking about has been completed, and is not still going on. If you are describing when something happened, you'll use simple past. In other words, if you see certain past time expressions, such as 'yesterday' or 'last year,' you know to use simple past.

For example, the sentence:

  • Yesterday, I walked to school.

uses simple past.

You can also use simple past if you are describing how often you used to do something. In this type of sentence, you will see words like 'often' or 'sometimes,' and it is the context, as well as the verb itself, that will let you know the sentence is in simple past.

For example, look at the following sentence:

  • As a child, I sometimes walked to school.

The phrase 'as a child' helps let you know that the action took place in the past, as does the verb 'walked.'


We have rules about how to change the tense of a verb. There are two types of verbs: regular verbs and irregular verbs, and this helps us figure out how to change a verb to past tense.

Regular & Irregular Verbs

Regular verbs are verbs that follow a set pattern when you change their tense. If you want to change a regular verb to simple past tense, all you have to do is add '-ed' onto the end of the verb. For example, 'walk' is the present tense and becomes 'walked,' which is the simple past tense form of 'walk;' and 'wait' is the present tense and becomes 'waited,' which is the simple past tense form of 'wait.'

Not all verbs fit this pattern. Irregular verbs have different past tense forms. Since they don't follow any pattern, you have to learn and memorize them. Some examples of irregular verbs include:

  • ''Bring'' which is present tense and becomes 'brought' in its simple past tense form

  • 'Run' is the present tense and becomes 'ran' in the simple past tense form

  • And lastly we have 'go,' which is the present tense form, and it becomes 'went' in its simple past tense form

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