The simple past tense is used for events that happened or started and completed in the past and that have no relation with the present. The past form of the verb is the same for all persons and things regardless of whether they are singular or plural. If the verb is a regular verb, it takes the base form of the verb with –ed added (kick – kicked) or –d added (bake - baked) if it ends in –e.

We use the simple past tense:

to describe an action that occurred in the past or at a specified time or the time is easily understood or already implied.

Examples:

  • My grandfather played for the Golden Hornless Bull football team.
  • ate a big spicy piece of pizza for my breakfast.
  • We finished our final exam an hour ago.
    Not: We have/had finished our final exam an hour ago..

 

to refer to an action completed regardless of how recent or distant in the past.

Examples:

  • My brother joined the circus as a clown last week.. 
  • Alexander Bell invented the telephone in 1876.
  • The police recaptured the escaped prisoner three months later.

 

for an action done repeatedlyhabitually or at regular times in the past.

Examples:

  • He visited his mother every Sunday until her death.
  • We saw the movie 'Titanic' several times at the cinema.
  • Brian was always a heavy drinker in the old days.

 

for a state in the past.

 

Examples:

  • felt very tired after a couple of games of tennis.
  • My poor mother had backache for nearly a year. 

 

for a short event or action that comes or follows one after the other.

 

Examples:

  • We looked left and we looked right. Then we crossed the road.
  • We followed the path, then turned left into another path, and lost our way. 

 

to talk about someone who has died.

 

Examples:

  • Arthur was a highly respected science-fiction writer.
  • He left all his money to me. 

 

in providing details or information that follow news reports which, when first reported, are usually expressed in present perfect tense.

 

Examples:

  • Negotiations with the insurgent forces have broken down. The leader of the insurgent forces blamed the government for the break down. A government spokesman said the insurgent forces made unreasonable demands. 

 

To ask a question, the past tense of the auxiliary verb do, which is did, is the only word used, whether the subject in the question is a singular or plural noun, or a singular or plural pronoun.

 

Examples:

  • He visited his mother every Sunday until her death.
  • Did your boss give you a lift home?
  • Did the mosquitoes keep you awake the whole night?
  • Did he promise you he would not tell anyone about it?
  • Did they agree among themselves?