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The past and perfect tenses the simple past tense

1. Form

The simple past in regular verbs is formed by adding ed to the infinitive:

to work worked

The negative and interrogative of regular and irregular verbs are formed

with did:

I did not/didn’t work did you work? Didn’t you work

2. Spelling Notes

A.Regular verbs

1. Verbs ending in e add d only: to love loved

2. The rules about doubling the final consonant when adding ing (see 2. B above) apply also when adding ed:

admit, admitted stop, stopped travel, travelled

3. Verbs ending in y following a consonant change the y into i before adding ed: carry, carried; try, tried

but y following a vowel does not change: play, played; obey, obeyed

B. Irregular verbs

The simple past form of each irregular verb must be learnt, but once this is done there is no other difficulty. A list of irregular verbs will be found at the end of the book.

3. Uses of the Past Simple Tense

It is used for actions completed in the past at a definite time. It is therefore used:

a. for a past action when the time is given:

I met him yesterday. Her father died two years ago.

b. or when the time is asked about:

When did you meet him?

c. or when the action clearly took place at a definite time even though this time is not mentioned:

How did you get your present job?

I bought this car in Berlin.

d. sometimes the time becomes definite as a result of a question and answer in the present perfect:

Where have you been? - I’ve been to the opera. - Did you enjoy it?

e. the simple past tense is used for an action whose time is not given but which occupied a period of time now finished:

My grandmother saw Queen Victoria. (Queen Victoria is dead now.)

He worked in that bank for four years. (but now he works in the Ministry)

4. Used to Indicating Past Habit

A. used has no present forms.

Affirmative: used to for all persons

Negative and interrogative are formed with did:

I didn’t use to did you use to?

B. used to is used:

1. To express a discontinued habit, i.e. to say that something regularly happened in the past but no longer happens:

I used to play tennis a lot, but now I’m too lazy.

We used to live in a small village but now we live in London.

She didn’t use to like Tom but she quite likes him now.

2. To express a past routine. Here we are not making a contrast between past and present. Very often there is a succession of actions. Here used to is replaceable by would (but would cannot replace used to for a discontinued habit as in B.1 above):

Tom and Ann were a young married couple. Every morning Tom used to kiss (or would kiss) Ann and set off for work. Ann used to stand (or would stand) at the window and wave goodbye.

Remember that used to has no present form. So for present habits or routines we must use the simple present tense.