Simple Past Tense


When we want to indicate that something happened at a specific time in the past, we use the simple past tense.

Also See:

Simple Past Exercises

Simple Past vs Present Perfect

Verb Tenses Chart
I saw the manager a few minutes ago.
In the seventeenth century Europe, there were many problems.
When questioned about the latest events, the minister gave very little away.


We use the past simple for situations that existed for a period of time in the past but not now.

When I was at high school, I played soccer. (used to play)
The teacher at high school was very strict. He severely punished any misbehaving students.


“When, while, after, before, as…” we should pay attention to tense agreement in sentences with time clauses.

He always ---- at me, before he ---- to me.

a) shouts / listens
b) shouted / listened
c) had shouted / listens
d) shouts / listened

It ---- almost midnight now, we ---- out.

a) is / would
b) is / will go
c) was / would go
d) was / will go


We can also use “for” with simple past tense.

I stayed in Canada for 6 months.
I had stayed in Canada for 6 months before I came back.


In some cases simple past doesn't refer to past actions.

It is high (about) time, somebody did something (It has a present meaning)

It’s time you found a decent job.
It’s time to find a decent job.
It’s time you gave up smoking. (to give up)

It’s time you ---- and ---- realistic.

a) grow up / became
b) grew up / become
c) have grown up / become
d) grew up / became

It was time you had started (start) studying.


If Clause

If someone did something / someone could do something (present meaning)(would)

If I went shopping, I would buy some bread.
Even if I knew the answer, I wouldn't tell you.


Wish Clause

I wish you worked with us. (but you don’t)
I wish we were in Miami lying on the beach.

As if / As though (pretend to be)

She speaks as if she was an expert.(she is not)
I feel as though the world turned round me.(it doesn’t)
She speaks as if she is an expert.(I believe she is)


Would Rather somebody did something = Wish Clause

I would rather you smoked less.
I wish you smoked less.

Time expressions used with simple past:

four hours / two days / three weeks ago
I saw Jack yesterday then he disappeared.
Last night / year / week
in + past time (In June, in 1986)
Yesterday
the day before


I ---- the holiday enormously. Although the weather ---- disappointing.

a) enjoy / would have been
b) enjoy / is
c) enjoyed / was
d) had enjoyed / had been
e) have enjoyed / was
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