English Grammar - Elementary

Past Simple "To Be"

To Be - Past
Positive Negative Question
I was
You were
He was
She was
It was
We were
You were
They were
I wasn't
You weren't
He wasn't
She wasn't
It wasn't
You weren't
We weren't
They weren't
Was I?
Were you?
Was he?
Was she?
Was it?
Were we?
Were you?
Were they?


I was at my friend's house yesterday evening.
Bill Clinton was the President of the U.S. for eight years.
We were very happy to receive your letter last week.

You weren't at home last night.
Alice wasn't at work yesterday because of flu.
They weren't on holiday in August. It was in July.

Where were you at eight o'clock last night?
Was Winston Churchill the British Prime Minister for a long time?
How often were we in that restaurant last month?

Note. To make the negative, add "not" after the verb. To make the question, invert the verb and the subject.

Past Simple Structure


Regular Verbs

Subject + Verb + ED or D

Irregular Verbs

Subject + Irregular Verb


She worked all last year for a company called Kudos.
I lived in Madrid for a year in the 1990s.


She went to work by bus last week.
I wrote him a long letter.

If the verb finishes with "e", just add a "d", otherwise add "ed".

You can find a list of the most common irregular verbs, put in order of frequency of occurence in English, here.

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Subject + Didn't + Infinitive Verb


I didn't want to go to Australia on holiday last year. I wanted to try China.
JFK didn't die in Miami, he died in Florida.
They didn't go out last night after all.

Note. The negative form is the same for all verbs, regular or irregular.


Question Word + Did + Subject + Infinitive Verb


What time did you go to bed yesterday.
How many cups of coffee did he drink during the meeting?
Why did they leave the room?

Past Simple Use

We use the past simple to describe an action which started and finished in the past. Whether the event was in the near past or distant past is not important in English. In many languages, there is this distinction!

JFK died in 1963.
The Egyptians invented paper.
I saw a great film last week.
I had muesli for breakfast this morning.

Remember to use the past simple to describe a series of finished events in the past. If you describe two actions that happen together, you may need to use the past continuous:

Yesterday, I got up at 6, had a shower, went down into the kitchen, sat down and had breakfast.

There are many time expressions which are often used in conjunction with the past simple.

yesterday, last week/month/year, the day before yesterday
a long time ago, when I was young, six months/years/days ago
in 1996, before the war, in the 15th Century

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