Sergey Sulimov


Sergey Sulimov


Past Simple formation rules

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How to talk about interesting events in your life, share memories or just discuss where you were and what you did yesterday? What grammatical structure to put it in, how to use verbs correctly in this case? To do this, you will need the Past Simple tense.

What is Past Simple (Паст Симпл)

This time main purpose is to describe events or actions that happened in the past. There may be several options as to under what conditions this action took place in the past.

A repeated action or fact in the past. The action has to be finished; the fact has to be accomplished. The context or marker words will help you know that this is the past tense you want to use: yesterday (вчера), a long time ago (давно), last week (на прошлой неделе), two days ago (два дня назад), in 2020 (в 2020), on Friday (в пятницу, and today is next Monday, for example.

Shakespeare wrote interesting books a lot. — Шекспир написал множество интересных книг.

Это всем известный и давно свершившийся факт, поэтому все понятно и без маркеров. А следующие Past Simple примеры имеют указание на конкретную дату в прошлом.

He married Jane last week. — Он женился на Джейн на прошлой неделе.

We finished this work two days ago. — Мы закончили эту работу два дня назад.

Events that happened in the past one after another, such as when you describe how your day went yesterday, or a literary work author tells a story.She came home, had dinner, put things in order, read a book and went to bed early. — Она пришла домой, поужинала, навела порядок, почитала книгу и рано легла спать.

Any repetitive action in the past that happened regularly but no longer happens now. The frequency in this case does not matter – it may be every day; it may be once a year. In this case, the past tense in English can also be indicated by marker words: often (часто), always (всегда), from time to time.

I often spent my weekends at the seaside. – Я часто проводила выходные на побережье (сейчас я этого не делаю). 

How Past Simple is formed

Past Simple is the simple past tense, and it is formed quite simply. It uses the verbs second form. You add the ending –ed to the right verbs, and you have to learn the wrong ones by heart. The latter are easy: you either learn them (luckily, there aren’t many), or you open the irregular verb table and find the Past Simple part:

Begin (начинать) — began — begun, keep (хранить) — kept — kept, swim (плавать) — swam — swum, — вам нужно именно второе слово.

I often swam last summer. — Я часто плавала прошлым летом.

There are, however, some subtleties in forming the past tense with regular verbs.

The verb ends in a consonant + Y.Y → i+edVerbs ending in –e only have –d added to themIn monosyllabic verbs, the consonant at the end before one vowel is doubledIn polysyllabic verbs, the consonant after the stressed vowel is doubled
Cry → criedStudy → studiedНо: Play → playedDance → danced
Smile → smiled
Plan → plannedStop → stoppedНо: Fix → fixedLook→ lookedRefer → referred

There are also nuances when reading the ending -ed in Past Simple:

  • after mute consonants, except for t, it reads as [t], e.g. watched (смотрел), talked (говорил);
  • after t, d is pronounced as [id], e.g. wanted (хотел), needed (нуждался);
  • after voiced consonants and vowels, it reads as [d], e.g., learned (учил), tried (старался..

Past Simple: affirmative sentences

English grammar is slender and logical, with consistent patterns. There are general rules for the affirmative, question and negative sentences formation.

In affirmative sentences, the Past Simple formation order is as follows:

Subject + Main verb (right + ending -ed or wrong the 2nd form).

Marker words can be placed at the beginning, end or a sentence middle. Words that specify exactly when something happened (yesterday, last week) are usually placed at the beginning or a sentence end, while words indicating the frequency of an action (usually, often) are placed in the middle.

I often played there when I was a child. — Я часто играл там, когда был маленьким. Yesterday, I had a great time! — Вчера я хорошо провел время.

Past Simple: question sentences

To form a question sentence in this tense, you need the auxiliary verb did (the verb do past form), which comes first.

Did + Subordinate + Main verb in infinitive form

This means that the auxiliary verb takes over the past tense function, leaving the main verb with the meaning part, which is used in the infinitive form.

Did you eat this tasty cake? — Вы ели этот вкусный пирог?

The answer to this question may be complete, but more often the short form is used: Yes, I (he, she) did / No, I (he, she) didn’t.

If a question word is used in this type a sentence, it comes first before the auxiliary verb.

What did you eat yesterday? — Что вы ели вчера?

Past Simple: negative sentences

To form a negative sentence in the past tense, you will also need the auxiliary verb did. The formula is as follows:

Subordinate + did not / didn’t + Main verb in infinitive form. They did not discuss this issue yesterday. — Они не обсудили этот вопрос вчера.

I didn’t understand your question. — Я не понял ваш вопрос.

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