-The Past Simple Tense
We use the past simple to talk about actions and states which we see as completed in the past.
We can use it to talk about a specific point in time.
• She came back last Friday.
• I saw her in the street.
• They didn't agree to the deal.
It can also be used totalk about a period of time.
• She lived in Tokyo for seven years.
• They were in London from Monday to Thursday of last week.
• When I was living in New York, I went to all the art exhibitions I could.
The past simple tense is also used for the following:
- For actions that happened in the past
- In reported speech
- In conditional sentences
How to form the past simpleFor actions that happened in the past
The past simple is the most usual tense for talking about things that happened or have finished before now. Very often we use a word or expression of finished time with this tense. In the following example sentences the expressions of finished time are shown in bold:
• She came to Germany two years ago.
• It rained every day for a week on myvacation.
• Columbus discovered America in 1492.
• I played tennis at the weekend.
• I didn't see you yesterday. Were you in school?
In reported speech
In reported speech it is common to shift the tense back. So for example, if someone said something to you in the present tense, you would report it in the past tense. Look at these examples. In each case the first sentence is direct speech andthe second sentence is in reported speech. The verbs in the past simple form are shown in bold.
• She said: "I live in Frankfurt."
She told me she lived in Frankfurt. *
• He said: "I can speak 5 languages."
He said he could speak 5 languages.
• The new girl said: "My father is a millionaire!"
The new girl told me her father was a millionaire but I don't believe her!
• She said: "Mymother doesn't like German food."
She said her mother didn't like German food.
• He said: "I don't feel well."
He said he didn't feel well.
In conditional sentences
The past simple tense is used in conditional 2 sentences. Have a look at some examples before reading the explanation about what the conditional 2 is. The verbs in past simple form are shown in bold.
• I would help youif I had time!
• If I were the teacher I would give lots of homework every day!
• What would you buy if you won a lot of money?
The past continuous tense is used:
-To describe an action that had already begun and was unfinished and still continuing when a second action happened. In other words, the past continuous tense shows that an action was going on and thenwas interrupted by a second simpler action which did not last long.
For example, I visited John last evening at 7:15. He had started eating supper at 7:00 and was still eating when I arrived at his home at 7:15. We could express this situation by saying: ‘John was eating when I visited him at 7:15.’
-When we want to emphasize the fact that an action continued for a long time in the past, weoften use the past continuous tense this way with phrases like ‘all day yesterday’, ‘all yesterday afternoon’, ‘the whole of yesterday morning’, ‘during all of last week’, etc.
For example, if Mary was talking on the telephone last evening and we want to emphasize that she was talking for quite a long time, we could say: ‘Mary was talking on the telephone all of last evening
-To show thatan action happened so often or frequently repeated in the past that it almost became a habit.
For example, if Peter often talked during class last year and we wish to emphasize that this action frequently took place and had almost become a habit, we could say : ‘Peter was always talking during class last year.’
e.g. Mary was continuously complaining when she lived here. (This means that...