Simple Past Tense of Regular Verbs: How They Work

By Carly Forsaith, updated on April 4, 2023

The simple past tense is a grammatical tense that’s used a lot in the English language. But do you know how it works? Read this article to find out.

  • The past simple tense is used to talk about events that have already taken place and are over now.
  • There are different formats for creating it depending on how the verb is spelled.

What’s the Simple Past Tense?

In this article, I’ll teach you how to form the simple past tense for regular verbs so that you can talk about past events. But first, what is the simple past? And when should you use it? Let’s find out.

When to Use It

The past simple is also known as the past indefinite and is used to talk about things that started and ended in the past. In other words, they are over now. But what kind of things?

First of all, you can talk about events that occurred in the past.

For example:

We danced all night long.

You can also use it to talk about moods or states of being in the past.

I enjoyed my graduation party.

And you can use it to talk about actions from the past that were repeated.

They worked at a diner in the evenings.

Regular vs Irregular Verbs

The thing about the past simple - and all verb tenses, for that matter - is that they have a set of rules, and then they have regular verbs and irregular verbs.

  • Irregular verbs don’t follow the usual set of rules, so you just have to remember how to conjugate them.

But for the purposes of this article, we’re not going to worry about that. We’re just going to talk about regular verbs.

How to Make the Simple Past

The rules for making the past simple tense are a little tricky to grasp because there are many different ones depending on how the word is spelled. But don’t worry; we’ll go over all of them together.

There are three different structures, depending on whether you want to make an:

  • Affirmative sentence
  • Negative sentence
  • A question.

Affirmative Sentences

Affirmative sentences are regular statements that present information. Most of your sentences are affirmative.

The basic rule is as follows:

Take the infinitive of the verb and add -ed:

  • Work → worked
  • Show → showed
  • Prepare → prepared

Or simply ‘d’ if the verb already ends with an -e.

For example:

  • Hate → hated
  • Type → typed
  • Free → freed

If the verb ends in the vowel -y, add -ed as normal:

  • Enjoy → enjoyed
  • Play → played
  • Obey → obeyed

If the verb ends in the consonant ‘y’, change the –y to –i and add –ed:

  • Cry → cried
  • Defy → defied
  • Embody → embodied

If the verb ends in consonant + vowel + consonant, double the final consonant and then add -ed:

  • Plan → planned
  • Pin → pinned
  • Tap → tapped

Negative Sentences

Negative sentences in the past simple tense are slightly different. You add ‘did not’ or ‘didn’t’ before the root form of the verb.

So the past tense is now carried over to ‘did not,’ and the verb itself remains untouched.

Here are some examples:

I did not know him before today.

He didn’t tell me that.

We didn’t speak to him yesterday.


To form questions in the past simple tense, use the simple formula:

Did + subject + root verb form

Here’s an example of what that looks like:

Did you see the sunset last night?

Sometimes you might add a question word before ‘did.’

Who did you tell about your dream?

What did you say?

Where did you go last night?

‘Who’ questions sometimes don’t need ‘did’:

Who discovered America?

Examples of Simple Past Tense Sentences

Well, that pretty much covers the rules for building the simple past tense with irregular verbs. Now we’ll put this into practice with some examples of sentences that use the past tense.

Where did you go on vacation last year?

The pupils didn’t apply themselves the way I would have wanted them to.

I enjoyed a pear for my afternoon snack.

Did you hear what happened to Derek?

We didn’t have lunch together after all.

The fall leaves rattled in the wind.

I missed you while you were gone.

When did you go to the beach?

He watched a handful of episodes before going to sleep.

She said she didn’t eat my yogurt but I didn’t believe her.

Concluding Thoughts on the Simple Past Tense

That concludes this article on the simple past tense of regular verbs. I hope you found it helpful and that it answered any questions you may have had.

Let’s summarize what we’ve learned:

  • The past simple is used to talk about events that started and ended in the past.
  • There are three formats for past simple verbs: affirmative sentences, negative sentences, and questions.
  • The general format to make the past simple for regular verbs is root verb + -ed, apart from a few exceptions.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like this, check out our Grammar Rules blog. We add new articles there all the time.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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