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Simple past


In this unit you will read, observe and study how to describe finished actions at specific times in the past by using its structure, you will read about a peculiar pet, you will listen to the biography of a survivor from the “Titanic”, you will describe your autobiography, you will recycle vocabulary such as time expressions, you will remember a special celebration in order to write about it. You will also learn and practice irregular verbs and the pronunciation of regular verbs in past.

Look at the following pictures and think about these questions for a moment. Click on each image to see its description; use the arrows to see the rest of the images.


At the end of this topic you will: Use the simple past tense in affirmative, negative and interrogative, distinguishing this from WAS/WERE and recycling past time expressions, in order to ask and give information about people’s activities in the past.

Simple past

In every day life we sometimes talk about events that happened in the past, please study the following presentation in order to identify some elements that we use to describe past events.
Review the following presentation so that you identify some elements to express events in the simple past. Click on the link to download the presentation.

Simple past

These are the characteristics of the simple past tense contextualized in a day of a student like you. Now let’s check some verbs in past and their classification.

Regular and irregular verbs

Do you remember some verbs in English? When we use them in past tense we classify them in regular and irregular verbs to describe past actions. Study this information.

Regular verbs

Most verbs add - ED Ask- asked
Want- wanted
Fail- failed
Visit- visited
Verbs ending in –E add a - D Bake- baked
Dance- danced
Like- liked
Live- lived
Hate- hated
Love- loved
Verbs ending in
Double the last consonant and add - ED
Stop- stopped
Mop- mopped
Skip- skipped
Chop- chopped
Shop- shopped
Verbs ending in
change “Y” to “I” and add - ED
Study- studied
Carry- carried
Worry- worried
Hurry- hurried
Dry- dried

Now watch the video in the link Past Tense and observe the rule to pronounce the regular verbs in past tense.

Remember, your throat vibrates the -ED sound /d/. If it doesn’t vibrate, the -ED sound is pronounced as a /t/. When the verb in simple form ends in a /t/ or /d/ sound, the -ED is pronounced /id/.

Exercise 1

Regular verbs

Now, work with the following exercise to practice what you have studied about the pronunciation of regular verbs.

Irregular verbs

For irregular verbs, you have to memorize their changes in order to learn them. The suggestion is to watch the following video on Youtube.

Click on the link irregular verbs to watch it.

Another tip is to learn them by heart by grouping them according to their changes.

Group 1
All three forms of the verb are the same

Base Form Simple Past Past Participle
bet bet bet
cost cost cost
cut cut cut
hit hit hit
hurt hurt hurt
let let let
put put put
shut shut shut

Group 2
The 2nd and 3rd forms of the verb are the same

Base Form Simple Past Past Participle
lose lost lost
shoot shot shot
get got got
light lit lit
sit sat sat
keep kept kept
sleep slept slept
feel felt felt
leave left left
meet met met
bring brought brought
buy bought bought
fight fought fought
think thought thought
catch caught caught
teach taught taught
sell sold sold
tell told told
pay paid paid
make made made
stand stood stood
understand understood understood
lend lent lent
send sent sent
spend spent spent
build built built
find found found
have had had
hear heard heard
hold held held
read read (pronounced red) read (pronounced red)
say said said

Group 3
All three forms of the verb are different

Base Form Simple Past Past Participle
drive drove driven
ride rode ridden
rise rose risen
write wrote written
bite bit bitten
hide hid hidden
break broke broken
choose chose chosen
speak spoke spoken
wake woke woken
blow blew blown
grow grew grown
know knew known
draw drew drawn
fly flew flown
show showed shown
wear wore worn
tear tore torn
begin began begun
drink drank drunk
swim swam swum
ring rang rung
sing sang sung
eat ate eaten
fall fell fallen
forget forgot forgotten
give gave given
see saw seen
take took taken

Exercise 2

Regular and irregular verbs

Now let’s practice. Can you distinguish which verb is regular and which is irregular?

Simple Past structure

Do you remember Michelle’s conversation with Diana?

Click on each concept to display the content about the sentence structure in the simple past.

Important note:

WAS/WERE IS NOT PART OF THIS TOPIC. Do not use it when you want to express actions in past.

Exercise 3

Sentence transformation

You will practice the structure of simple past in affirmative, interrogative and negative. In the first part of the exercise, there are sentences with a verb in parentheses “()”, write the verb in past form to complete the sentences. Then, in part two change affirmative sentences into negative sentences. In part three, you also change the negative sentences into interrogative sentences.

Remember that in interrogative and negative ideas, it is necessary to use the auxiliary DID, when you have DID, the verb goes in simple form not in past tense. On the other hand, in affirmative ideas, the verb goes in simple past tense and you do not need an auxiliary.


Activity 1

A peculiar pet

The simple past tense is used to describe actions or events that took place in the past. Now you will have to do the following activity based on the contents of a text.

You will read a page of a teenager diary about a peculiar pet. Identify the events in past and put them in order.


Activity 2

A survivor from the Titanic

Eva´s family

Eva/Esther Hart. (1910). Hart family [photo]. Retrieved on 2016, November 8 from http://bit.ly/2usFaxg

You will identify specific information about past actions. Listen to a part of a biography of a survivor of the Titanic. Listen to the tape twice and pause if necessary. Based on the information, answer or complete the sentences on your right.

Click on the “play button” to listen the biography.


Activity 3

My autobiography

In this activity, you will have to write your autobiography. For this activity it is necessary to answer the questions on the right; then, the biography example below to get some help.

When were you born? How old are you? Where did you study elementary school? Did you meet good friends in there? What did you do during junior high school? How did you decide to study the major you are studying? When did you receive your first kiss? Did fall in love with someone special? Where and when?

This is my autobiography.

I am Stella. I was born in Quito, Ecuador. I am 23 years old. I studied elementary school in a town near Quito. This was a public school. I remember this school was great, it was small and all the children from the town went there to study. There were not many students, so I met good friends there. When I was 15, I moved to Mexico City and I studied in a public high school. This was difficult. I did not know many people and everywhere was crowded and noisy. It was difficult for me to adapt. I remember people in my group were really loud, but now I know that is Mexican style. They were great with me and we went to parties a lot. Then I decided to study arts. I remember painting since I was a little girl and everybody loves what I do.

When I was 15 I received my first kiss, it was a goodbye kiss because I was moving to Mexico. German, a boy who studied with me didn’t want me to leave Ecuador. He was very attentive and generous to me. I liked him very much but I didn’t really love him. People from Ecuador are nice and generous but we love our freedom and, in my case, I take love pretty seriously. That’s why I think I have never fallen in love

When you finish, use the rubric to evaluate your progress.


Activity 4

A memorable celebration

Do you remember a special birthday celebration?

Think of the answers to these questions.

• When was it?
• Where did you spend the day in?
• What did you wear?
• What did you eat?
• What did you drink?
• What presents did you receive?
• What did you do that day?

You will record yourself describing that day. It is important that you use complete ideas in past tense and that you answer all the questions. Your description should be organized in three paragraphs.

Read the example carefully so that you have an idea of what to record for your description.


Use of simple past

Now that you know the rules and use of past tense, complete the following exercise.

You will complete a text writing in the box the verbs in the parenthesis in past tense in affirmative, negative or interrogative. To evaluate your answer click on the Check button. You can know your score at the end of the exercise.


Basic references

• Murphy, R. (1997). Essential grammar in use: A self-study reference and practice book for elementary students of English: with answers. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press.
• Oxenden, C. Latham-Koenig, C. (2013). American English File 1. Oxford, U.K. Oxford University Press.

Complementary references

• Coe, N., Harrison, M. y Patrson, K. (2006). Oxford Practice Grammar. Oxford, U.K: Oxford University Press.
• Coordinación de Universidad Abierta y Educación a Distancia-UNAM. (2011). English Media. Retrieved on 2016, November 13 from http://www.cuaed.unam.mx/english_media/.


• Elemental English. (2013). [t], [d] or [ld]? | "-ed" Past Tense | English Pronunciation [video]. Retrieved on 2016, November 13 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j32SurxnE4s
• Michael English. (2014). MC Fluency – Irregular verbs rap with lyrics [video]. Retrieved on 2016, November 13 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3P5StOplPbM.