You are on page 1of 33

Simple Present

or
Simple Past
- a Guide Book

Foreword
This booklet is designed to help you correctly use Simple Present Tense and
Simple Past Tense in English. As a English as a Second Language (ESL) learner,
you may already know the differences between Present Tense and Past Tense.
But somehow, you just can't get it right when you speak it. Don't worry, in this
book, you will learn when to use which tense in what situations. So let's get
started!

Content
Chapter One - Simple Present and Simple Past Tense - The most familiar strangers
-

Simple Present and its Use 1

Simple Past and its Use .. 9

Chapter Two - How to Produce a Sentence Using Present/Past tense?


-

How to Start a Sentence? 21

Tense of the Verb . 23

Are We Done with the Sentence? 24

Finish Up and Speak! 25

Acknowledgement ... 29
II

Chapter One

Simple Present and Simple Past Tense


- The most familiar strangers

Simple Present - Repeated Action


Simple Present Tense is used when the sentence describes

Repeated Actions
The action can be a habit (hobby), daily event (scheduled event) or something happens on a
regular basis.
Example: I always get up early in the morning.

Simple Present - Repeated Action


Explanation: In the above example, the word always indicates that the person gets up early
in the morning as a habit, so this sentence is portrayed in Simple Present Tense.
Other Examples describing a Repeated Action are as follows:
1. I play soccer every day. (daily event/scheduled event)
2. I don't like eating cereals. (habit/hobby)
3. I do a body check-up every two years. (Something happens on a regular basis)

Simple Present - Facts


Simple Present Tense is used when the sentence describes

Facts
Facts and Generalization can be portrayed in Simple Present Tense. The fact and generalization
are usually indisputable cases, but sometimes can be very subjective.
Example: The Earth goes around the Sun.

Simple Present - Facts


Explanation: The fact that the Earth goes around the Sun is scientifically proven and is one of
the natural laws. So it means that the Earth has been going around the Sun for quite a long
time, and will go around forever. So here we use Simple Present to indicate a generalized fact.
Other Examples describing a Fact or Generalization are as follows:
1.

This desk is made by plastic, not wood. (fact)

2.

*Hanging out with friends in amusement parks is so fun! (generalization)

* Maybe you think that hanging out in amusement parks was fun when you were little, but its not fun at all when you
are a grown-up now. But remember, the use of Simple Present represents the speakers belief, not yours as a reader or
listener.
4

Simple Present - Near future events


Simple Present Tense is used when the sentence describes

Near Future Events


We can use Simple Present to talk about events in the Near Future, especially when referring to
public transportation schedules and other types of scheduled events.
Example: Heres your ticket, the train leaves at 8:00 am tomorrow.

Simple Present - Near future events


Explanation: Train schedule is normally fixed and does not change very often. In the above
example, even though the train will not leave until tomorrow (a future event). We still prefer
using Simple Present because it is a scheduled event that happens in the near future.
Other Examples describing scheduled events in the near future are as follows:
1.

When does our class begin this tomorrow? (Scheduled events in the near future)

2.

Please be seated, our show starts in 5 minutes. (Scheduled events in the near future)

Simple Present - Current Events


Simple Present Tense is used when the sentence describes

Current Events*
Sometimes, we can also use Simple Present to talk about an event that is happening (or not
happening) right now.
Example: Come here right now, I need your help.
* This use can only be realized when using a Non-continuous Verb, such as to be, have, want, need, like etc.
7

Simple Present - Current Events


Explanation: In this example, the speaker seems to be needing some sort of help. In this case,
especially in oral communications, we tend to use Simple Present to describe a current event,
rather than using Present Continuous.
Other Examples describing Current Events that are happening now are as follows:
1.

Do you have your ID with you? (Current Event)

2.

What is on your mind now? (Current Event)

Simple Past - Completed Actions


Simple Past Tense is used when the sentence describes

Completed Actions
We can use the Simple Past tense to express an event or describe an action that already
completed in the past.
Example: I went to the zoo last Friday.

Simple Past - Completed Actions


Explanation: The speaker describe an event (going to the zoo) that happened last Friday,
which means that he/she already visited the zoo and now has come back. So the event started
and completed at a specific time in the past.
Other Examples describing Completed Actions that are happening now are as follows:
1.

I drank some milk this morning? (Completed Actions in the Past)

2.

Did you see the movie yesterday? (Completed Actions in the Past)

10

Simple Past - A Series of Completed Actions


Simple Past Tense is used when the sentence describes

A Series of Completed Actions


If there is a Series of Completed Actions, we can also use Simple Past to express them.
Example: Tom found the cheese, stole it and dragged it into his hole.

11

Simple Past - A Series of Completed Actions


Explanation: In this sentence, all three actions started and finished in the past (Found, Stole
and Drag). It is a series of actions that happened together. So we can use Simple Past to express
the entire process of Tom stealing the cheese.
Other Examples describing Completed Actions that are happening now are as follows:
1.

I closed the window, turned on the air conditioning and went to bed? (A Series of
Completed Actions in the Past)

2.

The professor reviewed my work, left some comments and graded it with voice-recorded
feedback. (A Series of Completed Actions in the Past)

12

Simple Past - Duration in the Past


Simple Past Tense is used when the sentence describes

Duration in the Past


Simple Past can be used to express a period of time in the past. Duration is often longer than
actions and accompanied with expressions such as: for three years, for two hours, for some time
etc.
Example: I lived in China for 20 years.

13

Simple Past - Duration in the Past


Explanation: In this sentence, the speaker indicates that he went to (or was born in) China at
some point in the past and left there after a period of time (20 years). So we can infer that
he/she is not in China at the time he/she speaks that sentence.
Other Examples describing Duration in the Past that are happening now are as follows:
1.

I worked in high school teaching English for 6 month when I was in Russia. (Duration in
the Past)

2.

I wasnt on campus during the winter break last year. (Duration in the Past)

14

Simple Past - Habits in the Past


Simple Past Tense is used when the sentence describes

Habits in the Past


Simple Past can also describe habits you previously had in the past. Such usage is usually
accompanied with temporal references such as when I was little, when I was in middle school
etc.
Example: I played piano on weekends when I was in primary school.

15

Simple Past - Habits in the Past


Explanation: The sentence indicates that the habit (playing piano) was developed when the
speaker was a Child, but the speaker stopped playing piano as a habit at some point in the past
and does not play it anymore. So it is more appropriate to use Simple Past to describe habits
started and stopped in the past.
Other Examples describing Duration in the Past that are happening now are as follows:
1.

I read Spanish articles everyday when I was in high school. (Habits in the Past)

2.

My grandpa made spaghettis for me everyday when I was in primary school. (Habits in
the Past)

16

Simple Past - Past Facts


Simple Past Tense is used when the sentence describes

Past Facts
Simple Past can also be used to indicates facts or generalizations in the past, which are no
longer true at present time.
Example: Shanghai was once a very small town in the 60s.

17

Simple Past - Past Facts


Explanation: The example indicates that Shanghai was a small town in 1960s. However, as we
all know, Shanghai has developed into a metropolitan over the past few decades, and the city is
no longer a small town but a large international city. So According to the rule, the sentence is
used in Simple Past.
Other Examples describing Past Facts or Past Generalizations are as follows:
1.

The old buses were very crowded, but the new one are now very spacious. (Past Facts)

2.

I wasnt sure at that time. (Past Facts)

3.

Aristotle once thought the Earth was the center of the universe. (Past Facts)

18

Chapter One Quiz


Categorize the following concepts into the correct

Simple Present

Simple Past

column:
-Duration in the past
-A series of completed action
-Repeated actions
-Completed actions in the past
-Current Events
-Past facts or Generalization
-Scheduled events in the near future
-Habits in the past
-Facts or Generalization

19

Chapter Two

How to Produce a Sentence Using


Present/Past Simple?

20

Step #1 - Start with a Subject


Definition: A

Subject is

a. What it is about
b. Who or What performs the action
Example: The professor reviewed my work and left some comments.
Subject

Explanation: In this sentence, the professor is the active performer of the action review and
leave comments. So The Professor is considered the subject of the sentence.

21

Step #2 - Add a Verb to the Sentence


When adding a verb to the sentence, you need to pay attention to the

Subject-Verb Agreement
DefinitionIn a sentence the subject must agree with the verb in number (Singular or Plural).
For example, if the subject is singular (plural), then the verb has to be singular (plural).
Example: Mike and I are good friends.
Subject
(Plural)

Verb
(Plural)

The Police Officer was sitting in the car.


Subject
(Singular)

Verb
(Singular)

22

Step #2 - Add a Verb to the Sentence


Be Verb in Simple Present and Simple Past Tense

Simple Present

Simple Past

1st Person Singular

am

was

2nd Person Singular

are

were

3rd Person Singular

is

was

1st 2nd 3rd Plural

are

were

23

Step #3 Determine if the Sentence is complete

Subject + Verb

If you think your sentence is finished, it has to follow the


pattern (One of the Five Basic Sentence Patterns in English, see more on next page).
Notice: NOT all Subject + Verb patterned sentences are complete sentences.
Example:
1.
2.

William cried. (Complete)


Mr. Miller wants (Incomplete)

Explanation:
In the First sentence, the verb cry (cried) is an intransitive verb, so it doesnt need an Object
to complete the sentence. However, the verb in the second sentence (want) can be a transitive
verb, so it needs an Object to complete the sentence, so we consider the 2nd sentence
incomplete.
24

Step #4 - Complete the Sentence with


Appropriate Syntactic Component(s)
The other four
i.

Basic Sentence Patterns are listed below:

Subject + Verb + Direct Object

Example: She pushes the chair.


Direct Object

ii.

Subject + Verb + Complement

Example: Everything is perfect.


Complement

iii.

Subject + Indirect Object + Direct Object

Example: Susan passed me the


Indirect Object

salt.
Direct Object

iv.

Subject + Verb + Direct Object + Object Complement Example: I saw people swimming
Direct Object

in the lake.
Object Complement

25

Chapter Two Quiz


1.

Underline the SUBJECT in the following sentences


a. Michael plays basketball and soccer in high school.
b. Tom and I are brothers and sisters
c. Reading eBooks on computers is terrible.

2.

Pay attention to SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT and tense, fill in the black with correct answer
a. President Obama ________ born in Hawaii in 1961.
A. is

B. was

C. has

D. had

b. Mary and I _______ good friends, but now we ________ enemies because she ________ come to my
birthday party.
A. is/are/doesnt

B. was/are/didnt

C. are/are/doesnt

D. were/are/didnt
26

Chapter Two Quiz


3.

Put a CHECK () mark if the sentence is COMPLETE, put a CROSS (X) mark if the sentence is NOT complete
a. I lost the wallet. My dad gave me.
b. Heather cried.
c. The picture is beautiful, I want.

4.

Draw a line to connect the SENTENCE PATTERN and the correspondent sentence
S+V+DO

Wilson left the keys at home this morning.

S+V+C

You look beautiful tonight.

S+IO+DO

The police officer caught the thief.

S+V+OC

Professor Kim offered me great help.

27

Before You Close this Booklet


You can use the following chart to make sure you followed each step correctly

28

Acknowledgement
I am thankful for
A book -

written by Dick & Carey - The systematic design of instruction.

A number of Instructional Materials

(PowerPoint Slides, Video and Audio Casts) - developed by Dr.

Boileau, and

a Website - http://www.englishpage.com/ found by myself.


I am also appreciate the feedback and comments from my peer group. Your suggestions have always been valuable to
me.

Thank you all for your help. This little booklet wouldnt have been completed without you.
29