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Past Simple and Past Continuous Tense

I. Past Simple
A. Form - regular verbs:
It is formed by -ed ending. It is the same for all persons, singular and plural

1. Positive statement
I watched, He watched (all persons)

2. Negative statement
I did not watch (I didn't watch), He did not watch (He didn't watch)

3. Question
Did you watch?

4. Neg. question
Did you not watch? (Auxiliary verb + subject + not)
Didn't you watch? (Auxiliary verb + n’t + subject)

5. Spelling
We add -d (not -ed) to the verbs that end with -e: like - liked If the verb ends with a consonant and -y, we
change -y into -i: carry - carried, try - tried. But: play - played, because this verb ends with a vowel and
-y. If the verb has only one syllable and ends with a vowel and a consonant, we double the consonant to
keep the same pronunciation: stop - stopped. The same rule applies to the verbs that end with L: travel -
travelled.

B. Form - irregular verbs


All the irregular verbs have different forms: go - went, buy - bought, cut - cut etc. The question and
negative are made in the same way: I went - Did you go? No, I did not go.

1. Notes
i. We do not use the auxiliary verb did with the verb to be and modal verbs.

a. Were you a student? Was he in London? I was not at home. He was not happy. Could you
sing? Could he come? I could not swim. He could not stay.

ii. The auxiliary verb did is not used in questions beginning with wh- pronouns (who, which) in case
that the pronoun is the subject of the question.

a. Who met you? (‘who’ is the subject)


b. Which train arrived on time? (‘which train’ is the subject)
c. But: Who did you meet? Which train did you miss? (who and which train are the objects)

C. Use
1. We use the past simple for activities or situations that were completed in the past at a definite time.
a) The time can be given in the sentence:

i. I came home at 6 o'clock.


ii. When he was a child, he didn't live in a house.

b) The time is asked about: When did they get married?


c) The time is not given in the sentence, but it is clear from a context that the action finished in the past.
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i. He is 20 years old now. He was born in Canada.
ii. John: I've been to Iceland. (present perfect) David: Did you enjoy it? (past simple)
2. We use it for repeated actions in the past.
Jamal: We walked to school every day. Reda: And did you ever go by bus?

3. It is used in stories to describe events that follow each other.


Charles entered the hall and looked around. He took off his coat and put it on a chair. He was at home.

II. Past continuous


The past continuous is formed with the past tense of the verb to be and the present participle (-ing form).

A. Form
1. Positive statement
I , He, She, It was watching, You, We, They were watching

2. Negative statement
I was not watching (I wasn't watching), You were not watching (You weren't watching)

3. Question
Were you watching? Was he watching?

4. Neg. question
Were you not watching? (Weren't you watching?) Was he not watching? (Wasn't he watching?)

B. Use
1. We use the continuous tense for actions or situations in the past that were not completed.
Examples:

i. From 10 to 12, I was washing my car. I was in the garage.


(I did not finish my work. It was in progress. I started before 10 and finished after 12.)

ii. The sun was setting. The beach was changing its colours.
(The sun was still in the sky when I was watching it.)

Compare this sentence with the past simple, which is used for completed activities:

iii. From 10 to 12, I washed my car.


(I finished my work. I started at 10 and finished at 12.)

iv. Finally, the sun set. It was dark and we did not see the beach anymore.
(The sun completely disappeared.)

2. We use it for continuous, uninterrupted activities. If the action is interrupted (something is done in
more intervals or we did more things one after another), we must use the past simple. For example:

i. Tom was watching TV on Sunday. (Tom watched TV in the morning and in the evening).
ii. Yesterday, I was working in the garden.

3. The past continuous tense is typically combined with the past simple tense to describe the idea that
the action in the past continuous started before the action in the past simple and continued after it.

i. When she saw me, I was looking at the trees. (These two activities happened at the same time. I
was looking at the trees for some time and she saw me in the middle of it.)

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Compare with the past simple:

ii. When she saw me, I looked at the trees. (These two activities happened one after another. First she
saw me and then I looked at the trees.)

4. The past continuous tense is typically with a point in time to express an action that started before
that time and continued after it.

i. At 8 o'clock Jane was having a bath. (At 8 o'clock she was in the middle of the activity. She did not
finish it.)

Compare with the simple tense:

ii. At 8 o'clock, Jane had a bath. (She started the activity at 8 o'clock and finished it.)

5. Past continuous is used to describe a situation, while the past simple is used to tell a story. For
example:

The sun was shining. Jack and Jill were lying on the beach. Jack was reading a book and Jill was sleeping.
All of a sudden, Jack raised his head. Jill woke up. Something happened.

6. Past continuous is used for incomplete activities in contrast with the past simple, which is used for
completed activities.

i. I was reading a book yesterday. And today I am going to continue.


ii. I read the book yesterday. I can lend it to you now.

7. The past continuous can be used instead of the simple to show a more casual action:

i. I was talking to my neighbour yesterday. We had a nice chat. (I did not do it on purpose. We
just met in the street.)
ii. I talked to my neighbour yesterday. And he promised to help me. (I did it on purpose. I
needed to ask him for help.)
Exercises
1. Fill in the blanks with a verb from the list in the SIMPLE PAST:
break swim have make sit write spend buy drink lose wash

1.She ………………….. a cake an hour ago. 2. She ………………….. a hat last week.
3.The boy ………………….. a letter yesterday. 4. They ……………………. in the sea for an hour.
5.They ………………….. a lot of Coke last night. 6.She ………………… her arm last week.
7.He ……………………. all his money last week. 8. She …………………… a bath two minutes ago.
9.He …………………. his wallet last night. 10. She ……………. on the old chair a minute ago.
11.She ………………….. the clothes yesterday.

2. Fill the gaps with the correct Past Simple form of the verb in brackets.
1. Yesterday, she ________________ two new pairs of jeans. (buy)
2. What ________________ you ________________ last night? (do)
3. Nevin ________________ the lake last night. (cross)
4. Mine _____________ his homework, so the teacher _______________ angry. (not finish/be)
5. We ________________ to Chicago by United Airlines last Easter. (fly)
6. The shop ________________ many things last year. (not sell)
7. ________________ you ________________ the film on TV last night? (see)

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8. She ________________ to answer the question. (try)
9. ________________ your brother ________________ the exam? (take)
10. Nobody ________________ the thief yesterday. (catch)

3. In each sentence, fill the gaps with one Past Continuous verb and one Past Simple verb.

1. While I ________________ for the bus, I ________________ my friend, Ercan. (meet / wait)
2. She ________________ dinner when the telephone ________________. (cook / ring)
3. It ________________ to rain while they ________________ in the garden. (sit / begin)
4. While she ________________ home, she ________________ an accident. (have / drive)
5. While we ________________ TV, the cat ________________ the dinner. (steal / watch)
6. I _______________ a letter when my friend _______________ into the room. (write / come)
7. The robber ________________ the window while she ________________ upstairs. (sleep / break)
8. The computer _______________ down while he _______________ an e-mail. (break / write)
9. When I ________________ Ayşe, she ________________ with her boyfriend. (quarrel / see)
10. While they ________________ a video, Mum ________________ lunch. (watch / cook)
4. Put the verbs between brackets in the past simple or continuous
1. When I (do)_____________the washing-up, I (break) _____________ a plate.
2. While Tom (play) _____________the piano, his mother (do) _____________ the washing-up.
3. He (drink) _____________some juice and then he (eat) _____________a few chips.
4. I (have) _____________dinner when I suddenly (hear) _____________a loud bang.
5. When my father (work) _____________in the garden, an old friend (pass) ___________by to see
him.
6. She (go) _____________to school, (take) _____________out her textbook and (begin)
_____________to read.
7. When it (start) _____________to rain, our dog (want) _____________to come inside.
8. When Jane (do) _____________a language course in Ireland, she (visit) ____________Blarney
Castle.
9. When I (be) _____________on my way home, I (see) _____________an accident.
10. I (not / understand) _____________what they (talk) _____________about.
11. When I (get) ____________ up yesterday, the sun (shine) ____________ .
12. Where _______ he ________ (go) when you _________(see) him yesterday?

5. Make the following sentences negative.

a. He washed his car yesterday.


____________________________________________________
b. The film was worse than I expected.
________________________________________________
c. I arrived before the end of the show.
_________________________________________________
d. She threw the ball into the goal.
____________________________________________________
e. Two people were sitting in the
room_________________________________________________
f. She was making breakfast.
____________________________________________________

6. Write questions for the bold parts.

a. She pushed her bike. →

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b. She carried a bag. →
c. We were waiting in the park. →
d. The policeman arrested the thief. →
e. We ate fish. →
f. She watched the match last night. →
g. Brahim was talking to my friend. →
h. I opened the door. →
i. The teacher checked our homework. →