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To Be - Past Tense

English Grammar Notes

The past tense of To Be in English has tw o f orms: WAS and WERE

To Be - Affirmative
Subje ct To Be Exam ple s

I w as I w as tired this morning.


You w ere You w e re very good.
He w as He w as the best in his class.
She w as She w as late f or w ork.
It w as It w as a sunny day.
We w ere We w e re at home.
You w ere You w e re on holiday.
They w ere They w e re happy w ith their test results.

To Be - Negative Sentences
The negative of To Be can be made by adding not af ter the verb (w as or w ere).

Subje ct To Be Exam ple s

I w as not I w as not tired this morning.


You w ere not You w e re not crazy.
He w as not He w as not married.
She w as not She w as not f amous.
It w as not It w as not hot yesterday.
We w ere not We w e re not invited.
You w ere not You w e re not at the party.
They w ere not They w e re not f riends.

To Be - Negative Contractions
The can make negative contractions of the verb To Be in the Past tense by joining the ve rb (w as or
w ere) and n't (e.g. w ere not = w eren't). We don't make a contraction of the s ubje ct and the ve rb (e.g. I
w as).
I w as not tired this morning. OR I w as n't tired this morning.
You w e re not crazy. OR You w e re n't crazy.
He w as not married. OR He w as n't married.
She w as not f amous. OR She w as n't f amous.
It w as not hot yesterday. OR It w as n't hot yesterday.
We w e re not invited. OR We w e re n't invited.
You w e re not at the party. OR You w e re n't at the party.
They w e re not f riends. OR They w e re n't f riends.

To Be - Questions
To create questions w ith To Be , you put the Ve rb bef ore the Subje ct.

Affirm ative You w ere happy.

Sub ject Verb

Que s tion Were you happy?

Verb Sub ject

Affirm ative Que s tion

I w as late Was I late?


You w ere sick. We re you sick?
He w as surprised. Was he surprised?
She w as f rom Italy. Was s he f rom Italy?
It w as a big house. Was it a big house?
We w ere ready. We re w e ready?
You w ere early. We re you early?
They w ere busy. We re the y busy?

Bef ore the verb you can also have a WH- Question w ord (Why, Who, What, Where etc.)

We re you happy? Yes, I w as.

Why w e re you happy? Because I w as promoted at w ork.

To Be - Short Answers
In spoken English, w e usually give short answ ers in response to questions.

Was he f rom Japan? - Yes, he w as (f rom Japan). The last part (f rom Japan) is not necessary. We use
shorts answ ers to avoid repetition, w hen the meaning is clear.

Que s tion Short Ans w e rs ** Short Ans w e rs

Was I late? Yes, you w ere. No, you w eren't.


Were you sick? Yes, I w as. No, I w asn't.
Was he surprised? Yes, he w as. No, he w asn't.
Was she f rom Italy? Yes, she w as. No, she w asn't.
Was it a big house? Yes, it w as. No, it w asn't.
Were w e ready? Yes, w e w ere. No, w e w eren't.
Were you early? Yes, w e w ere. No, w e w eren't.
Were they busy? Yes, they w ere. No, they w eren't.

** With To Be , We don't use contractions in affirm ative short answ ers.

See more about Past Tense Short Answ ers

TO BE in the Past Tense - Summary Chart