Learning English

Inspiring language learning since 1943

English Change language

Session 2

It's time to learn more about the past simple tense. We’ll find out when to use it and learn how to make positives, negatives and questions.  Then we'll put them into practice by interviewing a famous footballer!

Sessions in this unit

Session 2 score

0 / 24

  • 0 / 9
    Activity 1
  • 0 / 7
    Activity 2
  • 0 / 0
    Activity 3
  • 0 / 8
    Activity 4
  • 0 / 0
    Activity 5

Past simple

Finn brings you past simple explanations and examples in this unit’s 6 Minute Grammar, while Sophie eats biscuits…

Listen to the audio and complete the activity

Show transcript Hide transcript

Finn
Hello. Welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Finn.

Sophie
And me, Sophie. Hello. 

Finn
In today’s programme we’re talking about the past simple tense…

Sophie
… when we use it, how we form it for regular verbs… 

Finn
…we’ll take a look at some irregular verbs, negative sentences and questions.

Sophie
…and we’ll finish as usual with a quiz.

Finn
Ok - so let’s get started! The past simple is a tense in English that we use to talk about an event that happened and finished in the past. Here’s Neil with our first example:

Neil
Jack Dorsey invented Twitter in 2006.

Sophie
Thanks Neil. Now, we often find the past simple in stories like this:

Neil
The boy started running. Suddenly, he stopped and listened…

Finn
Wow - sounds like an exciting story! And it had three past simple verbs: started, stopped, and listened.

Sophie
… and they are all regular verbs. We make the past simple of regular verbs by adding an ‘e’ and a ‘d’ to the infinitive.

Finn
… so the past simple of start is started,

Sophie
… the past simple of stop is stopped,

Finn
… and the past simple of listen is listened 

Sophie
… did you spot the difference in the pronunciation there?

Finn
Yes, sometimes the ‘e’ and ‘d’ at the end sounds like a ‘t’. ‘t’. Listen: Stopped. Stopped.

Sophie
Sometimes it sounds more like ‘id’. ‘id’. Started. Started.

Finn
… or like a ‘d’: Listened. Listened.

Sophie
Let’s hear all three again: 

Neil
Stopped, started, listened. Stopped, started, listened.

Finn
So, listen out for those 3 different pronunciations of the past simple e-d ending. It’s simple, isn’t it…      

Sophie
Yes, well we are talking about the past simple, … but … irregular verbs are not quite so simple.

Finn
That's true: can you give us some examples of irregular verbs, please, Neil?

Neil
I went to the interview yesterday and got the job!

Finn
And another one please?

Neil
Kurosawa made some wonderful films.

Finn 
So the past simple of go is went.

Sophie
...get is got.

Finn
...and make is made.

Sophie
And I’m afraid you just have to learn irregular verbs. There is no one simple rule for them.

Finn
But the good news is that the past simple is the same for all people.

Sophie
Yes – it’s I got the job, you got the job, he got the job…

Finn
We got the job… they got the job...

Sophie
Everybody got the job!

Both
Hooray!

IDENT           
You’re listening to BBC Learning English.

Finn
Now, for negatives in the past simp… [sfx: loud sound of unwrapping of biscuit  and someone taking a bite] …Sophie, are you hungry?

Sophie  [munching] Yes, sorry, I didn’t have breakfast this morning.

Finn
You didn’t have breakfast! Aha! … past simple negatives … this is simple… you just put didn’t in front of the main verb.

Sophie
That’s right. Didn’t plus the infinitive makes a past simple negative: I didn’t have breakfast this morning.           

Finn
So remember: it’s not I didn’t had, it’s I didn’t have breakfast.

Sophie
I didn’t have breakfast. I didn't have time!

Finn
Now, let’s move on to past simple questions. Here’s an example:                                 

Neil
Did you make that cake? It’s delicious!

Sophie
Did you say ‘cake’? Where?

Finn
Sorry Sophie, it was just the example! So in past simple questions it’s did plus subject plus an infinitive: Did you make? Let’s hear that again - with an answer this time:

Neil
Did you make that cake? It’s delicious!

Finn
Yes, I did.

Sophie
Or we could say: No, I didn’t. For short answers, just drop the verb and use the subject with did or didn’t, so it’s Yes, I did.

Finn
Or: No, I didn’t.

Finn
Good! Now for a quiz. I’ll say a sentence in the present simple and you change it to the past simple. Here goes: We start work at 10 in the morning. We start work at 10 in the morning.

Sophie
Ok, in the past simple it’s: We started work at 10 in the morning.

Finn
We started work at 10 in the morning. Great! Number 2. Here’s a sentence in the past simple: you have to make it negative. Ready? Scientists found a cure for the disease. Scientists found a cure for the disease.

Sophie
And the answer is: Scientists didn’t find a cure for the disease. We change ‘found’ to ‘find’ and put ‘didn’t’ in front of the verb: Scientists didn’t find a cure for the disease.

Finn
And finally, I’ll ask a past simple question. Can you give me a short answer. Sophie: Did you have breakfast this morning? Did you have breakfast this morning?

Sophie
No, I didn’t. Or I could say: Yes, I did. Finn, what did you have for breakfast?

Finn
Oh, I had cereal, eggs, toast, orange juice … coffee, croissants ….

Sophie
Stop, stop!...I’m so hungry… [munching a biscuit]…There’s more about this on our website at bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar. 

Both
Bye.

End of Session 2

Well done! You’ve studied past simple positives, negatives, questions and irregular verbs. In the next session you’re going to meet someone who improved her life by learning English - and you’ll hear lots more examples of the past simple. Back in a bit!

Session Vocabulary

  • triathlon
    a type of race where someone has to swim, ride a bicycle, and run over very long distances

    in plaster
    when a broken bone is put into a hard cover to hold it in position while it gets better we say it’s ‘in plaster’

    nervous
    feeling slightly afraid