[VERB+ed] or


You called Debbie.
Did you call Debbie?
You did not call Debbie.

USE 1 Completed Action in the Past

Use the Simple Past to express the idea that an action started and finished at a specific time in the past. Sometimes the speaker may not actually mention the specific time but they do have one specific time in mind.


  • I saw a movie yesterday.

  • I didn't see a play yesterday.

  • Last year I traveled to Japan.

  • Last year I didn't travel to Korea.

  • Did you have dinner last night?

  • She washed her car.

  • He didn't wash his car.

USE 2 A Series of Completed Actions

We use the Simple Past to list a series of completed actions in the past. These actions happen 1st 2nd 3rd 4th and so on.


  • I finished work walked to the beach and found a nice place to swim.

  • He arrived from the airport at 8:00 checked into the hotel at 9:00 and met the others at 10:00.

  • Did you add flour pour in the milk and then add the eggs?

USE 3 Duration in Past

The Simple Past can be used with a duration which starts and stops in the past. A duration is a longer action often indicated by expressions such as: for two years for five minutes all day all year etc.


  • I lived in Brazil for two years.

  • Shauna studied Japanese for five years.

  • They sat at the beach all day.

  • They did not stay at the party the entire time.

  • We talked on the phone for thirty minutes.

  • A: How long did you wait for them?

  • B: We waited for one hour.

USE 4 Habits in the Past

The Simple Past can also be used to describe a habit which stopped in the past. It can have the same meaning as "" To make it clear that we are talking about a habit we often add expressions such as: always often usually never when I was a child when I was younger etc.


  • I studied French when I was a child.

  • He played the violin.

  • He didn't play the piano.

  • Did you play a musical instrument when you were a kid?

  • She worked at the movie theater after school.

  • They never went to school they always skipped class.

USE 5 Past Facts or Generalizations

The Simple Past can also be used to describe past facts or generalizations which are no longer true. As in USE 4 above this use of the Simple Past is quite similar to the expression "used to."


  • She was shy as a child but now she is very outgoing.

  • He didn't like tomatoes before.

  • Did you live in Texas when you were a kid?

  • People paid much more to make cell phone calls in the past.

IMPORTANT When-Clauses Happen First

Clauses are groups of words which have meaning but are often not complete sentences. Some clauses begin with the word "when" such as "when I dropped my pen..." or "when class began..." These clauses are called when-clauses and they are very important. The examples below contain when-clauses.


  • When I paid her one dollar she answered my question.

  • She answered my question when I paid her one dollar.

When-clauses are important because they always happen first when both clauses are in the Simple Past. Both of the examples above mean the same thing: first I paid her one dollar and then she answered my question. It is not important whether "when I paid her one dollar" is at the beginning of the sentence or at the end of the sentence. However the example below has a different meaning. First she answered my question and then I paid her one dollar.


  • I paid her one dollar when she answered my question.


The examples below show the placement for grammar adverbs such as: always only never ever still just etc.

  • You just called Debbie.

  • Did you just call Debbie?



  • Tom repaired the car. Active

  • The car was repaired by Tom. Passive