The Past Simple Tense

(or simple past)

We use the past simple when we want to talk about the past and we don’t have any special situation that requires us to use the present perfect, past perfect or past continuous.

Finished actions, states or habits in the past.
1 – We use the past simple to refer to finished actions, states or habits in the past when we have a finished time word (yesterday, last week, at 5 o’clock, in 2010).

  • I played football yesterday.
  • We spent five months in Paris in 2010.

2 – We use it with facts in the past.

  • Queen Victoria reigned for sixty-three years.
  • The sun rose at 6 o’clock this morning.

3 – We can use it with finished actions that we introduce with another past tense. We do this to give more details.

  • I’ve got a sunburn. I spent too much time on the beach lying in the sun.
  • I have just got back from Spain. I was there for three weeks.

4 – To describe a list of events. We use the past simple for the actions in the story and the past continuous for the background.

  • They walked into the restaurant. People were chatting and a pianist was playing soft music. They sat at a table by the window.

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