Know Past Simple Tense – Structure, and rules.

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Definition Of Past Simple Tense:

The simple past tense is a verb tense that is used to talk about things that happened or existed before now. It is used to refer to actions that were already completed in a time period before the present time.

Ren Was House Shopping Alone: The Scary Music Box

Obviously enough, Past Simple Tense is used to describe an event that began and ended in the past. Here’s a dialogue that’s mostly spoken in Past Simple Tense:

“I walked into the bedroom, and suddenly there was music coming from a box,” said Ren.

“What did the box look like?, “asked Haru. 

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“It was an ordinary-looking brown wooden box,” replied Ren.

“Were you frightened?,” asked Haru.

“I was terrified, the room was dark and I wasn’t expecting the music to come from a wooden box. I quickly realized it was just an old music box.”

“What song was playing?” 

“The music was Johann Straus’s, Emperor Waltz. It was eerie in the dark.”

“What did you do?”

“I was so scared, I ran out into the rain. At that moment, the sky let out a clap of thunder. I almost started to cry. I will never go house shopping alone again,” concluded Ren.

In this example of Past Simple tense, the Speaker is telling the Listener about her experience looking for a new place to live in Tokyo, at night. She was alone and frightened by a music box. 

Notice the use of “was.” Almost every action word is preceded by the Be Verb “was.” This is because all actions began and ended in the past, hence, the dialogue is written in Past Simple tense.

A Bit of Grammar

What are the rules for using Past Simple Tense in a full sentence?

Constructing a Past Simple Tense sentence is easy. First, you must have an action that began and ended in the past, like “scared.” Usually, in Regular Verbs, the past tense is denoted by the d/ed ending.

And then you need either “was” or “were,” depending on whether the subject is singular or plural. To simplify:

Subject + was/were

is used when making a positive Past Simple Tense Sentence, a sentence that says something is so (PS).  Looking back at our example, Ren said: 

“I was terrified…”

This Positive Sentence tells the listener, Haru, that Ren felt extreme fear. However, the sentence goes on to say: 

“I wasn’t expecting the music to come from a wooden box.”

This is a Negative Past Simple Tense Sentence (NS). A sentence that is constructed with: 

Subject + was not/were not

because something “wasn’t.”

Finally, a Verb and an Object are required (the final Noun). Everything must agree in tense: wasn’t expecting ==> the music ==> to come ==> box

Examples of Past Simple Tense

  • Oscar was late.
  • They were not ready for this week’s presentation. 
  • I was hungry, so I cooked miso soup. 

Let’s practice 

Q1: Try making your own sentence.

Q2: When was the last time you were late for school or the office? What happened? 

Q3: Do you remember a time you were alone at home? When? Why were you alone?

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