Learning the Simple Past tense

. Simple past, function

The simple past is used to talk about a completed action in a timebefore now. Duration is not important. The time of the action can be in the recent past or the distant past.

  • John Cabot sailed to America in 1498.
  • My father died last year.
  • He lived in Fiji in 1976.
  • We crossed the Channel yesterday.

You always use the simple past when you say when something happened, so it is associated with certain past time expressions


  • frequency:
    often, sometimes, always;
  • a definite point in time:
    last week, when I was a child, yesterday, six weeks ago.
  • an indefinite point in time:
    the other day, ages ago, a long time ago etc.

Note: the word ago is a useful way of expressing the distance into the past. It is placed after the period of time e.g. a week ago, three years ago, a minute ago.


a. Yesterday, I arrived in Geneva.
b. She finished her work at seven o'clock.
c. We saw a good film last week.
d. I went to the theatre last night.
e. She played the piano when she was a child.
f. He sent me a letter six months ago.

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