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The Past Simple Tense

The past simple tense is most often used for the following:

- For actions that happened in the past
- In reported speech
- In conditional sentences

How to form the past simple

For actions that happened in the past

The past simple is the most usual tense for talking about things that happened or have finished before now. Very often we use a word or expression of finished time with this tense. In the following example sentences the expressions of finished time are shown in bold:

* In this sentence the speaker is talking in the evening, so for her this afternoon is finished time.

In reported speech

In reported speech it is common to shift the tense back. So for example, if someone said something to you in the present tense, you would report it in the past tense. Look at these examples. In each case the first sentence is direct speech and the second sentence is in reported speech. The verbs in the past simple form are shown in bold.

* It is common in modern spoken English to NOT change the tense if you believe that what someone told you is still true. So, for example, we could say:

In conditional sentences

The past simple tense is used in conditional 2 sentences. Have a look at some examples before reading the explanation about what the conditional 2 is. The verbs in past simple form are shown in bold.

The past simple (conditional 2) is used in these sentences to express the idea of something that is not true or that the speaker thinks is unlikely to happen. So, in the first 3 sentences above, the interpretations would be:

Do a quiz on this grammar topic.


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