Simple Past Tense Definition Structure and Examples

Simple Past Tense describes an action that was completed in the past at a definite point of time. This article provides a Definition Structure and Examples of Simple Past Tense with practical uses and exercises. Explore them to make yourself capable of writing and speaking well in the English language.

Simple Past Tense Definition

When a verb expresses that an action was completed in the past at a definite point of time, we use simple past tense.

  • They played football.
  • She wrote a letter.
'was/were' are the Simple present Tense of the verb 'be'. 
'Be' is used as- 
I was, He/She/It was, We/You/They were

'Be' verb when used as Main Verb, means 'to be oneself'. Example, He was there in the room.
"Had" is the Simple Past Tense of the verb 'Have'. 
'Had' verb is used as - 
I had, We had, You had, He had, She had, They had

When the 'have' verb is used as a main verb, it means 'to possess something'. Example, She had a pen.
Both 'Be' and 'Have' verbs can be used as Auxiliary verbs and Principal verbs in simple past tense. 

Simple Past Tense with ‘Be’ verbs

I was.I was not.Was I?Was I not?
We wereWe were not.Were we?Were we not?
You wereYou were not.Were you?Were you not?
He was.He was not.Was he?Was he not?
She was.She was not.Was she?Was she not?
It was.It was not.Was it?Was it not?
Sania was.Sania was not.Was Sania?Was not Sania?
They were.They were not.Were they?Were they not?

Examples of ‘Be’ with complement

1. I was young.
2. They were merchants.
3. You were poor.
4. He was ill.
5. The clothes were dirty.
6. The girl was truthful.

Simple Past Tense with ‘Have’ verbs

I had.I had no/not.Had I?Had I no/not.?
We hadWe had no/not.Had we?Had we no/not.?
You hadYou had no/not.Had you?Had you no/not.?
He hadHa had no/not.Had he?Had he no/not?
She hadShe had no/not.Had she?Hads he no/not?
Sania hadSania had no/not.Had Sania?Had not Sania?
It hadIt had no/not.Had it?Had it no/not?
They hadThey had no/not.Had they?Had they no/not?

In the case of the 'To have' Verb, when forming interrogative and Negative-Interrogative sentences, the Verb comes before the Subject and the Negative word 'Not' comes after the Pronoun and before the Noun. 

'No' and 'Not' mean almost the same. 

'No' comes before 'Noun'.

But the word 'Not' comes before 'Article' and 'Adjective' or both. 

For example,
No man, but not a single man; 
No dog, but not a dog, etc. 

Note the position of both No and Not in the above sentences. 
Now note carefully the position of 'no' only in sentences formed with 'to have' verbs:

Examples of ‘Have’ verbs with ‘no’/’not’

1. Had he a knife?
2. Ram had three umbrellas.
3. Hadnot Ram three umbrellas?
4. The blacksmith had no shop.
5. Had the blachsmith no shop?
6. The doctor had two cars.
7. Had not the doctor two cars?
8. They had time.
9. Had they no time?

Simple Past Tense Structure with action verbs

Simple Past Tense Structure is important to know for writing as well as speaking in English. Simple Past Tense may be

  • a Positive or Affirmative Sentence
  • a Negative Sentence
  • an Interrogative Sentence
  • a Negative-Interrogative sentence

All structures are discussed below with a table and examples in an easy way.

Positive or Affirmative Sentence


Subject + Verb (past form)+ Object.


1stI ate rice.we ate rice.
2ndyou ate ate rice.
3rdHe/She/it/(single name) ate rice.They/(two or more names) ate rice.


1. He played football.
2. Ravi did the job.
3. You read history.
4. Birds flew in the Sky.
5. We went to school.

Negative Sentence


Subject + Did+ Not+ Verb (present form)+ Object.


1stI did not eat rice.We did not eat rice.
2ndYou did not eat rice.You did not eat rice.
3rdHe/She/It did not rice.They did not eat rice.


1. They did not play football.
2. She did not do it
3. You did not drink milk.
4. Birds did not make houses.
5. We did not make noise

Interrogative Sentence


Did + Subject + Verb (present form) + Object?


1stDid I eat rice?Did we eat rice?
2ndDid you eat rice?Did you eat rice?
3rdDid he/she/it eat rice?Did they eat rice?


1. Did he play football?
2. Did the sun rise in the East?
3. Did you read history?
4. Did birds fly in the Sky?
5. Were you a student?

Negative-Interrogative Sentence


Did+ Subject( If Pronoun) + Not  +  Verb (present form) + Object?
Did+ Not + Subject (If Noun)+  Verb (present form) + Object?
If the Subject is “NOUN”, “Not” will be placed before “Subject”. 

Example:- Did not Nisha like fruits?
If the Subject is “PRONOUN”, “Not” will be placed after “Subject”. 

Example:- Did they not study in college?


1stDid I not eat rice?Did we not eat rice?
2ndDid you not eat rice?Did you not eat rice?
3rdDid he or she or it( Pro N) not eat rice?
Did not John( N) eat rice?
Did they not eat rice?


1. Did not Ram play football?
2. Did not the sunrise in the East?
3. Did you not read history?
4. Were we not honest?
5. Did they not grow crops?

Change of Sentence in Simple Present Tenes

Explore the following table to understand the change of sentences in Simple present Tense. For example, here the main verb is ‘eat’. But the change of sentences will be as follows with any other main verb in English.

I ate rice.I did not eat rice.Did I not eat rice?Did I not eat rice?
We ate rice.We did not eat rice.Did we eat rice?Did we not eat rice?
You ate rice.You did not eat rice.Did you eat rice?Did you not eat rice?
He ate rice.He did not eat rice.Did you eat rice?Did you not eat rice?
She ate rice.She did not eat rice.Did you eat rice?Did you not eat rice?
Riya ate rice.Riya did not eat rice.Did Riya eat rice?Did not Riya eat rice?
They ate rice.They did not eat rice.Did they eat rice?Did they not eat rice?

Practical use of Simple Past tense

The simple past tense is used to refer to –

  • The action did at some point of time in the past: I wrote to her last week
  • As some past Habits: They always invited us over for festivals.


1. Fill in the blanks with the Past form of the verbs given in the bracket.

An old man ……………… (have) four sons. They always ……………. (quarrel).  This ……………. (make) him unhappy.    One day he ………….. (think) of a plan. He ………………..  (call) all his sons and …………. Sons (try) in vain. He ………. (untied) the bundle and ………. (give) one stick to each of them. Now each son ………….. (break) his stick easily.