past simple

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past simple


I / You / We / They / She / He / It stopped.


I/ You / We / They / She / He / It did not (didn't) stop.



When did Leonardo


Vinci live?

What did Leonardo da Vinci paint?

Did I / you / we /

they / she / he / it wait?


Verbs ending in e, add -d: decide - decided For one-syllable verbs ending one vowel +

one consonant, double the consonant and add -ed:

stop - stopped

Other one-syllable verbs add -ed: wait - waited Verbs ending vowel + consonant + y,

change -y to -i and add -ed: Note: verbs ending vowel + y add -ed:

study - studied play - played Two-syllable verbs ending one vowel +

one consonant, double the consonant if the stress is on the last syllable and add -ed:

prefer - preferred

If the stress is on the first syllable, add

-ed: profit - profited



• to talk about finished events in the past, when we think about a definite time.

Alexander's army marched beside the river and then stopped outside the city.

• to describe the events in a story.

Oliver heard the sound of a bell. Soon afterwards, the door softly opened.

• to describe habits and routines in the past. We usually use a time word or phrase.

Leonardo painted in his studio every day.


Subject and object questions are both possible with past simple.

What did Leonardo paint?

object question: + auxiliary did Who painted this portrait?

subject question: no auxiliary did


Examples of time words and phrases we use with past simple:

yesterday on Tuesday

in 1754 last night

at 6.30 in January

last week an hour ago

last year after that


past continuous, used to do

I / She/ He / It was reading.

You / We / They were

I / She/ He / It was not (wasn't) reading.

You / We / They were not (weren't)


questions and short answers

Was I / she / he /

it waiting? Yes, I was No, I wasn't.

Were you / we /

they watching? Yes, you

were. No, you weren't.

Where was he waiting?

What were they wearing?



• for a continuing unfinished action in the past.

When Sue arrived at 9.30 am, four people were waiting outside the office.

• for a continuing unfinished action interrupted by a sudden past action.

While we were doing the maths test, the fire alarm went off.

• for activities as background description.

The rainforest was full of sounds. Birds were calling from the trees and thousands of insects were buzzing and humming.

• for two continuing events happening at the same time.

While Cortes was talking to the emperor; his army was taking over the palace.


while, when

• Use while with past continuous for the time the event was happening.

• Use when with past simple for actions.

• We can use other more descriptive time phrases instead of when.

At the moment the earthquake struck, most people were going about their normal lives.


Past continuous used with past simple

• We often use the past continuous first to set the scene, and then the past simple for the separate, completed actions that happen.

Susan was looking for Graham, so she didn't sit down. Instead, she tried calling him on her mobile phone.


• We often contrast an action in progress with a sudden event which interrupts it.

While Susan was trying to get onto the platform, a man grabbed her handbag.


Participle clauses

• Participle clauses are introduced by the time expressions before, after and while. They have the same subject as the following clause.

After struggling with him, Susan pulled the bag from his hands.


habits in the past

• For describing habits and states in the past, it is more natural to use used to + verb than past

continuous, especially when we make contrasts with the present. We do not mention the exact date.

• Used to is unchangeable, and has only a past tense form.

• Negative: didn't use to

• Question: Did you use to?



• Rainforests used to cover a third of the Earth, but now they are getting smaller.

• Once people didn't use to worry about this problem.

• What games did you use to play in the playground at school?



• we also use past simple (+ frequency adverb) to describe habitual actions in the past.

People once thought that the Sun travelled round the Earth

• When we use used to we suggest that the

action is no longer true and so make a strong contrast with the present.


Past before past

• The past perfect is used to make it clear that one past event happens before another past event. We use the past perfect for the earlier event.

By the time the train arrived, Susan had

managed to push her way to the front of the crowd.


• It is not always necessary to use the past perfect if a time expression makes the order of events clear.

Before the train arrived, Susan managed to push her way to the front of the crowd.



• Would is used to describe a person's typical activities in the past. It can only be used to describe repeated actions, not states. It is mainly used in writing, and in personal reminiscences.

Every evening was the same. Jack would turn on the radio, light his pipe and fall asleep.


The Industrial Revolution in Britain

a. When ___________?

The Industrial Revolution happened during the second half of the 18th century in Britain.

b. How ___________?

Work changed with the building of large factories.

c. What ___________?

The first factories produced iron, steel, and textiles.


d. What ___________?

New technology encouraged the production of more ships, and railway equipment.

e. What power ___________?

Factories used steam power.

f. What ___________?

These factories required lots of coal for the steam engines.

g. Where ___________?

Manufacturers constructed their factories close to coal mines.


h. Why ___________?

They decided to do this because it was expensive to transport coal.

i. What ___________?

Factories also needed limestone and iron ore, for the manufacture of steel.

j. Where ___________?

Industry in the UK developed near the coal fields of South Wales, the Midlands, north- east England and central Scotland.


a When did the Industrial Revolution happen in Britain?

b How did work change?

c What did the first factories produce?

d What did new technology encourage?

e What power did factories use?

f What did these factories require?

g Where did manufacturers construct their factories?

h Why did they decide to do this?

i What did factories also need?

j Where did industry in the UK develop?


Louis Pasteur 1822-1895

As a young man, Pasteur a (study) ___at the Ecole Normale in Paris. Then at the age of just 32, he b (become) ___ a professor at the University of Lille.

In 1856, Pasteur c (receive) ___a visit from a man called Bigo who d (own) ___ a factory that e

(make) ___ alcohol from sugar beet. He f (have) ___ a question for Pasteur: why g (the alcohol / turn / to acid?) ___ ? When this h (happen) ___ , they i (not can) ___ use it and j (throw) ___it away Bigo k (ask) ___ Pasteur to find out the reason for this.


At first, Pasteur I(not know) ___, but when he m (examine) ___the alcohol under a microscope, he n (find) ___thousands of tiny micro-

organisms. He o (believe) ___ that they p (cause) ___ the problem. q (milk, wine and vinegar / behave /in the same way?) ___?

Other scientists r (disagree)___ with him, and

newspapers s (make) ___ fun of him. However, Pasteur t (continue) ___ with his work, he u

(invent) ___ methods of testing his theory and v (prove) ___ that he was right. Later he w

(work) ___ together with two doctors and x (develop) ___ vaccines for diseases such as anthrax and rabies.



a studied i couldn't q Did milk, wine and vinegar behave in the same way

b became j threw r disagreed

c received k asked s made

d owned I didn't know t continued

e made m examined u invented

f had n found v proved

g did the alcohol turn

to acid o believed w worked

h happened p caused x developed


Choose the correct form

a. While he took / was taking a bath, Archimedes discovered / was discovering the principles of density and buoyancy.

b. When Edouard Benedictus, a French scientist, worked / was working in his laboratory, he dropped / was dropping a glass bottle which had some plastic inside - and invented / was

inventing safety glass.

c. Columbus arrived / was arriving in America while he tried / was trying to reach the Far East.

d. AIexander FIeming discovered / was discovering penicillin by accident while he looked / was looking at some old



e. While Hiram Bingham climbed / was climbing in the mountains of Peru in 1911, he

discovered / was discovering the Iost city of Macchu Picchu.

f. While Isaac Newton sat / was sitting under an apple tree, an apple fell / was falling on his

head, and he understood / was understanding gravity.

g. While Dr Harry Coover tried / was trying to invent a new kind of plastic, he made / was making a very soft substance which stuck /

was sticking things together. It was SupergIue.


h. While he observed / was observing the Moon through his teIescope, Galileo realized / was realizing that it had mountains and craters.



a was taking, discovered

b was working, dropped, invented c arrived, was trying

d discovered, was looking e was climbing, discovered

f was sitting , fell, understood g was trying, made, stuck

h was observing, realized


Choose the correct answer

a) I suddenly remembered that I forgot/had forgotten my keys.

b) While Diana watched/was watching her

favourite television programme, there was a power-cut.

c) Tom used to live/would live in the house at the end of the street.

d) Who was driving/drove the car at the time of the accident?


e) By the time Sheila got back, Chris went/had gone.

f) David ate/had eaten Japanese food before, so he knew what to order.

g) I did/was doing some shopping yesterday, when I saw that Dutch friend of yours.

h) I used to like/was liking sweets much more than I do now.

i) What exactly were you doing/did you do when I came into your office yesterday?

j) Laura missed the party because no-one was telling/had told her about it.

k) Tanya would/used to be a doctor.




Key points to remember

1 The past simple describes completed events in the past, such as the main events in a narrative. It can also describe habits and routines in the past.

2 The past continuous is used for:

a) background description.

b) actions in progress, often contrasted with a sudden event.

The past continuous cannot be used to describe past routines and habits.

3 Participle clauses can introduce a clause giving the main event. The subjects of both clauses must be the same.


4 The past perfect describes a past event which took place before another past event. If before or after is used, the past perfect is optional.

The past perfect is not used for an event that happened a long time ago in the past.

5 Used to only refers to past time, and has no present form.

6 Would can be used to describe habitual actions in the past, usually in writing. It does not make such a strong contrast with the present as used to. Compare:

Jim would always make his mother a cup of tea after lunch. Jim used to drink tea, but now he prefers coffee.

Would cannot be used to describe states.

Sally used to be a dancer.




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