flesl.net grammar glossary::

simple past

• The simple past is one of the eight basic English verb tenses. It is formed in two ways:

1. regular verbs: base form + "ed" (started, walked, believed)      2. irregular verbs: special past tense form  (went, saw, put)

• The simple past is used in three important ways:

1. to report a single past event or an event in a narrative

for example (single event): Last night Harry and Sarah WENT to see a new movie, "Three Fat Men."

for example (narrative): Jill PHONED Harry but he WASN'T home. She DECIDED to send him an e-mail, so she SAT DOWN at her computer.

{when the simple past refers to a single past event an adverbial such as "last night" is nearly always present. When it is used to refer to an event in a narrative, however, such adverbials are not usually required.}

2. to report habitual activity or repeated occurrences in a period of time that begins and ends in the past

for example: When Dick and Jane were at their cottage they, GOT UP EARLY every morning.

3. in the dependent clause of an unreal conditional

for example: If Tom STOPPED drinking at lunch, he'd get a lot more work done.

• And in two less important ways important ways:

4. in non-conditional dependent clauses requiring hypothetical meaning (in other words, when a speaker wants to indicate that the event referred to did not actually happen)

for example (narrative): After they left work, Jane complained to Jill, "Sometimes, Harry treats me as if he HATED me."

5. for the sake of politeness when talking about the present

for example: When Harry met Jill in the corridor he said, shyly, "I THOUGHT you might like to have lunch again today."