How to form the Past Tense in EnglishThe main rule is that for every verb in English, there is only one form of it in the past tense.
(The exception is the Past tense of To Be, which has two forms: was and were)
This is totally different from other languages such as Spanish, French, Italian etc. where you change the verb ending for every subject.
For example: The past tense of the verb want is wanted.
Wanted is used as the past tense for all subjects/pronouns.
- I wanted
- You wanted
- He wanted
- She wanted
- It wanted
- We wanted
- They wanted
Past Tense Regular VerbsTo change a regular verb into its past tense form, we normally add –ED to the end of the verb.
- play – played
- cook – cooked
- rain – rained
- wait – waited
Spelling of words ending in ED.
Examples of sentences using regular verbs in the past tense
- Last night I played my guitar loudly and the neighbors complained.
- She kissed me on the cheek.
- It rained yesterday.
- Angela watched TV all night.
- John wanted to go to the museum.
We recommend reading our guide about the pronunciation of –ED at the end of words.
Negative sentences in the Past TenseWe use didn't (did not) to make a negative sentence in the past tense.
This is for regular AND irregular verbs in English.
(Exception is To Be and Modal Verbs such as Can)
Compare the following:
Present: They don't live in Canada.
Past: They didn't live in Canada.
The main verb (live in the example above) is in its base form (of the infinitive). The auxiliary DIDN'T shows that the sentence is negative AND in the past tense.
NOTICE: The only difference between a negative sentence in the present tense and a negative sentence in the past tense is the change in the auxiliary verb.
Both don't and doesn't in the present tense become didn't in the past tense.
Compare the negative sentences in the examples below:
Present: You don't need a mechanic.
Past: You didn't need a mechanic.
Present: You don't walk to work.
Past: You didn't walk to work.
Present: He doesn't speak Japanese.
Past: He didn't speak Japanese.
Examples of negative sentences in the Past Tense
- I didn't want to go to the dentist.
- She didn't have time.
- You didn't close the door.
- He didn't come to my party.
- They didn't study so they didn't pass the test.
- We didn't sleep well last night