The form is the same for all persons.

Pronunciation spelling

I > played /d/ arrive/arrived
You > arrived /d/ wait/waited
He > worked /t/ stop/stopped
She > dreamed/dreamt /dri:md/ or /dremt/ occur/occurred
It > posted /Id/ cry/cried
We >
You >
They >

Pronunciation of the regular past verbs in the regular past always end with a -d in their spelling, but the pronunciation of the past ending is not always the same:

play/played /d/

The most common spelling characteristic of the regular past is that -ed is added to the base form of the verb: opened, knocked, stayed, etc. Except in the cases noted below, this -ed is not pronounced as if it were an extra syllable, so opened is pronounced: /@Up@nd/, knocked: /nQkt/, stayed: /steId/, etc.

arrive/arrived /d/

Verbs which end in the following sounds have their past endings pronounced /d/: /b/ rubbed; /g/ tugged; /dZ/ managed; /l/ filled; /m/ dimmed; /n/ listened; vowel + /r/ stirred; /v/ loved; /z/ seized. The -ed ending is not pronounced as an extra syllable.

work/worked /t/

Verbs which end in the following sounds have their past endings pronounced /t/: /k/ packed; /s/ passed; /tS/ watched; /S/ washed; /f/ laughed; /p/ tipped. The -ed ending is not pronounced as an extra syllable.

dream/dreamed /d/ or dreamt /t/

A few verbs function as both regular and irregular and may have their past forms spelt -ed or

-t pronounced /d/ or /t/: e.g. burn, dream, lean, learn, smell, spell, spill, spoil.

post/posted /Id/

Verbs which end in the sounds /t/ or /d/ have their past endings pronounced /Id/: posted, added. The -ed ending is pronounced as an extra syllable added to the base form of the verb.

Spelling of the regular past

The regular past always ends in -d:


Verbs ending in -e add -d: e.g. phone/phoned, smile/smiled. This rule applies equally to agree, die, lie, etc.


Verbs not ending in -e add -ed: e.g. ask/asked, clean/cleaned, follow/followed, video/videoed.


Verbs spelt with a single vowel letter followed by a single consonant letter double the consonant: beg/begged, rub/rubbed.


In two-syllable verbs the final consonant is doubled when the last syllable contains a single vowel letter followed by a single consonant letter and is stressed: pre'fer/preferred, re'fer/referred. Compare: 'benefit/benefited, 'differ/differed and 'profit/profited which are stressed on their first syllables and which therefore do not double their final consonants. In American English labeled, quarreled, signaled and traveled follow the rule. In British English labelled, quarrelled, signalled and travelled are exceptions to the rule.


When there is a consonant before -y, the "y" changes to "i" before we add -ed: e.g. carry/carried, deny/denied, fry/fried, try/tried. Compare: delay/delayed, obey/obeyed, play/played, etc. which have a vowel before -y and therefore simply add -ed in the past.




The form is the same for all persons

I >}
You >
He > took >
She > shut > the suitcase
It > sat on >
We >
You >
They >

Notes on the past form of irregular verbs

Unlike regular verbs, irregular verbs (about 150 in all) do not have past forms which can be predicted:


A small number of verbs have the same form in the present as in the past: e.g. cut/cut, hit/hit, put/put. It is important to remember, particularly with such verbs, that the third person does not change in the past: e.g. he shut (past); he shuts (present).


The past form of most irregular verbs is different from the present: bring/brought, catch/caught, keep/kept, leave/left, lose/lost.



1. Completed actions

We normally use the Simple Past Tense to talk about events, actions or situations which occurred in the past and are now finished.

They may have happened recently:

  • Sam phoned a moment ago.

or in the distant past:

  • The Goths invaded Rome in A.D. 410.

A time reference must be given:

  • I had a word with Julian this morning.

or must be understood from the context:

  • I saw Fred in town. (i.e. when I was there this morning)

  • I never met my grandfather. (i.e. he is dead)

When we use the simple past, we are usually concerned with when an action occurred, not with its duration (how long it lasted).


2. Past habit

Like used to, the simple past can be used to describe past habits:

  • I smoked forty cigarettes a day till I gave up.

3. The immediate past

We can sometimes use the Simple Past without a time reference to describe something that happened a very short time ago:

  • Jimmy punched me in the stomach.

  • Did the telephone ring?

  • Who left the door open?


4. Polite inquiries, etc.

The Simple Past does not always refer to past time. It can also be used for polite inquiries (particularly asking for favours), often with verbs like hope, think or wonder. Compare:

  • I wonder if you could give me a lift.

  • I wondered if you could give me a lift. (more tentative/polite)




The association of the Past Tense with adverbials that tell us when something happened is very important. Adverbials used with the past tense must refer to past (not present) time. This means that adverbials which link the present (before now, so far, till now, yet) are not used with past tenses.

Some adverbials like yesterday, last summer and combinations with ago are used only with past tenses:

  • I saw Jane yesterday/last summer.

Ago, meaning 'back from now', can combine with a variety of expressions to refer to the past: e.g. two years ago; six months ago; ten minutes ago; a long time ago:

  • I met Robert Parr many years ago in Czechoslovakia.

The Simple Past is often used with when to ask and answer questions:

  • When did you learn about it? - When I saw it in the papers.

When often points to a definite contrast with the present:

  • I played football every day when I was a boy.

Other adverbials can be used with past tenses when they refer to past time, but can be used with other tenses as well:

adverbs: I always liked Gloria.

  • I often saw her in Rome.

  • Did you ever meet Sonia?

  • I never met Sonia.

adverbial/prepositional phrases: We left at 4 o'clock/on Tuesday.

  • We had our holiday in July.

adverbial clauses: I waited till he arrived.

  • I met him when I was at college.

as + adverb + as: I saw him as recently as last week.