English grammar explanations (past simple).
Understanding past simple.
The basics - structure:
Past simple has two forms: regular and irregular. We consider a verb to be regular if it ends in "ed" in its past simple form:
walked, liked, jumped, wanted, waited, faded, played, cried, telephoned, etc,
Any verb which does not follow the "ed" rule is considered to be irregular:
Infinitive changes in the past simple.
Many regular verbs just add "ed" to the infinitive to make past simple:
repeat - repeated
Regular verbs that end in a silent "e" or sounded "e", just add "d":
continue - continued
If the infinitive of the verb ends in consonant + "y" (and the verb is regular), we change the "y" for "i" and add "ed". As these verbs end in "ed", we consider them regular:
worry - worried
Infinitives that end in consonant - vowel - consonant, double the last letter in the past simple regular form:
rob - robbed
There are some spelling variations between British English (Br.E) and American English infinitives (Am.E):
to practise (Br.E) - to practice (Am.E)
The student of English should remember that, normally, there are no inflexions in the past simple verb. In other words, the verb stays the same for all persons:
I walked, you walked, he / she / it walked, we walked, they walked.
I put, you put, he / she / it put, we put, they put.
The exception is with the verb "to be":
I was, you were, he / she / it was, we were, they were.
Question forms in past simple:
Questions in the past simple use the past auxiliary verb "did" in most cases followed by the subject + the verb in its infinitive:
I went to a football match yesterday.
The past simple of the verb "to be" does not take the auxiliary "did" in questions. There is just inversion between "to be" and the subject:
She was at home.
The verb "to have" may take the auxiliary or not depending on its meaning and use. The rules on whether or not to use the auxiliary verb with "to have" are the same as with present simple - except, of course, the past form "did" or "had" is used.
Omission of auxiliary "did" in past simple questions.
Sometimes a verb that normally takes "did" for questions is used without the auxiliary. When a question word (what, when, how, where, etc.) refers to the object of the sentence, we use "did". If the question word refers to the subject, there is no use of an auxiliary. This is common with the questions words "who", "which" and "what":
Who did you see yesterday? (who = object)
In the above sentences, the forms: "who did go to...?"; "which cat did eat...?" and "what did happen?" are not possible.
In the same way we use the auxiliary verb "do + not" in the present simple, we use the past form "did + not" for negatives statements in the past:
I didn't wait for the bus this morning.
Similarly, as in present simple, the verb "to be" does not take the auxiliary in negative sentences but combines with "not": "was not", "were not" or as a contacted form in spoken and informal written English:
It wasn't a very nice meal.
The verb "to have" also behaves in the same way in negative sentences as in present simple and can take the past auxiliary verb "did" or the past tense of "have" ("had") depending on meaning and use:
I hadn't (got) any money left at the end of the weekend.
Listen to the pronunciation of regular verb "ed" endings in past simple.
Although there is only one verb ending for all regular verbs in past simple, there are three different sounds for the "ed" suffix. The three sound are:
I worked, we played, she waited. ...
There are rules to help you know how these "ed" endings should be pronounced. Before starting on an explanation, it is important to understand what we mean when we talk about "voice" in phonetics. We can say there are two types of sounds produced in human speech: "with voice" and "without voice".
"With voice" refers to the sounds you make using your "vocal chords". "Without voice" refers to the sounds we make without the vocal chords. These are sounds made by the lips or tongue only.
Examples: The "M" in Madrid is with voice. It is impossible to say the "M" in "Madrid" without producing a sound using the vocal chords: Mmmm ... .
The "S" in Seville is without voice. We produce the "S" sound in the word "Seville" by positioning the lips and tongue in such a way as to say: Ssss ... . There is no vibration from the vocal chords when we produce this sound.
OK, now for the rules for pronouncing the "ed" endings:
a) If the verb in its infinitive ends in a consonant sound (not the last letter but the last sound) without voice (excepting the sounds /d/ and /t/), the "ed" suffix is pronounced /t/: ... .
Consonants without voice endings: I liked, I laughed, I passed, I trapped. ...
b) If the verb in its infinitive ends in a consonant sound with voice (or vowel sound, which always has voice), the "ed" suffix is pronounced /d/: ... .
Vowel sound endings: I prayed, I tried, I cared, it poured. ...
Consonants with voice endings: I loved, it rained, I called, I hummed. ...
c) If the verb in its infinitive ends in the consonant sounds /d/ or /t/, the "ed" suffix is pronounced /id/: ... .
I wanted, I hated, it faded, he loaded. ...
In practice, it is the difference between the sounds /id/ and the other two (/d/ and /t/) which should be properly understood. In other words, we should not pronounce the past simple "worked" /...kt/ as "worked" /...id/ ( ... ) or the verb "played" /d/ as "played" ( ... ) /...id/. The correct pronunciation is: "worked" /...kt/ and "played" /...d/. ...
Past simple - use in real life:
Completed events in the past.
We use past simple when we talk about finished, completed actions (compare with past continuous that talks about unfinished actions):
I went to bed, I watched a film, I played golf, I bought a new book on English grammar.
There must be an explicit reference to a past time action (we use time adverbs in the sentence) or an implicit reference to a past time action (we are thinking about a past time but we don't say it).
I had a lovely dinner last night.
I had a lovely dinner. (I'm thinking about last night.)
Mentioning this use of past simple when there is a reference to past time is important. It is also possible to talk about completed actions but with a reference to the present. In this last case we don't use past simple, we use present perfect:
I've had a lovely dinner. (And now I feel very satisfied.)
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