Past Simple (to be)

The verb “to be” in the Past Simple tense

If we want to say in English “I was at home”, we will use the past simple tense and the verb “to be“. The past simple is used to describe actions that occurred and were completed in the past. The verb “to be” is unique in many aspects. It can act as both a main verb and an auxiliary verb. It has different forms for different subjects. Its form changes in different tenses. In the past simple, “to be” has two forms: was and were.

Since this is an irregular verb, referring to the table of irregular verbs, we get:

to bewas, werebeen

Affirmative sentences with “to be” in the Past Simple

  • I was
  • You were
  • He/She/It was
  • We were
  • They were

Negative sentences with “to be” in the Past Simple

To create a negative, we add “not” after “was” or “were”. For example:

  • I was not (wasn’t)
  • You were not (weren’t)
  • He/She/It was not (wasn’t)
  • We were not (weren’t)
  • They were not (weren’t)

Interrogative sentences with “to be” in the Past Simple

To form questions, we put “was” or “were” at the beginning of the sentence. For example:

  • Was I?
  • Were you?
  • Was he/she/it?
  • Were we?
  • Were they

General pattern for ssing the Past Simple with the verb “to be”

I/He/She/It/ wasI/He/She/It/

was not

Was I/He/She/It/ ?
You/We/They were



were not

Were You/We/They ?

Having understood the pattern above, we get:

  • I was at home.

For convenience, you can use the contracted forms:

  • was notwasn’t
  • were notwasn’t

Examples of using “to be” in the past simple tense

Let’s consider several examples that demonstrate when we use the verb “to be” in the past simple tense (Past Simple):

  1. Describing a previous state or condition:
  • I was tired after the long hike.
  • The weather was nice yesterday.
  • They were not happy with the results.
  1. Talking about someone’s job/occupation in the past:
  • My father was a teacher when I was young.
  • She was an engineer at that company.
  1. Describing where someone/something was located:
  • The book was on the table.
  • We were at the beach last summer.
  • It was under the bed.
  1. Expressing age in the past:
  • I was 10 years old in 2010.
  • He was not very old when he started his business.
  1. Describing characteristics/qualities in the past:
  • The cake was delicious.
  • The instructions were not clear.
  • They were very friendly people.
  1. Relating past experiences/situations:
  • Last night was fun! We were at a concert.
  • I was so scared during the horror movie.

The verb to be for the present simple tense has another special form: Verb To be.

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