I. The formation of the Past Indefinite.

The Past Indefinite is formed by adding -ed or -dto the stem (regular verbs),

Or by changing the root vowel, or in some other ways (irregular verbs).

Verbs ending in -e add -d only:

Infinitive: to love Simple past: loved

The same form is used for all persons:

I worked you worked he worked etc.

2. The interrogative and the negative forms are formed by means of the Present Indefinite of

the auxiliary verb to do and the Infinitive of the notional verb without the particle to.



Affirmative Interrogative Negative

I worked (wrote) Did I work? (write) I did not work (write)

He worked (wrote) Did he work? (write) He did not work (write)

She worked (wrote) Did she work? (write) She did not work (write)

We worked (wrote) Did we work? (write) We did not work (write)

You worked (wrote) Did you work? (write) You did not work (write)

They worked (wrote) Did they work? (write) They did not work (write)


3. The contracted negative forms are:


I didn`t work

She didn`t work


4. The negative-interrogative forms are:


Did you not work?

Didn`t you work?

Irregular verbs: form

These vary considerably in their simple past form:

Infinitive: to eat, to leave, to see, to speak

Simple past: ate, left, saw, spoke

The simple past form of each irregular verb must therefore be learnt, but once this is done there is no other difficulty, as irregular verbs (like regular verbs) have no inflexions in the past tense.


A list of irregular verbs will be found on page 49


The rules about doubling the final consonant when adding ing (see p.6) apply also when adding - ed:


admit, admitted

stop, stopped

travel, travelled

Verbs ending in - у following a consonant change the - у into - i before adding - ed:


carry, carried

try, tried

but - у following a vowel does not change:


obey, obeyed.

III. The use of the Past Indefinite.

The Past Indefinite denotes a single action performed within a period of time which is

already over. The action is cut off from the pres­ent. The time of the action may be

indicated by adverbials of past time, such as yesterday,

the day before yesterday,

A week ago,

Last year,

In 1971, etc.


The sun came out a moment ago.

Miss Helstone stayed the whole evening.

Ellean breakfasted two hours ago, and then went out walking with the dog.

The Past Indefinite can correspond to the Russian past perfec­tive and past imperfective (совершенный и несовершенный вид).

Не smoked a cigarette and left the room (выкурил). He smoked in

silence for a few minutes (курил).

The translation depends on the context and the lexical char­acter of the verb.


The time of the action may be implied in the situation through the mention of the place of

the action or other attending circumstances.


I ate turnips in Germany.

Did you belong to any society at the University?

But sometimes the mention of the time or place of the action appears unnecessary because

reference is made to a particular action which is definite in the mind of the speaker and

the hearer.


Sorry! I didn’t mean to hurt you.

I slept very badly.

Note: The Simple Past, never the Present Perfect, is used in questions beginning with when, because when implies a certain moment in the past. The answer can be either in the Past Indefinite or in the Present Perfect, depending on the situation:

When did you see him?

I saw him two days ago.

Or: I have just seen him. (just now)

When did you actually arrive?

The Past Indefinite is also used in special questions beginning with where and how when they refer to the past events. The Present Perfect is not common here because the attention in such sentences is drawn to the circumstances of the action rather than to the occurrence itself, which means that the speaker has a defi­nite action in mind.

Where did your uncle receive his guests?" "Right here."

How did he get in?" I asked, and Evans said, "Oh, he has a key."

Where is my hat? Where did I leave my hat?"

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