This grammar lesson is about the verb To Be in the past simple tense in English. There are exercises for this topic here. If you want to learn about To Be in the present try this lesson. If you want to learn about other verbs in the past simple then try this lesson. All of these exercises are part of our Elementary English Course.
We use the verb to be to describe states. When we are talking about the past we need to change, or conjugate, the verb into different forms. One of those forms is the past simple.
Today I Saturday. Yesterday was Friday.
There are two different forms of the verb to be in the past simple. They are was and were.
This table shows the use of was and were for different persons in the past simple.
|Subject pronoun||To Be (past simple)||Example Sentence|
|I||was||Yesterday I was at home.|
|you||were||You were here last week.|
|He / She / It||was||He was hungry this morning. / She was tired yesterday. / It was cold last night|
|We||were||We were late for class yesterday.|
|They||were||They were happy yesterday.|
To use To Be in the negative form we use not.
I was not happy at the party.
We can put the verb to be and not together to make one word. this is called a contraction. We often use contractions when speaking and writing informally.
I wasn’t happy at the party.
|Subject pronoun||To Be (past simple) Negative||Contracted Form||Example Sentence|
|I||was not||wasn’t||Yesterday I wasn’t at home.|
|you||were not||weren’t||You weren’t here last week.|
|He / She / It||was not||wasn’t||He wasn’t hungry this morning. / She wasn’t tired yesterday. / It wasn’t cold last night|
|We||were not||weren’t||We weren’t late for class yesterday.|
|They||were not||weren’t||They weren’t happy yesterday.|
Exactly like in the present, to form questions with To Be in the past we change the word order.
Were you happy at the party?
We invert (change the order of) the subject and the verb to be.
We can also use question words like where, why, when, what and who.
Check that you understand how to use this grammar with these exercises!