Past simple is used principally to describe events in the past, although it also has some other uses.
|To express the idea that an action started and finished at a specific time in the past. Sometimes, the speaker may not actually mention the specific time, but he/she does have one specific time in mind.||I saw a movie yesterday.|
I didn't see a play yesterday.
Last year, I travelled to UK.
|To list a series of completed actions in the past. These actions happen 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so on.||He arrived from the airport at 8:00, checked into the hotel at 9:00, and met the others at 10:00.|
Did you add flour, pour in the milk, and then add the eggs?
|With a duration which starts and stops in the past. A duration is a longer action often indicated by expressions such as: 'for two years', 'for five minutes', 'all day', 'all year', etc.||I lived in Brazil for two years.|
Shauna studied Japanese for five years.
They sat at the beach all day.
They did not stay at the party the entire time.
|To describe a habit which stopped in the past. It can have the same meaning as 'used to'. To make it clear that we are talking about a habit, we often add expressions such as: 'always', 'often', 'usually', 'never', 'when I was a child', 'when I was younger', etc.||I studied French when I was a child.|
He played the violin.
He didn't play the piano.
|To describe past facts or generalizations which are no longer true.||She was shy as a child, but now she is very outgoing.|
He didn't like tomatoes before.
|I waited.||I did not wait.||Did I wait?|
|You waited.||You did not wait.||Did you wait?|
|We waited.||We did not wait.||Did we wait?|
|They waited.||They did not wait.||Did they wait?|
|He waited.||He did not wait.||Did he wait?|
|She waited.||She did not wait.||Did she wait?|
|It waited.||It did not wait.||Did it wait?|
Some signal words which will help you understand that you need to use past simple:
'ago', 'in 2011', 'in 1999', 'last month', 'last week', 'last year', 'yesterday', etc.
There are some structures which will help you use past simple accurately:
|Positive||Subject + verb (-ed) / irregular verb|
I broke my leg.
Subject + did + not + bare infinitive
Subject + was/were + not
She did not come here yesterday.
She was not here yesterday.
Did + subject + bare infinitive
Was/were + subject
Question word + did + subject + verb
Did I learn English last week?
Was she here yesterday?
What did you do yesterday?